The anticipation of ethical issues that may arise with the clinical use of genomic technologies is crucial to envision their future implementation in a manner sensitive to local contexts. Yet, populations in low- and middle-income countries are underrepresented in studies that aim to explore stakeholders’ perspectives on the use of such technologies. Within the framework of a research project entitled “Personalized medicine in the treatment of epilepsy”, we sought to increase inclusiveness by widening the reach of our survey, inviting neurologists (...) from around the world to share their views and practices regarding the use of whole-genome sequencing in clinical neurology and its associated ethics. We discuss herein the compelling scientific and ethical reasons that led us to attempt to recruit neurologists worldwide, despite the lack, in many low- or middle-income countries, of access to genomic technologies. Recruitment procedures and their results are presented and discussed, as well as the barriers we faced. We conclude that inclusive recruitment remains a challenging, albeit necessary and legitimate, endeavour. (shrink)
In order to ensure an adequate and ongoing protection of individuals participating in scientific research, the impacts of new biomedical technologies, such as Next Generation Sequencing , need to be assessed. In this light, a necessary reexamination of the ethical and legal structures framing research could lead to requisite changes in informed consent modalities. This would have implications for Institutional Review Boards , who bear the responsibility of guaranteeing that participants are verifiably informed, and in sufficient detail, to understand the (...) reality of genetic research as it is practiced now. Current literature allowed the identification of key emergent themes related to the consent process when NGS was used in a research setting. (shrink)
Background Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) is expected to help find the elusive, causative genetic defects associated with Bipolar Disorder (BD). This article identifies the importance of NGS and further analyses the social and ethical implications of this approach when used in research projects studying BD, as well as other psychiatric ailments, with a view to ensuring the protection of research participants. Methods We performed a systematic review of studies through PubMed, followed by a manual search through the titles and abstracts (...) of original articles, including the reviews, commentaries and letters published in the last five years and dealing with the ethical and social issues raised by NGS technologies and genomics studies of mental disorders, especially BD. A total of 217 studies contributed to identify the themes discussed herein. Results The amount of information generated by NGS renders individuals suffering from BD particularly vulnerable, and increases the need for educational support throughout the consent process, and, subsequently, of genetic counselling, when communicating individual research results and incidental findings to them. Our results highlight the importance and difficulty of respecting participants’ autonomy while avoiding any therapeutic misconception. We also analysed the need for specific regulations on the use and communication of incidental findings, as well as the increasing influence of NGS in health care. Conclusions Shared efforts on the part of researchers and their institutions, Research Ethics Boards as well as participants’ representatives are needed to delineate a tailored consent process so as to better protect research participants. However, health care professionals involved in BD care and treatment need to first determine the scientific validity and clinical utility of NGS-generated findings, and thereafter their prevention and treatment significance. (shrink)
The use of Next Generation Sequencing such as Whole Genome Sequencing is a promising step towards a better understanding and treatment of neurological diseases. WGS can result into unexpected information, and information with uncertain clinical significance. In the context of a Genome Canada project on ‘Personalized Medicine in the Treatment of Epilepsy’, we intended to address these challenges surveying neurologists’ opinions about the type of results that should be returned, and their professional responsibility toward recontacting patients regarding new discovered mutations. (...) Potential participants were contacted through professional organizations or direct invitations. A total of 204 neurologists were recruited. Fifty nine percent indicated that to be conveyed, WGS results should have a demonstrated clinical utility for diagnosis, prognosis or treatment. Yet, 41% deemed appropriate to return results without clinical utility, when they could impact patients’ reproductive decisions, or on patients’ request. Current use of targeted genetic testing and age of patients influenced respondents’ answers. Respondents stated that analysis of genomics data resulting from WGS should be limited to the genes likely to be relevant for the patient’s specific medical condition, so as to limit IFs. Respondents felt responsible to recontact patients and inform them about newly discovered mutations related to the medical condition that triggered the test for as long as they are following up on the patient. Finally, 53.5% of the respondents felt responsible to recontact and inform patients of clinically significant, newly discovered IFs. Our results show the importance of formulating professional guidelines sensitive to the various – and sometimes opposite – viewpoints that may prevail within a same community of practice, as well as flexible so as to be attuned to the characteristics of the neurological conditions that triggered a WGS. (shrink)
Next SectionAn attempt to resolve the controversy regarding the solution of the Sleeping Beauty Problem in the framework of the Many-Worlds Interpretation led to a new controversy regarding the Quantum Sleeping Beauty Problem. We apply the concept of a measure of existence of a world and reach the solution known as ‘thirder’ solution which differs from Peter Lewis’s ‘halfer’ assertion. We argue that this method provides a simple and powerful tool for analysing rational decision theory problems.
