Margaret MacDonald (philosopher)

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Margaret MacDonald
Margaret MacDonald (philosopher) c1953.jpg
Born (1907-04-09)9 April 1907
Died 7 January 1956(1956-01-07) (aged 48)
Region England

Margaret MacDonald (9 April 1907 – 7 January 1956) was a British analytic philosopher.[1]


Margaret MacDonald was awarded a first class degree in philosophy from Birkbeck College, London in 1932, followed by a PhD in 1934. Her supervisor was Susan Stebbing.[2] MacDonald joined Girton College, Cambridge as a Pfeiffer Research Fellow in Moral Sciences between 1934–37. While at Cambridge, she studied under G.E. Moore and Ludwig Wittgenstein.[3] Along with fellow student Alice Ambrose she secretly (since he did not allow this) made notes during Wittgenstein's lectures, which were later published.[4] They later convinced Wittgenstein to allow them to write his lectures down.


From 1937–41 MacDonald taught philosophy at St Hilda's, Oxford where she was also librarian. During the war she was temporary principal in the Board of Trade. This was followed by a lectureship at Bedford College, London.[3] At this time, she was one of a very small number of women teaching philosophy outside of Oxford University. From 1947 she was also a lecturer on Ethics to staff at the Home Office. She became reader in philosophy at Bedford College in 1955.

She remained very active in academic philosophy for the rest of her life. Her early articles were criticisms of the work of contemporary philosophers, however she later concentrated on the field of aesthetics. She was also interested in political philosophy and published a significant article 'Natural Rights'.[5] Her work attracted substantial attention at the time. Two of her articles were reprinted in the Logic and Language (1951) series which included articles that were representative of current philosophical trends. MacDonald helped to found the philosophy journal Analysis together with Susan Stebbing, C.A. Mace and Gilbert Ryle in 1933. She was also the journal's editor from 1948 until her death in 1956 following heart surgery.[6]


  • Margaret MacDonald (1933). Verification and Understanding. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 34:143 - 156.
  • Margaret Macdonald (1936). Russell and McTaggart. Philosophy 11 (43):322 - 335.
  • Margaret MacDonald, G. Ryle & I. Berlin (1937). "Symposium: Induction and Hypothesis". Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 16:20 - 102.
  • Margaret MacDonald (1937). Reply to Mr. MacIver. Analysis 4 (5):77 - 80.
  • Margaret MacDonald (1937). Further Reply to Mr. MacIver. Analysis 5 (1):12 - 16.
  • Margaret MacDonald (1938). Things and Processes. Analysis 6 (1):1 - 10.
  • Margaret MacDonald (1940). Necessary Propositions. Analysis 7 (2):45 - 51.
  • Margaret MacDonald (1946). Natural Rights. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 47:225 - 250.
  • Margaret Macdonald (1951). The Philosopher's Use of Analogy. In Gilbert Ryle & Antony Flew (eds.), Logic and Language (First Series): Essays. Blackwell.
  • Margaret Macdonald (1951). The Language of Political Theory. In Gilbert Ryle & Antony Flew (eds.), Logic and Language (First Series): Essays. Blackwell.
  • Margaret Macdonald (1951). Professor Ryle on the Concept of Mind. Philosophical Review 60 (January):80-90.
  • Margaret MacDonald (1952). Art and Imagination. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 53:205 - 226.
  • Margaret Macdonald (1953). Sleeping and Waking. Mind 62 (April):202-215.
  • Margaret Macdonald (1953). Linguistic Philosophy and Perception. Philosophy 28 (October):311-324.
  • Margaret Macdonald & M. Scriven (1954). "Symposium: The Language of Fiction." Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 28:165 - 196.
  • Margaret MacDonald (ed.) (1954/1966). Philosophy and Analysis. Oxford, B. Blackwell.


  1. ^ Grayling, Anthony C. (2006). Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy. Continuum. ISBN 9780199754694. 
  2. ^ Addis, Mark (2005). MacDonald, Margaret (1907-56). Bristol: Thoemmes. pp. 601–605. ISBN 184371096X. 
  3. ^ a b Waite, Mary Ellen (1995). History of women philosophers, vol. 4. Kluwer. p. 364. ISBN 0792328086. 
  4. ^ Ambrose, Alice (1979). Wittgenstein's lectures : Cambridge, 1932-1935; from the notes of Alice Ambrose and Margaret Macdonald. Blackwell. ISBN 0631101411. 
  5. ^ MacDonald, Margaret (1946). "Natural Rights". Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 47: 225–250. 
  6. ^ Saw, Ruth (1956). "Dr Margaret MacDonald". Analysis 16 (4): 73–74. doi:10.1093/analys/16.4.73.