John Macmurray, Object Relations Theory and Contemporary Neuroscience
Object Relations Theory had an under-appreciated impact on the work of Scottish philosopher John Macmurray. This paper seeks to highlight its influence and to suggest ways in which Macmurray’s thought informs contemporary neuroscientific notions of ‘person’. The (natural?) sciences in general, and contemporary neuroscience in particular, seek to define, rather than describe or recognize, what a person is in categories that cannot fully capture who we are as we live and act in an interpersonal world. Macmurray’s Field of the Personal provides us with a conceptual architecture to examine contemporary neuroscience, to gain a clear vision of its strengths and limitations, and to develop a fuller notion of the person that takes into account the findings of contemporary science, while at the same time not being limited to these findings and the conceptual assumptions that undergird them. This paper will argue that Macmurray’s thought is particularly suited to addressing issues in contemporary neuroscientific debates including, but not limited to, our understanding of who/what a human person is, and also addressing specific neuroscientific and ethical issues such as free will and human autonomy, neuroscientific research, the ethical uses of neuroim-aging technology, current debates around the use of neurologic criteria in brain death, the use of neuroscience in forensic settings, and national security concerns. Macmurray’s insights into the nature of the human person provide a methodology and a vision that can address ethical issues in the domains of controversies surrounding what constitutes person-hood, persons as agents, social justice, and political decision-making. His Field of the Personal, informed as it is by Object Relations thinking, offers us a way to recognise problematic issues in contemporary neuroscience related to personhood and to provide a constructive solution through a deeper and (broader) vision of the human person adequately conceived.
Freud, John Macmurray, Object Relations Theory, Personalism, Ian Suttie, Neuroscience
Personalist philosophy advances by means of dialogue and presents a vision of the human person unfettered by the limitations of contemporary materialist philosophies. It also encourages conversations across personalist traditions, as was evident, for instance, at the 2015 British Personalist Forum at Oxford, which brought together British, American and Continental Personalists to continue a conversation begun at the International Conference on Persons at the University of Lund, Sweden in 2012.
My purpose herein is to investigate another conversation, one that began in the context of British Personalism decades ago but has lain fallow. As is well-known, philosophy and psychology had a part‑ ing of ways towards the end of the 19th century, and psychology proceeded on empirical grounds as it moved forward into the 20th century, and now the 21st. This division disrupted a fruitful conversation about persons that was still in its early stages, one that I will argue is worth reconstituting and continuing. Stated plainly, this was the conversation: John Macmurray engaged with the early 20th century development of a then novel tradition in psychology, namely Psychoanalytic Object Relations Theory. I want to suggest, first, that Macmurray’s conversation with? Object Relations thinking real and lasting fruit for Personalism, and second, that Object Relations Theory can (and should) continue to be a source for an ongoing interdisciplinary conversation between psychology and Personalism This paper is an exploration of that historical dialogue that concludes with some reflections on how that dialogue might be relevant for the future of Personalism.
2. Object Relations Theory
Already during Freud’s lifetime, clinicians in the psychoanalytic tradition recognised that the retrospective method of considering childhood from the perspective of adult analysis needed to be fleshed out through direct clinical work with children understood in their lived relational world. These thinkers created a new thread in psychoanalytic tradition that came to be known as Object Relations Theory.
2.1 A Most Unfortunate Name
From a Personalist context, the word ‘Object’ is off-putting, suggesting as it does ‘objectivity’, ‘objectifying’, distance and separation rather than constructive relation, a split between subject and object that flies in the face of Personalist thinking. It is important, then, to consider carefully what the word ‘object’ means in the context of Object Relations thinking, and then to move forward to consider a conversation between Personalism and Object Relations Theory today. I would like to begin with this preliminary definition: When considering Object Relations Theory, the meaning of the word ‘Object’ is in fact ‘Person’ as ‘person’ is understood in the Personalist philosophical tradition. This commonality in the concept of persons is precisely what makes this broad and varied clinical and theoretical tradition relevant to a contemporary conversation with Personalism.
2.2 The Freudian Matrix
Freudian theory is well-known and long-studied form many different perspectives. In what follows, I focus on some aspects of Freud’s thinking and trace their transformation into Object Relations Theory. When it comes to psychological theories and theories of personality, there are three factors that are essential in the constitution of a comprehensive theory. First, a theory must offer a model of normal development. Second, it must offer a model of psychopathology – that is, it must provide an account of what happens when normal development goes awry; and third, it must offer a theory of psychotherapy or remediation – when one has not developed normally, how does one return to normal living?