The way a rational agent changes her belief in certain propositions/hypotheses in the light of new evidence lies at the heart of Bayesian inference. The basic natural assumption, as summarized in van Fraassen's Reflection Principle, would be that in the absence of new evidence the belief should not change. Yet, there are examples that are claimed to violate this assumption. The apparent paradox presented by such examples, if not settled, would demonstrate the inconsistency and/or incompleteness of the Bayesian approach, and (...) without eliminating this inconsistency, the approach cannot be regarded as scientific. The Sleeping Beauty Problem is just such an example. The existing attempts to solve the problem fall into three categories. The first two share the view that new evidence is absent, but differ about the conclusion of whether Sleeping Beauty should change her belief or not, and why. The third category is characterized by the view that, after all, new evidence is involved. My solution is radically different and does not fall into either of these categories. I deflate the paradox by arguing that the two different degrees of belief presented in the Sleeping Beauty Problem are in fact beliefs in two different propositions, i.e., there is no need to explain the change of belief. The Sleeping Beauty Problem The Problem Deflated 2.1 From contradiction to consistency 2.2 The inanimate version 2.3 Back to SB Summary CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
There has recently been a good deal of controversy about Landauer's Principle, which is often stated as follows: The erasure of one bit of information in a computational device is necessarily accompanied by a generation of kT ln 2 heat. This is often generalised to the claim that any logically irreversible operation cannot be implemented in a thermodynamically reversible way. John Norton (2005) and Owen Maroney (2005) both argue that Landauer's Principle has not been shown to hold in general, and (...) Maroney offers a method that he claims instantiates the operation reset in a thermodynamically reversible way. In this paper we defend the qualitative form of Landauer's Principle, and clarify its quantitative consequences (assuming the second law of thermodynamics). We analyse in detail what it means for a physical system to implement a logical transformation L, and we make this precise by defining the notion of an L-machine. Then we show that logical irreversibility of L implies thermodynamic irreversibility of every corresponding L-machine. We do this in two ways. First, by assuming the phenomenological validity of the Kelvin statement of the second law, and second, by using information-theoretic reasoning. We illustrate our results with the example of the logical transformation 'reset', and thereby recover the quantitative form of Landauer's Principle. (shrink)
Karl Popper famously opposed Marxism in general and its philosophical core – the Marxist dialectic – in particular. As a progressive thinker, Popper saw in dialectic a source of dogmatism damaging to philosophy and political theory. Popper had summarized his views on dialectic in an article that was first delivered in 1937 and subsequently republished as a chapter of his book (2002, pp. 419-451), where he accuses Marxist dialecticians of not tolerating criticism. Ironically, Popper’s view that all Marxist dialecticians dogmatically (...) dismiss any criticism of dialectic by claiming that their opponents do not understand dialectic makes his position no less dogmatic. Indeed, any attempt to criticise Popper’s views on dialectics would be seen only as an additional example of responses by “dogmatic dialecticians”, making his theory essentially immune. This completely prevents dialecticians from being able to criticise Popper’s views. This is exactly the opposite of what the great philosopher wanted. Therefore, for the sake of “anti-dogmatic science” it is desirable and even necessary to defend dialectic. In this work I address several central points about Popper’s criticism of Marxist (materialist) dialectic. In particular, I (a) analyse Popper’s definition of dialectic as the dialectic triad (thesis, anti-thesis, synthesis) and contrast it with a notion of dialectic as a much more complex concept which occurs in dialectical materialism today, where the triad represents only one of the aspects; (b) compare dialectic with the trial and error method; (c) discuss the place of dialectic amongst valid scientific methods: Does dialectic accept logical contradictions; (e) discuss lessons dialecticians should learn from Popper’s criticism. I will test my arguments as to their constructiveness and will demonstrate explicitly the nature of my disagreement with Popper - thereby trying to avoid the “dogmatic dialecticians” response as much as possible. (shrink)
