Friday, June 27, 2008

Cordner, Christopher. "Review of Megan Laverty's IRIS MURDOCH'S ETHICS." NDPR (June 2008)

Laverty, Megan. Iris Murdoch's Ethics: a Consideration of her Romantic Vision. London: Continuum, 2007. Modern moral philosophy has followed in Aristotle's footsteps not Plato's. Aristotle highlights 'the virtues'. By highlighting love and the good, Iris Murdoch once again brought Platonic ideas alive, making them accessible in a contemporary idiom. This bent of her philosophy is, I am sure, one reason it has so engaged people, but perhaps it is also why so few of the philosophers who have expressed their indebtedness to Murdoch's moral philosophy have written directly about it. Contemporary analytic philosophy still resists, or perhaps just has not been able to find its own words for, what Murdoch had to say as a philosopher. Megan Laverty describes her book as not aiming 'to replicate Murdoch's ideas' (12), but as 'an exercise in methodological mimesis or iteration' (12). What she writes will be 'a way of "going on" with Murdoch's concepts or terms' (12) rather than an analysis of them. Laverty situates Murdoch within the tradition of what (following Nikolas Kompridis) she calls 'philosophical romanticism' (2). She says that the 'authority of Murdoch's philosophy . . . is given by its location in, and its ability to comment on, a larger philosophical tradition, in this case romantic' (2). This is a bold move, given Murdoch's criticisms of romanticism, which Laverty brings out. But Laverty also reminds us that for Murdoch Plato was one of 'the great romantics' (7). Laverty sees philosophical romanticism as a response to Kant, a response seeking what Laverty (taking up a phrase of Murdoch's) calls a 'third way' (19) between Kant's locating of noumenal reality beyond consciousness and a lapsing into subjectivism. She writes: 'Murdoch and the romantics comprehend, without bridging, the gap between human subjectivity and reality, by bringing the noumenal within the sweep of human experience' (9). Thus Laverty locates Murdoch's work in concerns that have been and continue to be central to philosophy; and she speaks to these concerns in ways that should engage thinkers both within and without analytical philosophy. . . . Read the rest here:

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