Freud offers a theory of normal development, expressed in his well-known psychosexual stages, namely oral (birth to one year); anal (2 to 3 years); phallic (3 to 5 years); latency (16 years); and genital (adolescence through adulthood). Each stage involves focus on a body region (the mouth, anus, genitals). It is in the third stage, the phallic stage, in which the Oedipus and Electra events are worked through more or less successfully. The male child is deeply attached to his mother, feels hostility towards his father (who becomes understood as a rival), and ultimately represses hostility, relinquishes the mother and identifies with the father. For a female child, (the Electra complex), there is also attachment to the mother, but feelings of inferiority, devaluation of the mother and, ultimately, identification with female behaviours that she believes the father will find appealing. 
Freud went on to develop and refine his structural model of the mind and in 1923, in The Ego and the Id, where he depicts the human mind as composed of interactive forces containing both conscious and unconscious content.  A critical factor here (referent?) is that, at base, Freud’s theory grows out of a 19th century Newtonian model of physics– an energy model where balance between? must be maintained. Biological drives and instincts find their source of origin in the body, and physiological processes that manifest themselves in psychological operations drive our behaviour, seeking satisfaction, tension reduction, and when considered inappropriate, are to be repressed.  Pleasure, is the reduction of tension in a biological system seeking homoeostasis.
Instincts or drives are the phenomena in which we should first consider the concept of ‘object’. Instincts, for Freud, have four characteristics: Pressure, how much force a biological drive impinges on the mind; Aim, the goal of a drive, being satisfaction or the reduction of tension; Object, typically a concrete, external thing that has the power to reduce tension or achieve satisfaction (for example, hunger is directed to the object of food, sexual arousal is directed toward another person, also referred to as an object); and lastly, Source, that is, the neurobiological processes that arise in the body and impinge on consciousness, manifested in mental operations.  In these terms, that which is an ‘object’ can vary greatly, being either a thing or a person (maintaining a person/nonperson distinction common to most personalist thinkers); the model implies use of something external for the satisfaction of one’s own internal needs. In the end, we are left with a model of biological determinism, where that which drives us outward towards other persons is due to the internal drive to satisfy a need. This is a long way from Macmurray’s Persons in Relation (1961), though the journey there was already happening during Freud’s lifetime. Freud provides a model of psychosexual development. From this model, it was a short walk to a model of psychopathology. For Freud, mental illness has its origins in the psychosexual developmental stages. Pathology arises when there exists a developmental arrest in other words when someone got stuck in a particular stage. The purpose of psychotherapy is to help people get ‘unstuck’, that is, to continue along the developmental path and to cultivate healthy adult relationships.
2.3 After Freud: Two Strategies
Some of Freud’s contemporaries recognised that his theorising, which relies on biological drives alone, was incomplete. The insight achieved through the clinical work of other early leading theorists who saw not only biological drives seeking tension reduction through external objects, but persons seeking relationships, meaning, and happiness. Responses to Freud’s psychosexual stages of development and theory of psychopathology fell into two camps, those who maintained the notion of biological drives as central to? and those who did not (e.g. Melanie Klein, R. W. D. Fairbairn, D. W. Winnicott, Harry Guntrip, Margaret Mahler, Otto Kernberg, Edith Jacobson, and others). Within both camps, Freud’s ideas were developed and altered to a greater or lesser extent. What the two traditions have in common is looking to earlier life, from birth to age three, as a critical period of development, rather than focusing on the phallic or Oedipal stage.
The first strategy was one of accommodating Freud and his drive theory. In this tradition drives are stretched and modified based on clinical experience, but biological? drives remain the central motivational force in the person. This tradition included theorists such as Alfred Adler (who placed more emphasis on the role of human interaction, the drive for power and mastery), Carl Jung, and Heinz Hartmann.  This work continues in contemporary writers such as Otto Kern-berg.
The second strategy aimed at was the development of radical alternatives to the theory of biological drives, a new tradition that would become a source of reflection for Macmurray. A critical difference in this more radical Object Relations tradition is that many of these early psychoanalysts worked, not with adults, but with children. Consequently, their clinical knowledge and theorising were based not on clinical work with adults looking back on childhood, but on direct clinical care of young children. This experience prompted a reworking of Freudian thinking. It is a living clinical tradition to this day and has had a broad impact both within the traditional psychoanalytic field and across psychotherapies. I will suggest that it also has a significant impact on Personalist philosophy.