The ethics of decision making for the critically ill elderly is an area of concern for all those involved in the decision-making process. The number of participants involved in decision making around end-of-life issues may be many: treatment and care decisions often bring together not only the patient and the physician, but the family, an extended medical care team, and impartial members of a hospital or institutional ethics committee. In addition, treatment and care decisions made at the end of life (...) occur in a variety of settings, not just the acute care hospital. Elderly patients who are critically ill, or in the final days or weeks of life, are found in intensive care or medical units of hospitals, in hospital and nursing home based hospice programs, in long-term care settings such as skilled nursing facilities, or at home, where they are tended by family caregivers. Differences in patterns of decision making regarding the care and treatment of critically ill older adults can be found across these settings, and decisions often vary according to the roles of the participants. (shrink)
Can the experience of great art play a role in our coming to understand the ethical framework of another person? In this article I draw out three themes from Iris Murdoch’s ‘The Sovereignty of Good’ in order to show the role that communal attention to works of art can play in our ethical lives. I situate this role in the context of Murdoch’s wider philosophical views.
Iris Murdoch has long been known as one of the most deeply insightful and morally passionate novelists of our time. This attention has often eclipsed Murdoch's sophisticated and influential work as a philosopher, which has had a wide-ranging impact on thinkers in moral philosophy as well as religious ethics and political theory. Yet it has never been the subject of a book-length study in its own right. Picturing the Human seeks to fill this gap. In this groundbreaking book, author (...) Maria Antonaccio presents the first systematic and comprehensive treatment of Murdoch's moral philosophy. Unlike literary critical studies of her novels, it offers a general philosophical framework for assessing Murdoch's thought as a whole. Antonaccio also suggests a new interpretive method for reading Murdoch's philosophy and outlines the significance of her thought in the context of current debates in ethics. This vital study will appeal to those interested in moral philosophy, religious ethics, and literary criticism, and grants those who have long loved Murdoch's novels a closer look at her remarkable philosophy. (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)
Art plays a significant role in Iris Murdoch’s moral philosophy, a major part of which may be interpreted as a proposal for the revision of religious belief. In this paper, I identify within Murdoch’s philosophical writings five distinct but related ways in which great art can assist moral/religious belief and practice: art can reveal to us “the world as we were never able so clearly to see it before”; this revelatory capacity provides us with evidence for the existence of (...) the Good, a metaphor for a transcendent reality of which God was also a symbol; art is a “hall of reflection” in which “everything under the sun can be examined and considered”; art provides us with an analogue for the way in which we should try to perceive our world; and art enables us to transcend our selfish concerns. I consider three possible objections: that Murdoch’s theory is not applicable to all forms of art; that the meaning of works of art is often ambiguous; and that there is disagreement about what constitutes a great work of art. I argue that none of these objections are decisive, and that all forms of art have at least the potential to furnish us with important tools for developing the insight required to live a moral/religious life. (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.1 This is the excellent stated purpose of Sabina Lovibond's short new book, Iris Murdoch, Gender and Philosophy.2.
While Iris Murdoch lived, Charles Taylor found philosophers as yet ‘too close’ to her rich philosophical contribution to see its true importance (Taylor 1996: 3). Twelve years from her death, Iris Murdoch, Philosopher is the first collection of essays on Murdoch’s philosophy edited by a philosopher, for a readership in academic philosophy. The collection is not yet the fulfilment of Taylor’s prophecy, but has the energy of a giant leap.
