Murdoch and the meaning of life

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For Iris Murdoch, moral value is a real and radiant part of the world, but human beings must exercise loving attention to apprehend it. Murdoch’s writings concern ethical or moral value as this is demarcated by the virtues. In keeping with the ancient philosophers, she does not distinguish sharply between moral, aesthetic, meaning-bearing, and prudential dimensions of value within the regions so delimited. Murdoch is a naturalist about value, but her notion of what counts as “natural” is decidedly expansive. Murdoch associates the inner life with a process of conceptual development - meaning something quite different by this than most philosophers - and she ties the inner life so characterized to the concept of the individual or person. Following Simone Weil, Murdoch links the refinement and clarification of one’s vision to the exercise of “attention”. To view efforts of attention as a source of fulfillment risks slighting the importance Murdoch accords to the experience of incompleteness in the moral life.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Meaning of Life and the Great Philosophers
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9781315385938
ISBN (Print)9781138220935
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018


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