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MacDonald, Margaret (c. 1907–1956)

MacDonald, Margaret (c. 1907–1956)

English philosopher . Born in England around 1907, an abandoned child; had surgery at St. Thomas Hospital in London, to treat a heart condition, but died in recovery on January 7, 1956; fellow of Girton College, Cambridge University, 1932; granted Ph.D., Bedford College, by 1938.

Lecturer at St. Hilda's College, Oxford University, from 1938; editor of the academic philosophy journal Analysis.

Selected works:

Notes from Ludwig Wittgenstein's lectures and discussions, published as The Blue and Yellow (or Brown) Books; Art and Imagination (1953).

Margaret MacDonald was always active in academic philosophy. Her early work was in the analytic tradition that was spreading across Britain and North America at the beginning of the 20th century. She edited the journal Analysis for several years.

MacDonald, with Alice Ambrose , was responsible for the early transmission of Ludwig Wittgenstein's teachings at Cambridge University. At the time, she was a fellow at Girton College, and she and Ambrose secretly took notes of Wittgenstein's lectures and discussions. He had forbidden his students to record his talks in any form, but MacDonald and Ambrose hid the notebooks under their skirts. As the skirts were blue and yellow (or brown), the records became known as "The Blue and Yellow (or Brown) Books." Eventually Wittgenstein changed his mind and was happy to have the notes distributed and eventually published.

MacDonald's later work was more concerned with aesthetics, the philosophy of art, moving away from the questions about knowledge and language which concern the analytic tradition. While still interested in language, she was more interested in how language relates to art.

Catherine Hundleby , M.A. Philosophy, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada

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