This transition has three distinctive characteristics. First, and most importantly, it rejects the notion of biological drives as the primary source of human motivation. Instead, Object Relations theory begins with a recognition that it is more nuanced and full-fledged, developmentally appropriate relationships with other persons that are central to human development and lifelong well-being.
Second, as just mentioned, Object Relations theoretical model developed out of direct work with young children, so in the process of development, there is a psychopathology, and a psychotherapy was formulated from direct clinical experience with young children who were still a developmental ‘work in progress’.
Third, rather than seeing the Oedipal stage as the critical juncture in psychological development, the focus of developmental thinking moved back toward the beginning of life. Object Relations focused on the first three years of life and understood this span of time as the most critical in the development of a healthy adult, that is, in the development of a person able to engage in healthy interpersonal relations. An important aspect of clinical work fuelled this insight; the Object Relations theorists mentioned above, in contrast to Freud, worked with individuals experiencing different forms of mental illness, including schizophrenia, and borderline and narcissistic personality disorders. While they reject drive theory, they maintain the idea that psychopathology is the result of a developmental arrest, but that more serious forms of psychopathology are the result of developmental arrests that take place in the first three years of life in the infant/young child’s primary relationships. Hence, for these thinkers, healthy development means healthy relational development. 
While Object Relations thinkers consciously set themselves apart from traditional (instinctual/drive theory) psychoanalytic theory, there are some central common points between them. The idea of developmental stages that must be successfully negotiated in a normal process of development is maintained. There is, then, a theory of normal development which yields a theory of psychopathology (developmental arrest/relational arrest early in life), as well as a theory of psychotherapy which is, at its base, relational. If damage in interpersonal relations is the source of psychopathology, then a psychotherapeutic environment embodying a healthy relationship allows an individual to traverse their own relational developmental stages successfully as the way to healing. Psychotherapy therefore, foundationally, becomes a healing relationship where what is healed is developmental, interpersonal failures.  It is the relational interaction of psychotherapy, an exploration of the patient’s relational world, and the actual emotional contact between the therapist and patient, rather than the bringing of unconscious conflict to consciousness, that heal. Psychotherapy is, simply put, the opportunity for a relational ‘make over’. There is one last point to mention before we examine some individual Psychoanalytic and Object Relations theorist, including those important to Macmurray. This is the notion that development is a process of integration. It begins with the simple notion that infants cannot see very well, but they can and do feel very deeply. Some feelings feel good, some don’t, and it is a fundamental developmental task to integrate these disparate physical and emotional experiences into the recognition of a unified self, and unified others, which is a process that happens in a world of persons.
2.4 The Major Theorists
The next step is to take a brief look at some of the major theorists in this Object Relations tradition, including those explicitly mentioned by Macmurray.
2.4.1 Melanie Klein: Transitions
The key transitional figure in the journey from the drive model to the relational model is Melanie Klein (the first of the ‘radical alternative’ theorists). She first published in 1919, has been widely influential, and was the first to begin the shift away from a biological drive model toward a relational one?). Like many who proposed a radical alternative to the drive model, Klein worked directly with children. In this clinical work, she soon realised that the process of interpretation and free association, central to classical psychoanalysis, was of little to no use to young children who do not have sufficient intellectual development to engage in an essentially linguistic process that was quite abstract and complex. Thus, what she did – what she created – is what is still done today: therapy with children happens in the context of play.
Through observing, participating in, and discussing a child’s play in an age-appropriate way, that which causes conflict, that which marks a developmental arrest, and consequently, the path to healing is revealed. Practically speaking, the psychotherapy setting for Freud was a couch and the psychoanalyst’s chair positioned out of sight. For Klein, the psychotherapy setting can be a doll’s house or other similar environment.
Klein made several important contributions that were integrated into the tradition of Object Relations. Perhaps the most important was the notion of ‘internal objects’ and the role of ‘fantasy’. For Freud, fantasy was a consequence of frustration - an alternative to the direct satisfaction of the drive - the internalisation of parental voices that ultimately become the superego. For Klein, the child’s rich inner world involves mental images of others that are initially partial or fragmented, but that in time and in the context of healthy relationships, become integrated into the recognition of whole persons. In other words, a child comes to see a parent as someone with both good and bad features, as one who both satisfies and frustrates, and for Klein, the driving force in these interactions is love. Klein recognises that this integration of different images is a difficult process and those who do not attain it early in the development of the process could suffer from severe psychopathology as adults. Not surprisingly, she was a major contributor to early studies of mother-infant relationships.  She saw the infant is born into a web of relationships that are internalised and that our nature as persons is directed toward making connections with others.
