Moral Vision: Iris Murdoch and Alasdair Maclntyre [Book Review]

Journal of Business Ethics 90 (S3):315 - 327 (2009)
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Abstract

This article explains Iris Murdoch’s notion of moral vision and its importance as a basic concept within applied ethics. It does so by exploring the influence of Iris Murdoch upon Alasdair MacIntyre whose ideas are frequently discussed by business ethicists. Arguably, the British philosopher Iris Murdoch (1919–1999) who wrote – amongst others – Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals ( 1992 ), along with her contemporaries, Philippa Foot and Elizabeth Anscombe, pioneered the resurgence of Aristotle’s virtue ethics. Furthermore, Iris Murdoch influenced Alasdair MacIntyre. Heather Widdows, in her biography of Iris Murdoch lists Alasdair MacIntyre amongst those ‘thinkers she inspired’ (Widdows, The moral vision of Iris Murdoch, Ashgate Publishing, Aldershot, 2005 , p. 10). And in his writings MacIntyre does both examine Murdoch’s work and acknowledge that ‘Iris Murdoch has … put us all in her debt’ (MacIntyre, 1993 , The New York Times on the Web , January 3, http://www.nytimes.com/books/98/12/20/specials/murdoch-metaphysics.html , p. 3). Murdoch was both an influential philosopher and a successful novelist. MacIntyre has stated that ‘Iris Murdoch’s novels are philosophy: but they are philosophy which casts doubt on all philosophy, including her own’ ( London Review of Books , 3–16 June, 1982 , p. 15). I therefore explore in this article the influence of Iris Murdoch’s literary work, where ‘true vision occasions right conduct’ upon Alasdair MacIntyre’s portrayal of us as ‘storytelling animals’ on a ‘narrative quest’.

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