Masters Thesis

Reflexive realism: an examination of moral realism in the philosophy and fiction of Iris Murdoch

Iris Murdoch’s philosophy departs from the norm in analytic philosophy. Rather than set out to demonstrate the deductive certainty of her views, Murdoch takes it as self-evident that the human consciousness is inherently value-laden, but clouded by self-consoling fantasies. Her antidote is art. By viewing good art, in any medium, the individual becomes aware of a reality outside of oneself, and thereby expands the capacity for empathy. My project looks at the relationship between Murdoch’s philosophy and her fiction, arguing that the two are mutually supportive. I advance this claim by showing how Murdoch’s ethics are most clearly seen in her novels for reasons surrounding their form. With this in mind, I examine The Bell and The Black Prince. I also look at contemporary scholarship which challenges various interpretations of Murdoch’s views. My own criticism is primarily concerned with the work of David Robjant, who argues against theological interpretations of Murdoch’s work which view her moral exemplar as a Buddhist Christian. With that in mind, my argument shows the relevance of Maria Antonaccio’s interpretation of Murdoch’s work and the extent to which it can withstand Robjant’s critique.