This review essay discusses two recent attempts to reform the framework in which issues of international and global justice are discussed: Iris Marion Young's ?social connection' model and the practice-dependent approach, here exemplified by Ayelet Banai, Miriam Ronzoni and Christian Schemmel's edited collection. I argue that while Young's model may fit some issues of international or global justice, it misconceives the problems that many of them pose. Indeed, its difficulties point precisely in the direction of practice dependence as it (...) is presented by Banai et al. I go on to discuss what seem to be the strengths of that method, and particularly Banai et al.'s defence of it against the common claim that it is biased towards the status quo. I also discuss Andrea Sangiovanni and Kate MacDonald's contributions to the collection. (shrink)
Iris Murdoch's concept of Good is a central feature of her moral theory; in Murdoch's thought, attention to the Good is the primary means of improving our moral conduct. Her view has been criticised on the grounds that the Good is irrelevant to life in this world (Don Cupitt), that the notion of a transcendent, single object of attention is incoherent (Stewart Sutherland), and that we can only understand what goodness is if we see it as an attribute of (...) a theistic, trinitarian God (Christoph Schwöbel). The paper argues that, with some clarification and development of Murdoch's view, these objections are by no means fatal to her position. (shrink)
This chapter compares the philosophical methods used respectively by John Rawls and Iris Marion Young. Rawls’s theory is ideal in several interrelated methodological respects: he emphasizes principle over practice; he relies on a fictional reasoning process; and his theory is designed for an imagined world that lacks many problematic aspects of the real world. Young’s method, which she characterizes as critical theory, is non-ideal in all the respects that Rawls’s method is ideal. Young emphasizes practice; she respects the reasoning (...) of actual people; and she directly addresses existing injustices. If Young has been able to develop philosophical ideals of justice that are more comprehensive, relevant, and substantively acceptable than Rawls’s, I suggest that one reason may be the non-ideal aspects of her methodology. In the end, however, Young’s philosophical contributions cannot be attributed only to her method; they are also the product of her unique political passion and creative imagination. (shrink)
Despite the fact that Iris Murdoch's influence on contemporary virtue ethics is often neglected, both her general criticism of the dominant currents of early 20th century ethical theory and some of its more particular threads, like scepticism towards principle-based accounts and the fact-value distinction or the emphasis on moral psychology, show her affinity with philosophers like Anscombe, Williams, and MacIntyre. On the other hand, some particular details of her perspective seem absent from, if not alien to, the standard neo-Aristotelian (...) virtue ethical stance. It especially applies to Murdoch's high esteem for Plato, which is reflected in the central place she gives to love and the apparently non-natural concept of Good and which, at some points, is developed in religious, or even mystical, directions. (shrink)
Iris Marion Young’s politics of difference promotes equality among socially and culturally different groups within multicultural states and advocates group autonomy to empower such groups to develop their own voice. Extending the politics of difference to the international sphere, Young advocates “decentered diverse democratic federalism” that combines local self-determination and cosmopolitanism, while adamantly rejecting nationalism. Herr argues that nationalism, charitably interpreted, is not only consistent with Young’s politics of difference but also necessary for realizing Young’s ideal in the global (...) arena. (shrink)
Este artículo sostiene que Iris Murdoch se opone al no-cognitivismo porque este no tiene en cuenta los fenómenos morales dinámicos que son clave en cualquier exploración filosófica de la vida moral adecuada, es decir, la experiencia subjetiva de la moralidad, la diferencia y el cambio. El argumento de Murdoch pone en cuestión la dicotomía hecho/valor y cognitivo/emotivo, y propone un modelo de la mente complejo, sensible al tiempo y dinámico que se centra en el cambioy la transición. En este (...) modelo dinámico, la objetividad ética es un logro personal. (shrink)
Iris Marion Young's work spans phenomenology and political philosophy. Her best‐known work in feminist phenomenology “Throwing like a girl,” drawing on the work of Simone de Beauvoir and Maurice Merleau‐Ponty, established the importance of gendered forms of bodily comportment and motility and has inspired articles both criticizing and extending her view to other fields. She has also articulated the phenomenological experience of chosen pregnancy, homemaking, the need for private space, the experience of wearing clothes, and other significant situations. Young's (...) more political philosophy articulates the five faces of oppression: exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, cultural imperialism and violence, and domination in order to develop an account of justice that overcomes both and respects group differences. Her book Inclusion and Democracy considers these questions on a more international scale and considers how oppressed groups can be included in political institutions. Finally, her posthumously published work on responsibility argues that we have global responsibilities for injustices that occur, although we might not have intended to harm others. (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)