2.4.2 Ian Suttie
Ian Suttie is a psychoanalyst explicitly mentioned by Macmurray. Suttie’s thought informs Macmurray’s book Persons in Relation (1961). Suttie is a lesser known figure as he published only one book, The Origins of Love and Hate (2014; first published in 1935) and died prematurely. He began his work in conscious reaction to Freud, questioning the legitimacy or Freud’s psychosexual developmental stages and moving into a more relational model. He described an infant as having ‘an innate need-for-companionship which is the infant’s only way of self-preservation’.  From the perspective of this relational world, he criticises views that seek to understand infants from the perspective of animal models, focused as they are on biology, organism, and survival. Instead, he views the human infant as a person seeking relation. He writes that ‘the need for a mother is primarily presented as a need for company and as a discomfort in isolation’.  The human infant ‘is adapted to its nurtured role in life and is not a bundle of instinctive impulses’.  In Macmurray’s terms, Suttie had made the conceptual move from the Field of the Biological to the Field of the Personal.
2.4.3 W. R. D. Fairbairn
Macmurray did not directly quote the work of fellow Scotsman W. R. D. Fairbairn, but these two names are often mentioned together? in context. Fairbairn too was influenced by the work of Suttie. Of the early twentieth century Object Relations theorists, Fairbairn is critically important for considerations today; in the 1940s, he was the first psychoanalytic writer to abandon Freud’s drive/structure model altogether, and to develop a truly relational/structural model of persons, creating an intellectual consonance with Macmurray’s work. 
For Fairbairn, ‘human experience and behaviour derive fundamentally from the search for a maintenance of contact with others’.  His theory of development is one of relational development, with healthy development promoted by being born into a loving relational world, whereas the child that is not able to develop normal connections, whose patterns of connecting need repair, develops psychopathological relationships. For Fairbairn, relation, not biological drives, is primary. When a child develops in a healthy manner, she develops into an adult who has rich capacity for mutuality with other persons.  Separation and individuation are part of this developmental process, and the purpose of separating out is to establish healthy adult relationships. Like Klein, a process of integration with? is essential and relationship is a learning experience both for mother and infant.
In Fairbairn’s analysis, in a relational world it is meaningless to speak of isolated persons or of purely intrapsychic processes. It is also nonsensical to speak about ‘objects’ that satisfy biological drives. To think about or talk about persons is to talk about a human’s relational history. Psychotherapy, for Fairbairn, is also a relational process in which an individual enters into a healthy relational interaction with another human being – the therapist – and in this context, is able to move through the developmental process again in order to move towards a healthy maturity that is both mutual and interdependent. For anyone who is a Personalist, this is familiar territory. Lastly, and vitally for today’s often fragmented world, it is Fairbairn who explicitly expanded the notion of who could constitute the role of ‘mother’. He understood this (see Fairbairn, An Object Relations Theory of the Personality. New York: Basic Books, 1952) to mean any person who was an infant’s primary caretaker, and all of those who provided the kind of environment that allowed the child to become a healthy child and, in turn, a healthy adult.
2.4.4 D. W. Winnicott
The last Object Relations writer I want to gloss before moving onto Macmurray is D. W. Winnicott, himself a paediatrician before becoming a psychiatrist. Like Fairbairn, Winnicott is a purely relational thinker who depicts the human infant starting life as a unity/fusion with the mother and who later enters into a process of separation for the purpose of reconnection to others in healthy adulthood. Normal development happens in a safe environment where a child can explore and relate and where the mother provides a mirror for the child, reflecting the child’s own experiences, gestures, facial expressions and emotions.  Normal development happens in the context of loving relation, psychopathology results from disturbances in that early relation, and psychotherapy is a process of healthy re-parenting. It was he who gave us the psychotherapeutic term ‘the holding environment’ – the therapeutic replication of the mother’s holding and interacting with her infant that is reliable, attentive, responsive, and non-judgemental. 
3. John Macmurray and Object Relations
With this Object Relations Theory in mind, we can move to a consideration of Macmurray’s work, to look at some similarities between Object Relations and Personalist philosophy, and then to the consider how these can address some problems in neuroscience that I will touch upon in conclusion.
