The Sovereignty of Good (Routledge Classics)
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The Sovereignty of Good (Routledge Classics)

3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  205 ratings  ·  16 reviews
Iris Murdoch once observed: 'philosophy is often a matter of finding occasions on which to say the obvious'. What was obvious to Murdoch, and to all those who read her work, is that Good transcends everything - even God. Throughout her distinguished and prolific writing career, she explored questions of Good and Bad, myth and morality. The framework for Murdoch's questions...more
Paperback, 128 pages
Published May 18th 2001 by Routledge (first published 1970)
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This volume collects The Idea of Perfection, On "God" and "Good", and The Sovereignty of Good Over Other Concepts.

In these papers Murdoch undertakes, among more minor aesthetic tasks, to draw up and criticize a particular view of the human personality, tracing it back through its philosophical and scientific forebears and forth again to its contemporary form. Thereafter she takes for the proponent of this view, and as antagonist of her own picture, one painted by Stuart Hampshire that she believ...more
Bryan Kibbe
I found this collection of three essays to be deeply meaningful, provocative, thoughtful, and inspiring, especially as a student training in moral philosophy. I have no doubt that Murdoch's ideas have been, are, and will be considered controversial and contested, but there is a quality of her writing that makes you sit down, nonetheless, and listen with a certain earnestness to hear what she will say next. This owes, I think, to the candidness of her writing, the breadth of her knowledge, the co...more
Jan 27, 2014 booklady marked it as to-read
Recommended to booklady by: Fr. Robert Barron
Excellent recommendation for the book in Father Barron's clip on God and Morality.
Aniko Carmean
In The Sovereignty of Good, Murdoch suggests that "God was (or is) a single perfect transcendent non-representable and necessarily real object of attention." This beautifully complex definition is intentionally devoid of commas, thus preventing any inference of a ranked list of qualities. Murdoch's definition captures the truth that any spiritual experience of the transcendent is beyond reason, categorization, or logical systems. God, which is for Murdoch an indefinable Platonic form of Good, is...more
Robbie Govus
Absolutely mind blowing ... the true genius of Murdoch philosophically speaking. Her moral vision is unique and ought to be recognised more !!! It's our task to do that, we owe it to her !
Phill Melton
While the first essay, on the idea of perfection, is rather weak (too busy responding to the technical debates of the day, not enough laying out her own ideas), the last two are absolutely brilliant. Discussing the relationship between beauty/art and love/virtue and their relationship to the good, transcendental idealism(s), and the nature of reality, Murdoch advances an eminently humane philosophy, one calling for a return to the centrality of love and a humility in the face of the Good. Darker...more
The nature of goodness is an issue today in the writings of Iris Murdoch. The Sovereignty of Good includes three essays by her. In reading her essay, "The Sovereignty of Good over other concepts", I found her returning to the allegory of the cave and the metaphor of the Sun that I first read in Plato. Murdoch claims that "'Good is a transcendent reality' means that virtue is the attempt to pierce the veil of selfish consciousness and join the world as it really is." (p 91) For Murdoch this is a...more
Tamsin Barlow
Rambling and a sad, futile attempt to make Good a sovereign of all moral behaviour. Is the Platonic ideal of goodness enough to motivate us to change? I'm not suggesting that we need a cosmic babysitter to encourage or enforce good behaviour, but I do feel that the universe is governed by laws-- forces of attraction, gravity, thermodynamics. Who is to suggest that good and evil are not somehow also universal constants? "There is more in Heaven, Horatio...". It was a trudging book that rarely sho...more
I'm not going to write a huge review of this book as it was a school read so I know I'll be discussing and writing plenty about it in the near future BUT I really liked Murdoch's writing. Her arguments were clear and well illustrated, and also importantly from a philosophical standpoint resonated with me. It was interesting that although she critiques G.E.Moore, she seems to in parts to echo Roger Fry's theory of significant form.

Ed Brown
As I read her Murdoch seems concerned to maintain a rational for pursuing the good in a world in which God is dead and all she saw around her were existential and behavioral accounts of human action. It seems that she attempts to solve her problem by resorting to Platonic ideas of the good and love. Her arguments were not convincing, but this was in part because, thirty years after she wrote, it seemed that she was arguing against straw men and proposing an unworkably abstract guide for action....more
Nov 12, 2011 Nathanial added it
Shelves: theory
A brief-but-dense collection of three related essays from the early-mid sixties. It's fascinating to watch how Murdoch outlines, sketches, and then fills in the theoretical background to some of her later fictive works. First essay: "The Idea of Perfection" posits the Good as an unknowable quality attached to a close, loving attentiveness. "On God and Good" asks how to take established ideas of morality out of codified systems and into active practice. "The Sovereignty of Good over Other Concept...more
Ai Miller
A fascinating articulation and reclamation of moral philosophy. Although the language was dense (the second essay in particular proved difficult to parse), it wasn't completely inaccessible and was definitely worth the effort.
'Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.'
Alex Sarll
She's essentially telling the philosophical mainstream of her day to stop being useless tits. Which is fair, but, if one is not a professional philosopher of that period, not something one really needs to read.
Mark Spano
Spend some time with IM. You won't regret it.
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Dame Jean Iris Murdoch

Irish-born British writer, university lecturer and prolific and highly professional novelist, Iris Murdoch dealt with everyday ethical or moral issues, sometimes in the light of myths. As a writer, she was a perfectionist who did not allow editors to change her text. Murdoch produced 26 novels in 40 years, the last written while she was suffering from Alzheimer disease.

"She w...more
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“It is in the capacity to love, that is to SEE, that the liberation of the soul from fantasy consists. The freedom which is a proper human goal is the freedom from fantasy, that is the realism of compassion. What I have called fantasy, the proliferation of blinding self-centered aims and images, is itself a powerful system of energy, and most of what is often called 'will' or 'willing' belongs to this system. What counteracts the system is attention to reality inspired by, consisting of, love.” 3 likes
“What we really are seems much more like an obscure system of energy out of which choices and visible acts of will emerge at intervals in ways which are often unclear and often dependent on the condition of the system in between moments of choice.” 2 likes
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