This essay provides a broad overview of Dame Iris Murdoch's work in moral philosophy. Although Murdoch is best known as a novelist, the focus here will be on her philosophic work. Throughout her life, Murdoch (1919–99) characterized herself as a Platonic realist and attacked other approaches to moral philosophy for obscuring our understanding of what she calls “the moral life” – roughly, our attempts to understand, evaluate, and improve ourselves and our lives together. While most philosophers are skeptical about (...) her positive views, many also believe we can enrich our moral theories by engaging with her work and attending to the aspects of ordinary moral life it highlights. (shrink)
Ensayo publicado bajo el título "Love and Vision: Iris Murdoch on Eros and the Individual" en: M. Antonaccio y W. Schweiker, Iris Murdoch and the Search for Human Goodness, Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, 1996, pp. 29-53. El objetivo del este ensayo es analizar el lugar que ocupa el amor er.tico en la obra de Iris Murdoch y, en especial, su relaci.n con el descubrimiento moral. Para ello se contraponen dos modelos: el expuesto por Plat.n en (...) el diálogo Fedro y el que opera en la Divina Comedia de Dante. Este an.lisis comparativo servir. de criterio para el examen de los argumentos de la propia Murdoch sobre el amor y permitir. iluminar la procedencia y los matices de la idea de amor erótico que se ponen en funcionamiento en dos de sus más célebres novelas, La máquina del amor sagrado y profano y El príncipe negro. (shrink)
We consider three accepted truths about iris biometrics, involving pupil dilation, contact lenses and template aging. We also consider a relatively ignored issue that may arise in system interoperability. Experimental results from our laboratory demonstrate that the three accepted truths are not entirely true, and also that interoperability can involve subtle performance degradation. All four of these problems affect primarily the stability of the match, or authentic, distribution of template comparison scores rather than the non-match, or imposter, distribution of (...) scores. In this sense, these results confirm the security of iris biometrics in an identity verification scenario. We consider how these problems affect the usability and security of iris biometrics in large-scale applications, and suggest possible remedies. (shrink)
The writing of Iris Murdoch has long been of interest to both literature enthusiasts and students of philosophy. The years Murdoch spent studying philosophy at Oxford and Cambridge left an indelible imprint on her work. The essays in this book address both Murdoch’s philosophy and writing in the context of Continental philosophy and postmodern fiction. Many of the twelve essays resist the prevailing critical orthodoxies, introducing instead new theories with which to approach one of Britain’s most revered authors.
The novel begins as follows:"Dora Greenfield left her husband because she was afraid of him. She decided six months later to return to him for the same reason. The absent Paul, haunting her with letters and telephone bells and imagined footsteps on the stairs had begun to be the greater torment. Dora suffered from guilt, and with guilt came fear. She decided at last that the persecution of his presence was to be preferred to the persecution of his absence."Murdoch's novel (...) The Bell is about Imber Court. It is a small Anglican religious community of lay people whose lives were transformed, not just by the arrival of a couple of dissimilar visitors, not just by the arrival of a new bell to be installed at Imber Abbey located beyond the lake, but more significantly by the discovery of a centuries-old bell the story of which is engulfed in a terrible legend. (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)
Dombrowski and Murdoch offer versions of the ontological argument which aim to avoid two types of objection – those concerned with the nature of the divine, and those concerned with the move from an abstract concept to a mind-independent reality. For both, the nature of the concept of God/Good entails its instantiation, and both supply a supporting argument from experience. It is only Murdoch who successfully negotiates the transition from an abstract concept to the instantiation of that concept, however, and (...) this is achieved by means of an ontological argument from moral experience which, in a reversal of the Kantian doctrine, depends ultimately on a form of the cosmological argument. (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)
: 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)
