Discussion of Iris Murdoch recalls Socrates' plea that he be allowed a crabwise approach to the Good. What his audience want of a direct approach is an explanation of precisely what sort of thing the Good is, where the demand for precision carries the force of: Tell me now, in which of the categories of thing I already allow to exist is the Good to be found? This is just what academia has done with the obscure singularity of Murdoch – (...) and the comedy of the exercise is the same. (shrink)
: Richard Moran argues that Iris Murdoch is an Existentialist who pretends not to be. His support for this view will be shown to depend on his attempt to assimilate Iris Murdoch's discussion of moral ‘vision’ in the parable of the Mother in Law to Sartre's thought on ‘choice’ and ‘orientation’. Discussing both Moran's Murdoch exegesis and Sartre's Being and Nothingness, I develop the Sartrean view to which Moran hopes to assimilate Murdoch, before pointing out how Moran's assimilation fails. Murdoch's (...) thought that when M is just and loving she sees D ‘as she really is’ cannot be accommodated on Sartre's picture. I develop this point of disagreement between Murdoch and Sartre, and argue that Murdoch has not as Moran claims made a misattribution to Sartre of an unsituated will, but has instead offered a penetrating critique of the central theme of Sartre's epistemology. (shrink)
I observe Iris Murdoch's distinctive use of the word ‘flux’ in discussion of Sartre's Nausea and show that her usage is persuasive and revolutionary, first as Sartre exegesis, second as Heraclitus exegesis, and throughout as a contribution to the philosophy of language. Murdoch's usage of ‘flux’ frames a comparison of Sartre's Roquentin with other figures who have had similarly flowing experience but without nausea. Roquentin's plight is shown to be ‘a philosopher's plight’ precipitated by a defective theory of descriptive success. (...) I then show how the Heraclitean fragments would support Murdoch's treatment of flux and on close analysis contradict the established view exemplified in the work of Wittgenstein and Jonathan Barnes. Flux is not a variety of change, and the river image ‘cannot be analysed into non-metaphorical components without a loss of substance’. (shrink)
Murdoch brings together the darkness of misery and the darkness of wickedness under the observation that ‘goodness is not acontinuously active organic part of our purposes and wishes’. This looks like an empirically minded correction of Socrates. But besides correcting Socrates, is Murdoch also offering, as Stephen Mulhall suggests, ‘a fundamental counter-example’ to her own ‘moral vision’? This depends on what one takes Murdoch’s moral vision to be. I trace Mulhall's mistake to Maria Antonaccio's misidentification of the good with the (...) concept of the good. (shrink)
I consider the support variously offered for the remark at Philosophical Investigations 246: ‘It can’t be said of me at all (except perhaps as a joke) that I know I am in pain.’ Against the first sort of argument to be found in Wittgenstein and the literature I offer cases in which I learn of pain. Against the second sort of argument I develop the case in which I am persuaded by compelling evidence that I am, contrary to what I (...) imagined, still in an emotional pain about N. I then consider the counter-argument that the mix of sensation and emotion in my second case makes it irrelevant as a criticism of Wittgenstein, but argue that the reverse holds. That ‘sensation’ is quite separate from ‘emotion’ is a Cartesian Mistake which is, I argue, implicit in Wittgenstein’s discussion of ‘I know I am in pain’. (shrink)
I develop Iris Murdoch's argument that “there is no Platonic ‘elsewhere,’ similar to the Christian ‘elsewhere.’ ” Thus: Iris Murdoch is against the Separation of the Forms not as a correction of Plato but in order to keep faith with him; Plato's Parmenides is not a source book of accurately targeted self-refutation but a catalogue of student errors; the testimony of Aristotle and Gilbert Ryle about Plato's motivations in the Theory of Forms is not an indubitable foundation from which to (...) denounce Iris Murdoch's treatment of Plato as inaccurate but a rival reading of dubious charity. If Iris Murdoch's version of the Theory of Forms strikes Newton Garver as an incoherent mix of influences from Wittgenstein and Plato, this is not because Iris Murdoch is herself confused, but because in important respects the orthodoxy has Plato wrong. (shrink)
This is a rebuttal of influential attempts to appropriate Murdoch for either Christianity or Buddhism. I show that Maria Antonaccio and Peter Byrne ignore Murdoch's explicit statements and misunderstand Murdoch’s interest in the Ontological Argument. I explain how St. Anselm’s remark ‘I believe in order to understand’ is properly connected with Murdoch’s parable of the Mother-in-Law: Murdoch is here offering support for a virtue epistemology. Later, I explore the merits and dangers of exegesis from Peter J. Conradi and Gordon Graham (...) treating Murdoch as a kind of Buddhist. I argue that the sense in which Murdoch is speaking as a ‘Buddhist Christian’ makes her a third kind of thinker resembling a Buddhist on some points, and a Christian on others. (shrink)
If in our use of imagery we are all of us the unacknowledged legislators of the world, it would follow that one can ‘serve the cause of sexual equality in education’ by challenging the way our images of the academic are gendered. This is the excellent stated purpose of Sabina Lovibond's short new book, Iris Murdoch, Gender and Philosophy. The effect is as I shall show somewhat at odds with this.