3.1 Macmurray’s Three ‘Fields’
Macmurray’s philosophical project involves an articulation of the nature of the Personal. In his description of the modern philosophical period (Macmurray, Interpreting the Universe, 1933), he highlights what he terms ‘Forms’ or ‘Fields’, which can be seen as a kind of conceptual architecture for talking about persons and in understanding what it means to be a person. He notes that our central philosophical questions change as a new age emerges, and that the central philosophical question today is that of the Personal.
3.1.1 The Field of the Material
Looking back at the scientific revolution and its consequences, Macmurray worked in chronological order (recognising that we do so, ‘in fact, from the Field of the Personal’). He with a description of the Field of the Material, where mechanical analogy, building on Newtonian physics, became a way of thinking about persons. This is a world of determinism where no real freedom exists, leaving us with the Cartesian problem of how mind and body interact. 
3.1.2 The Field of the Organic/Biological
Macmurray notes that this epoch was followed by the Field of the Organic/Biological, growing out of nineteenth century science, particularly biology, and, later, evolutionary biology. Characteristic of this worldview and thinking about persons is the word ‘organism.’ Persons are talked about and understood in organic categories, employing organic analogies, and ultimately, animal categories that have been with us since ancient Greece.
The organic analogy also expanded in the history of thought to a societal analogy: society viewed as an organism engaged in the Darwinian struggle for survival. It was out of this intellectual matrix that Freud’s thinking emerged, and the source of his energy model of intrapsychic conflict. Macmurray argues that, in the end, this organic vision is poor way of thinking and talking about persons.
It is here, in the Field of the Organic, that consciousness arises in the animal world. It is a world that continues to operate in an essentially deterministic mode. It is not one of matter in motion obeying Newtonian laws, but in the stimulus and response paradigm of all biological organisms and, by extension, communities in a process of adaption to environment. Looking ahead for a moment, this is where contemporary neuroscience came into being, and where it continues to exist and operate.
3.1.3 The Field of the Personal
Macmurray recognised early on that mechanical and organic models are insufficient for talking about persons because they fail to take into account that which is specifically personal. In Persons in Relation, he describes the attempt to think of persons by these analogies as a ‘categorical misconception’, which is ‘a misconception of one’s own nature’.  To enter the field of the personal is to move from thought to action, to view the self as a free agent, to understand Person rather than the mechanical or organic as primary, and to understand that the previous Forms/Fields are included in the Field of the Personal, but are not reducible to those Fields. In Macmurray’s view, it is only as persons, and through a process of abstraction and subtraction – by ‘subtracting’ the personal, we are left with the Field of the Organic, and by further subtracting the organic, we are left with the Field of the Mechanical– that we can understand Fields of the Organic and the Material, and that they are included in the Personal. In his words:
The concept of ‘a person’ is inclusive of the concept of ‘an organism’, as the concept of ‘an organism’ is inclusive of that of ‘a material body’. The included concepts can be derived from the concept of ‘a person’ by abstractions; by excluding from attention those characteristics which belong to the higher category alone. 
For Macmurray, we are free agents in relation. In order to make such a statement, he had to say something about how we got to that point, and it is here that he comes into conversation with Object Relations theory.
4. Philosophy and Object Relations, Object Relations and Philosophy
Science operates in an empirical mode of investigation, as it has since the beginning of the scientific revolution, and the field of psychology adopted that vision when it broke away from philosophy in the late 19th century. Psychology’s departure from philosophy and its establishment as a separate discipline can be viewed in terms of psychoanalytic adolescent rebellion. In classical psychoanalytic theory, we cathect, that is, we invest energy in other objects, and in the process of adolescent separation, we ‘decathect’, that is, withdraw from our early relationships with our parents. However, the separation comes at a price – part of us gets left behind. If you picture a full moon and then a quarter moon, it gives a sense of what happens when an adolescent move away from the parental matrix. An adolescent has left part of its psyche behind and needs to refill that part with other relationships –- in this case, the peer group. What was whole and unified becomes fragmented, and other objects must fill the gap. In this process of separation from philosophy and the adoption of the empiricist methodology of the hard sciences, psychology left behind a holistic and comprehensive way of looking at persons and filled that gap with empiricism. This plays out in contemporary neuroscience, which repeatedly tries to provide a fixed, closed definition rather than a description of persons, a closed definition derived through empirical means, employing the forms of the mechanical and organic as its intellectual tools. This is, I suggest, a project doomed to failure.