Iris Murdoch was one of the best-known philosophers and novelists of the post-war period. In this book, Sabina Lovibond explores the tangled issue of Murdoch's stance towards gender and feminism, drawing upon the evidence of her fiction, philosophy, and other public statements. As well as analysing Murdoch's own attitudes, Iris Murdoch, Gender and Philosophy is also a critical enquiry into the way we picture intellectual, and especially philosophical, activity. Appealing to the idea of a 'social imaginary' within which (...) Murdoch's work is located, Lovibond examines the sense of incongruity or dissonance that may still affect our image of a woman philosopher, even where egalitarian views officially hold sway. The first thorough exploration of Murdoch and gender, Iris Murdoch, Gender and Philosophy is a fresh contribution to debates in feminist philosophy and gender studies, and essential reading for anyone interested in Murdoch's literary and philosophical writing. (shrink)
What is citizenship? This question goes back to the political philosophy of Aristotle, and how one answers it will be decisive in determining one's vision of political life. In the last ten to fifteen years, the question of citizenship has aroused a renewed set of extremely lively debates within political philosophy, and Iris Marion Young has certainly occupied an important place within these theoretical debates. In particular, Young—especially in her seminal article, Polity and Group Difference: A critique of the (...) ideal of universal citizenship—has presented a sharp challenge to all political theorists who are in some broad sense intellectually nourished by the tradition of civic republicanism and who think about the theme of citizenship under the influence of civic‐republican conceptions. In essence, Young's argument is that the practices of contemporary liberal society show that the implicit normative promise contained in the idea of a universal citizen identity has not been fulfilled, and therefore we must rethink this notion from the ground up. The purpose of my essay is to review the arguments that constitute Young's challenge to the civic‐republican tradition, with a view to clarifying the following questions: Is Young's political theory aimed at a reconstruction of the idea of citizenship on a normatively more sound basis? Or does her project imply a rejection of the idea of citizenship, and its displacement by an alternative understanding of political membership? (shrink)
In The Sovereignty of Good Iris Murdoch suggests that the central task of the moral agent involves a true and loving perception of an- other individual, who is seen as a particular reality external to the agent. Writing in the 1960s she claimed that this dimension of morality had been "theorized away" in contemporary ethics. I will argue today that 20 years later, this charge still holds true of much contemporary ethical theory.
In this paper I consider Simone Weil’s notion of attention as the fundamental and necessary condition for mystical experience, and investigate Iris Murdoch’s secular adaptation of attention as a moral attitude. After exploring the concept of attention in Weil and its relation to the mystical, I turn to Murdoch to address the following question: how does Murdoch manage to maintain Weil’s idea of attention, even keeping the importance of mysticism, without Weil’s religious metaphysical background? Simone Weil returns to the (...) importance of attention throughout her writing. To attend, for Weil, means to empty oneself of all that is personal, primarily one’s will, which Weil sees as the essence of the human individual. This act imitates God’s act of creation, considered as a withdrawal in order to let something other than himself exist. Since such withdrawal represents God’s supreme act of love, salvation for human beings lies in the attempt to do likewise. By giving up one’s will, while desiring God with all of one’s soul, one creates the conditions for God to descend into the soul. This ‘passive activity’ is attention. Weil’s writings had a deep impact on Iris Murdoch’s moral philosophy. In particular, Weil’s concept of attention is carried into Murdoch’s thought almost unchanged, with one striking exception: the absence of God in Murdoch’s system. Just as surprisingly, Murdoch at the same time maintains that mysticism and spirituality are crucial for morality, nor does she wish to sever the connection between attention and mysticism. Is Murdoch being inconsistent? I believe not. But the idea of attention as a mystical concept, within a metaphysics which has no room for God, requires further examination. For Murdoch, attention is the central capacity of the morally good person. Attention is, like in Weil, connected with an emptying of the self (for Murdoch the Ego) and a renunciation of will, in order to let something external make an impression in the subject. However, in Murdoch’s philosophy such external impression is not given by God, but by reality itself. Thus far, it appears, the notion of mysticism would be unnecessary. Yet for Murdoch reality is not something that we passively perceive, but something that requires a moral faculty – attention – made up of selflessness and desire for the good, in order to be apprehended. Two elements of mysticism then begin to surface: firstly, apprehension of reality requires a faculty that is not purely intellectual, but that involves the whole of the individual, including intuitions that one may be unable to explain (which Murdoch is happy to call ‘the soul’); secondly, the reality thus apprehended is considered as transcendent, insofar as its truth, infinitely distant, transcends the individual’s complete grasp. Thus the mystic, in Murdoch’s system, is regarded as an ideal moral person, not because s/he is guided by God, but because of his/her selfless ability to attend to the world beyond oneself and intuit its moral and metaphysical truth. (shrink)