What More Philosophers Think

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Since then, she is in my philosophical bloodstream.

What Do Philosophers Think? — Part I

I don't think I can write anything anymore that does not relate to her philosophical work in one way or another. Murdoch provides an example of what it can mean to be a philosopher.


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One in which the philosopher need not be a detached thinker, secluded from the concerns of society. Rather, she offers us a model of being a philosopher that involves friendship, literature, art, and the messy reality of the world. This is the kind of philosopher that I aspire to be. University of Sheffield, UK Website. I see Murdoch as a philosophical fellow traveler.

For one, as a writer I also feel pulled in two directions—fiction and academic philosophy. But more substantively, her work helped me finish my Ph.

What Do Philosophers Think? — Part I - The Philosophers' Magazine

I had been struggling to articulate the idea that it can be morally wrong to think about people using certain concepts or categories. This got my own thinking un-stuck. University of Oxford, UK Website. Murdoch's philosophy, like her fiction, is populated with the varied reality of moral life: mothers who find their daughters-in-law juvenile, concentration camp guards who are kindly fathers.

A loving gaze can discern this moral reality just as a good eye can appraise the length of a timber. And if we are to transcend our selfish egos, we need this capacity for loving attention.

Iris Murdoch is one of my most favorite philosophers. She makes wonderful use of the best parts of Simone Weil; she has a rich, compelling moral theory; I recognize her Plato; she is an intellectual role model for those of us who think that Anglo-analytic philosophy, all by itself, falls far short of its object s -- that if nothing else we need the history of philosophy, as well as literature, in order to even begin to do philosophy. University of Pardubice, Czech Republic Website. I encountered Murdoch when doing my PhD on ethics and narrative literature: she was by far the strongest and most interesting voice among the thinkers I read.

She has stayed with me ever since, probably because her writings have so many affordances.

The Most Influential Living Philosophers

She thought about ethics and philosophy more broadly through the lens of life, not through the lens of philosophical debates. Her way of engaging the world in her work is exemplary and sets a high standard for anyone who reads her with engagement. Durham University, UK Website. Iris Murdoch represents some neglected paths in contemporary philosophy. In aesthetics, her affiliation to Plato is significant - her attitude to Kant is interesting, and though I would question its correctness, it produces some interesting insights into the value of art, and in particular the contrast between art for art, and art for life's sake.

In Memoriam

Oxford University, UK Website. My working time with IM has been spent mainly with 'Vision and Choice in Morality' - that substantive content gets sneaked into or shut out of philosophy by the demands of mere 'form' is still a fertile idea - or with The Sovereignty of Good. How the capacity to love a particular other well relates or fails to to goodness more broadly is a constant theme of mine. I also love the novels, not least for the hijacking if it is really that of philosophical language to describe everyday affairs.

University of Liverpool, UK Website. This is a fundamental insight: rules can rarely tell us what the right thing to do is in a concrete situation, let alone what the right thing for me is. They are prone to fail in the face of the "inexhaustible detail of the world" and our own unique circumstances. Love, Murdoch teaches us, is a better moral guide.

She wrote: 'Love is the extremely difficult realization that something other than oneself is real. Love, and so art and morals, is the discovery of reality. And if so how, more exactly, should we understand it? And how should we live in the light of that understanding? Murdoch is someone who, in her novels, her philosophy and her life, makes the interest and importance of these issues vividly apparent! I was first attracted to philosophy because of the way it made difficult and complex questions seem simpler and less mysterious.

Murdoch was the first philosopher who showed me how it might be possible to do philosophy in a way that allowed the complexity and mystery of the world back in. I think many people feel instinctively that our experience of love and beauty is central to what makes us human; Murdoch helps us to understand why that might be true.

The philosophy of Iris Murdoch which is found both in her essays and in her novels opened up for me not only a number of fascinating questions in moral philosophy but also a way of approaching these questions that was sensitive to the way many of us struggle to understand one another and themselves. Murdoch encourages us to give answers as complex and indefinite as the practical questions of moral life. University of Nottingham, UK Website. Her novels exploring freedom and honesty, particularly Under the Net, somehow manage to combine deep philosophical observation with genuine humour and beautiful writing.