4.1 A Conversation Begun and Lain Fallow
It is in the face of this failure, as I see it, that Macmurray’s philosophy comes to the fore, where it engages with Object Relations Theory, and where it provides the far more holistic vision of person that I want to suggest can engage in a conversation with science, a conversation for which Murray provided the conceptual tools.
It is with this in mind that I want to turn specifically to Macmurray’s book Persons in Relation wherein he specifically references the work of Suttie, and where, I suggest, Macmurray presents a clear and well-written chapter of developmental Object Relations Theory where the word ‘object’ gives way to ‘person’.
4.2 Persons in Relation: Mother and Child
For both Macmurray and Object Relations Theory, we are born into a relational matrix. Everything that happens subsequently, for good or ill, stands on this foundational interaction.
4.2.1 An Object Relations Essay in Philosophy/A Philosophy of Object Relations
It is in the second chapter of Persons in Relation that Macmurray takes a psychoanalytic turn and develops a theory of normal human development. By implication, he develops a theory of psychopathology and of healing, three processes known to most persons over the course of their lifetime.
4.2.2 Becoming Persons
In this chapter, ‘Mother and Child’ (from Persons in Relation) Macmurray begins with explicit reference to Suttie’s The Origin of Love and Hate in his criticism of the organic analogy. The fundamental error, Macmurray insists, is ‘the attempt to understand the field of the personal on a biological analogy, and so through organic categories’.  For Macmurray,
The general result of these convergent cultural activities – the Romantic movement, the organic philosophies, idealist realist, and evolutionary science – was that contemporary thought about human behaviour, individual and social, became saturated with biological metaphors, and moulded itself to the requirements of an organic analogy. It became the common idiom to talk of ourselves as organisms and of our societies as organic structures; to refer to the history of society as an evolutionary process and to account for all human action as an adaptation to environment. 
This, he insists, is largely useless in the attempt to understand human persons:
It was assumed, and still is assumed in many quarters, that this way of conceiving human life is scientific and empirical and therefore the truth about us. It is in fact not empirical; it is a priori and analogical. Consequently it is not, in the strict sense, even scientific. For this concept, and the categories of understanding which go with it, were not discovered by a patient unbiased examination of the facts of human activity. They were discovered, at best, through an empirical and scientific study of the facts of plants and animal life. They were applied by analogy to the human field on the a priori assumption that human life must exhibit the same structure. 
But personal life doesn’t do this. Macmurray insists that if we want to move into the Field of the Personal, to that which is unique to persons, to categories specific to persons, we must abandon categories that do not apply, specifically an exclusive use of the mechanical and the organic and look at the Personal itself. Macmurray takes us out of these inadequate analogies with a striking statement that the human ‘infant has no instincts’.  By instinct, he means ‘a specific adaptation to environment which does not require to be learned’.  What we have instead are habits that we slowly learn over time. Human infants, on Macmurray’s view, are born in a state of near helplessness, instinct-free, in a situation complete dependence on other persons. We are, from the moment of birth, given one adaptation capacity. Born into a world of relations, the human infant is, in Macmurray’s words,
‘adapted’ to speak paradoxically, to being unadapted, ‘adapted’ to a complete dependence upon an adult human being. He is made to be cared for. He is born into a love relationship which is inherently personal. Not merely his personal development, but is very survival depends on the maintaining of this relation; he depends for its existence, that is to say, upon intelligent understanding, upon rational foresight. He cannot think for himself, yet he cannot do without thinking; so someone else must think for him. 
Following Suttie, Macmurray’s infant exists from the beginning in a world of relation, one in which biological thinking is insufficient to describe the interactions between a mother and infant. Macmurray states (Persons in Relation) that much that happens in the mother-infant relationship is not in fact essential for purely biological survival. There is much in a mother’s taking care of an infant that is not biologically necessary for survival. In his words,
It seems impossible to account for it except as an expression of satisfaction in the relation itself; in being touched caressingly, attended to and cared for by the mother. This is evidence that the infant has a need which is not simply biological but personal, a need to be in touch with the mother, and in conscious perceptual relation with her. And it is astonishing at what an early age a baby cries not because of any physiological distress, but because he has noticed that he is alone, and is upset by his mother’s absence. Then the mere appearance of the mother, or the sound of her voice, is enough to remove the distress and turn his cries into smiles of satisfaction. 
