Imagination and Politics in Iris Murdoch’s Moral Philosophy

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I defend Murdoch's moral philosophy from Lovibond's charge that it treats the imagination as an enemy of moral and political progress. I argue that this criticism rests on a failure to recognize Murdoch's distinction between ‘moral imagination’ and ‘fantasy.’ For Murdoch, only ‘fantasy’ is morally problematic; in contrast, ‘moral imagination’ is constitutive of virtue. I argue further that a proper understanding of virtue, on Murdoch's account, shows it to be intimately tied to the appreciation of human individuality, where this has appealing political ramifications. I offer as an example the case of human rights, showing how the exercise of moral imagination, as Murdoch conceives it, would seem to be essential to their full and proper recognition. While the discussion is necessarily preliminary in some respects, it should allay any suspicion that Murdoch's moral philosophy is blind to the moral and political importance of the imagination or indifferent to widely shared political concerns.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)387-411
Number of pages25
JournalPhilosophical Papers
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 2006


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