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Murdoch, Iris (1919–99)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-L136-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 2002
Retrieved June 19, 2024, from

Article Summary

Iris Murdoch was an Oxford moral philosopher and a prolific novelist. Her philosophy was marked by a strong sense of the moral significance of our inner lives: the quality of our seeing, feeling and imagining is significant, both in itself and as a background for our active lives. Moral effort, Murdoch believed, consists mainly in the struggle against our natural egoism. She thought ethics should discuss the techniques of this struggle and took a particular interest in the role art might play in such a context. Insisting on the irreducible plurality of the moral ‘field of force’, Murdoch did not develop a moral theory; yet she also believed that moral experience is haunted by a sense of unity. Her thought revolved around this tension. Inspired by Plato, she referred to this unity as ‘Good’ and understood it as a distant perfect reality present in imperfect human lives as a baffling but magnetic force. The phenomena and problems that had Murdoch’s philosophical interest were also explored in her fiction, despite her insistence that she was not a philosophical novelist.

Citing this article:
Norgaard, Thomas. Murdoch, Iris (1919–99), 2002, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-L136-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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