The child’s play is different from play among animals. For animals, play is preparation for biological maturity, while for humans it is preparation for a life of personal maturity and interpersonal relations.  The ultimate purpose of play, and of the acquisition of the skills and habits that occur through it, is, for Macmurray, for the child ‘to take his place as a member of a personal community, and not to fend for himself in natural surroundings.’  Personal experience involves communication, not just learning to talk, but learning to understand, which is something that happens in relation with other persons. And it is here, concluding a discussion about speech, that Macmurray comes to his main point, the point of the personal, when he writes:
Thus, human experience is, in principle, shared experience; human life, even in its most individual elements, is a common life; and human behaviour carries always, in its inherent structure, a reference to the personal Other. All this may be summed up by saying that the unit of personal existence is not the individual, but 2 persons in personal relations; and that we are persons not by individual right, but in virtue of our relation to one another. The personal is constituted by personal relatedness. The unit of the personal is not the ‘I’, but the ‘You and I’. 
5. Macmurray and Contemporary Neuroscience
final step is to look at Macmurray, philosopher and Object Relations theorist, as a way of expanding the generally accepted, physicalist neuroscientific vision of person and as a way to engage in that conversation.
5.1 The Neuroscientific Vision
Neuroscience is, first and foremost, science – that is, it operates from an empirical perspective and uses empirical methodology in its investigations of the human brain. But, like all relatively new endeavours (getting off the ground in the 1970s), it tends to overreach, that is to say, it tends to assert that it can provide a comprehensive definition of what it means to be a person. The extreme of this position has been termed neuroessentialism in which brain is equated with person, a fundamentally functionalist biological vision that makes it impossible to understand and describe persons fully, that is, it cannot encompass what is unique to persons, such as freedom, self‑determination, and personal relation. 
5.2 Approaching Science from Macmurray’s Perspective
Macmurray’s thought provides a vital corrective to this problem of physicalist notions of person in his extensive development of the Field of the Personal and particularly, in his notion that when we think about the biological and material world, we do so as persons.
5.3 Beginning with the Personal
British Personalism knows that there is far more to science than the scientific method. Michael Polanyi was eloquent about all the things that happen outside of methodology in science, and he recognised that it is Persons who do science. Macmurray, I think, provides a further vocabulary to engage in real conversation with neuroscience. Neuroscience needs an expansion of its vision to include all aspects of persons, and a deeper knowledge of what neuroscience has to contribute, as well as the limits beyond which it cannot go. A critical aspect of this task is to approach persons in the correct order, beginning with the personal, and recognising how persons are constituted, which takes is well beyond the mechanical and the organic.
6. Macmurray as Corrective
We have John Macmurray’s thought, informed as it is by Object Relations and the development of a relational vision of personhood, which can be a corrective to the physicalist (mechanical/materialist and organic) limitations of neuroscience.
6.1 Persons: Envisioning the Human
Many a British Personalist would, I think, say that human beings can be described, but not defined. Science is of its very nature open-ended, as it must remain open to new findings and to new data that may yield new interpretations. It operates, though, in a manner which can study discrete aspects of reality which lend themselves to closed definition, namely, the physical world. This is both a strength and a limitation. Its strength is a description of some aspects of the world, while its limit is that these aspects cannot fully capture who we are, despite its claims about what it means to be a person from a physical, organic, or functionalist perspective. Personalism comes much closer to a comprehensive vision, in its understanding of the relational world into which we are born, in which we develop and in which we live out our lives. Macmurray gives us a vision of person-hood in relation that can, I think, push back against too reductionist a vision of ourselves. Polanyi wrote that a scientist who makes a discovery must communicate that discovery to other scientists and must do so to some extent in the current language of science, even when pushing science beyond its current limits. This, I want to suggest, is what Personalists need to do for neuroscience today. The power of neuroscien-tific thinking is pervasive in the press, and many of its excesses? remain believable to those who read a media in which a broader understanding of persons is absent.
6.2 Persons and Neuroscience
How then can this be done? By bringing a Personalist perspective to the many issues that neuroscience attempts to take on, define, and about which it attempts to write the last word. Some of these areas include the nature of personhood itself, free will and human autonomy (on the neuroscientific view we don’t have any of these). A Personalist perspective also allows for consideration of the related issues of our moral life and moral responsibility, the nature of human consciousness as agency, issues around neural enhancement through pharmacology and assistive technologies, neuroscience and justice (which also touches in the domain of moral and legal responsibility), the bioethical issues of autonomy and informed consent, questions of persons and the philosophy of technology, and ethical issues that arise at the intersection of neuroscience in the military, to name only a few.
