Iris Murdoch’s Ontological Argument (MGM Chapter 13)
Iris Murdoch develops a version of the Ontological Argument as a moral argument for the existence of a transcendent and perfect Platonic Good. I argue that her version of the argument over-emphasises moral goodness as a distant and intangible ideal to which we are inevitably attracted, and towards which we may progress, but which, apart from occasional revelations in saintly lives and great art, is normally only available in glimpses and intimations, and which remains mysterious. The argument is better construed as concerning the moral reality of human beings as sacred or inviolable, and the moral demands this makes upon us—a reality that is proximate, palpable, inescapable and highly familiar.
I am grateful for earlier comments on this paper by Nora Hämäläinen, and to discussions with David Cockburn and Christopher Cordner.
- Legend, J., and T. Gadd. 2013. All of me [song]. Online. YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=450p7goxZqg.
- Murdoch, I. 1992. Metaphysics as a guide to morals (Abbreviated MGM). London: Chatto & Windus.Google Scholar
- Murdoch, I. 1996. The sovereignty of good. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- St. Anselm. 1968. St. Anselm’s ontological argument. In The ontological argument: From St. Anselm to contemporary philosophers, ed. Alvin Plantinga, 3–30. London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
- Williams, B. 1993. Moral incapacity. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society. New Series, 93: 59–70.Google Scholar