Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals: The Debate Between Literature and Philosophy

  • Gillian Dooley


Iris Murdoch at her best is a brilliant prose stylist, but in her late philosophy her writing often appears dutiful and hard-won. Remarks about the difficulty of writing Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals (MGM) in her correspondence and diaries confirm this impression. However, in MGM the writing becomes lively and engaging when certain philosophers are discussed. Her discussions of Arthur Schopenhauer employ her most characteristic and vivid prose, for example, and she compares his philosophical style with Ludwig Wittgenstein’s more fastidious sensibility. In this chapter, I consider Murdoch’s attitude to the ‘quarrel’ between philosophy and literature, before undertaking a reading of MGM as a literary work, paying particular attention to Murdoch’s rhetoric and characterisation, and the moments when her trademark literary style emerges.



I am grateful to Nora Hämäläinen, Frances White, David Robjant for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of this chapter.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gillian Dooley
    • 1
  1. 1.Flinders UniversityAdelaideAustralia

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