In my view, it is by making a Personalist vision available to the wider culture that the harmful reduc-tionist trends of materialism that have been with us since the beginning of the scientific revolution can be adequately countered, and this will only be to our good. 
Freud, Sigmund. ‘On the Sexual Theories of Children.’ Vol. 9 of The Standard Edition. London: Hogarth, 1959.
Freud, S. The Ego and the Id. Vol. 19 of The Standard Edition of Freud’s works. London: Hogarth, 1961.
Monte, Christopher. Beneath the Mask: An Introduction to Theories of Personality, Second Edition. New York: Holt, Reinhart and Winston, 1980, 116.
Monte, Christopher. Beneath the Mask: An Introduction to Theories of Personality, Second Edition. New York: Holt, Reinhart and Winston, 1980, 116-116.
Greenberg, J.R and S.A. Mitchell. Object Relations in Psychoanalytic Theory. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983, 380.
Greenberg, J.R and S.A. Mitchell. Object Relations in Psychoanalytic Theory. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983, 383-4.
Greenberg, J.R and S.A. Mitchell. Object Relations in Psychoanalytic Theory. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983, 389.
Greenberg, J.R and S.A. Mitchell. Object Relations in Psychoanalytic Theory. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983, 121-125. See also Melanie Klein’s Love, Guilt and Reparation: And Other Works, 1921-1945. New York, The Free Press, 2002.
Suttie, Ian D. The Origins of Love and Hate. New York: Routledge, 2014, 3.
Suttie, Ian D. The Origins of Love and Hate. New York: Routledge, 2014, 16.
Suttie, Ian D. The Origins of Love and Hate. New York: Routledge, 2014, 258.
On common denominators, see Symington, Neville, ‘Fairbairn, Suttie and Macmurray – an essay, in Scharff, D.E., Clarke, D.E. and Graham, S. Fairbairn and the Object Relations Tradition. Karnak Books, 2014, 59-67; Graham S. Clarke, Suttie’s Influence on Fairbairn’s Object Relations Theory, JAPA, DOI: 10.1177/0003065111422540.
Greenberg, J.R and S.A. Mitchell. Object Relations in Psychoanalytic Theory. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983,
Greenberg, J.R and S.A. Mitchell. Object Relations in Psychoanalytic Theory. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983,157.
Greenberg, J.R and S.A. Mitchell. Object Relations in Psychoanalytic Theory. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983,192.
Greenberg, J.R and S.A. Mitchell. Object Relations in Psychoanalytic Theory. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983, 21.
Macmurray, John, The Self as Agent. New Jersey and London: Humanities Press International, 1991, 32-33. See also Macmurray, John. Interpreting the Universe. Amherst, New York: Humanity Books, especially Chapter Four, ‘Mathematical thought and Mechanism.’
Macmurray, John, Persons in Relation. New Jersey, Humanities Press International, 149.
Macmurray, John, The Self as Agent. New Jersey and London: Humanities Press International, 1991, 117.
Macmurray, John, Persons in Relation. New Jersey, Humanities Press International, 45.
Macmurray, John, Persons in Relation. New Jersey, Humanities Press International, 45.
Macmurray, John, Persons in Relation. New Jersey, Humanities Press International, 45.
Macmurray, John, Persons in Relation. New Jersey, Humanities Press International, 47.
Macmurray, John, Persons in Relation. New Jersey, Humanities Press International ,48.
Macmurray, John, Persons in Relation. New Jersey, Humanities Press International, 48.
Macmurray, John, Persons in Relation. New Jersey, Humanities Press International, 49
Macmurray, John, Persons in Relation. New Jersey, Humanities Press International, 55.
Macmurray, John, Persons in Relation. New Jersey, Humanities Press International, 59.
Macmurray, John, Persons in Relation. New Jersey, Humanities Press International, 61.
See, for Example, Reiner, Peter B. ‘The Rise of Neuroessentialism’ in J. Illes and B. Sahakian, Eds., The Oxford Handbook of Neuroethics 2011, 1-16, where Reiner describes the neuressentialist position as one that would ‘provide explanations for all manner of behaviour, from catching a ball to falling in love, ad reducible to the activity of neuronal circuits in the brain.’
An excellent and recent example of the attempt to reach a wider audience is Jonas Norgaard Mortenson’s The Common Good: An Introduction to Personalism. Frederiksvaerk, Denmark: Boedal Publishing, 2014.