Iris Murdoch makes philosophy answerable to what our lives are like. She invites us to step back from theories of mind, language or morals; to look closely at what it's like to try to formulate a thought, the ways that a child's understanding of 'love' evolves over time, and what we would want to say about a woman who overcomes prejudice; and she shows us how philosophy sometimes ignores or mischaracterizes human experience. Murdoch helped me to understand why some philosophy feels so removed! Having been taught philosophical in a very metaphysically austere environment--most of my teachers were nominalists and Humeans, while also being straightforward scientific realists--I found Murdoch's approach deeply refreshing.

On one hand, she took the world seriously, and not just our observations and experiences of it. On the other hand, she took our experiences seriously, and not just scientists' mechanistic explanations of it. University of Helsinki, Finland Website. Iris Murdoch made a significant contribution to our understanding of what it means to be ethical. She rejected the modern notion of the moral agent as a heroic figure who projects value onto the world by her will.

Instead, she held that ethics is primarily about seeing others for what they are, and responding accordingly. Vision precedes choice, and loving attention is the only cure for our natural bias towards the self. For me, Murdoch is a deep and stimulating thinker who continues to inspire. I think Murdoch was one of the most significant moral philosophers of the last century — a critic of facile forms of thinking about human life, and the champion of a broader inspirational vision of our situation within the wider order of things.

She's a powerful example of a sort of moral philosopher that's unpopular these days — openly humane, existentially deep, historically informed, attentive to the complexities of human beings. University of Groningen, The Netherlands Website. In my own work, I aim to think about attitudes and their role in alienating us from our own self-responsibility and freedom. I notice how a literary sensibility opens up new ways of doing philosophy and exploring philosophical issues.

It was a profound encounter.

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Philosophy v science: which can answer the big questions of life?

Her appreciation of the messiness of moral reality, of moral life as responsibility and responsivity to others, her emphasis on consciousness and attention not as transcendental structures but as the very real and flawed activity of very real and specific human beings — from all of this I drew and draw new and renewed inspiration. Though philosophy played an important part in figuring out my faith, the shift was mostly driven by personal experiences. Reading Iris Murdoch has been hugely significant for me getting to grips with how my faith and my philosophical views come together.

University of Chichester, UK Website. In many ways Murdoch's philosophy, especially her work on ethics and aesthetics, underpins my own beliefs. Discovering her work, and subsequently writing on her for the last 15 years, has changed my perception of the world, and of people. Murdoch is a beacon for work in moral philosophy that embraces rather than eschews the immense complexities of a real moral life.

Her emphasis on the role of perception in moral life is important, and her willingness to embrace the mystery of contemporary existence rather than the artificial precision of analytic moral philosophy is a model we should all keep in mind. Universidad de los Andes, Colombia Website. One of the first Plato scholars who understands the importance of art in knowledge of reality.

She combines in her own work the same beauty that Plato uses to lead us to real philosophy. Her The Fire and the Sun shows a sufficiency in Plato's philosophy that gives sense to some of the apparent contradictions in Republic's criticism of poetry and poets. I love this book. University of Durham, UK Website. But what you learn, just when insight seems immanent, is that you are right back where you started — on an endless but impossible quest.


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A philosopher for the 21st century and a neglected star in the canon of Irish female writers. Lancaster University, UK Website. Iris Murdoch's philosophy represents new opportunities: to understand a neglected thinker, to gain a deeper understanding of the era and Murdoch's peers, and to grasp the development of thought in a more thorough way. I see Murdoch's work as representing a bridge between Aristotelian virtue ethics and the development of care ethics and feminist relational theory, which is an exciting perspective to explore.

What Murdoch means to me: The first time I read Murdoch's philosophy, I was completely baffled by it.