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The Sovereignty of Good (Routledge Classics)

3.91  ·  Rating Details ·  319 Ratings  ·  27 Reviews
What is obvious to Murdoch, and to all those who read her work, is that Good transcends everything, even God. In these essays, she explores questions of good and bad, myth and morality. 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 tr ...more
Paperback, 126 pages
Published May 18th 2001 by Routledge (first published 1970)
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Warning: contains major spoilers for the film Paterson

This is the second of Iris Murdoch's philosophical works that I've read in the last month. It is not quite as good as The Fire and the Sun, written a bit later, but I still liked it very much. I can see why people are currently reevaluating her as a philosopher and taking her work there more seriously. She examines the same core themes in both books: what does it mean to be a good person, what is the nature of art, does art help us to become
Sep 13, 2012 Blake rated it it was amazing
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
Bryan Kibbe
Nov 22, 2011 Bryan Kibbe rated it it was amazing
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.
Phill Melton
Jul 28, 2013 Phill Melton rated it really liked it
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
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.
Robbie Govus
May 03, 2013 Robbie Govus rated it it was amazing
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 !
Sep 30, 2015 Regan rated it it was amazing
Iris Murdoch, following G.E.M. Anscombe’s foundational 1958 critique of modern moral theories, refines and narrows the critique to address the specific problem of the ideal moral agent in The Sovereignty of Good (1970). She critiques the formulation of the moral exemplar as a generic, abstract, independent, rational, and emotionally neutral being who creates value exclusively by fiat of will. While she begins with Kant’s infamously formal view of moral agency, she finds these problems to be pres ...more
Aniko Carmean
Aug 16, 2014 Aniko Carmean rated it it was amazing
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
Danh Tran
Aug 11, 2016 Danh Tran rated it it was amazing
Although this book is only a hundred pages, it's explores a very complicated, dense subject -- moral absolutism -- and I recommend reading it very carefully as Murdoch makes some very obvious points, concerning matters of virtue, the limits of the scientific method in moral philosophy, and the concept of goodness delineable, or detectable, in either action or thought, nuanced with implications of the existence of goodness as a reliable concept governing human life, and as a source of purposefuln ...more
Feb 05, 2015 Velma marked it as tbr-recommended
Recommended to Velma by: Jessica Tripler via BookRiot
review (at BookRiot):

"Like Sartre, Murdoch, an Ireland-born British philosopher, writes about freedom- but unlike the existentialists, she focuses on the imaginative attention we need to make truly free decisions. As she says, “I can only choose within the world I can see.” Today’s readers might not like her idea that there is such a thing as “the Good” which provides an objective morality, but so many of her observations in these three essays are fascinating even if you’re not committed to her
May 16, 2010 James rated it really liked it
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
May 13, 2010 Tamsin Barlow rated it did not like it
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
Dec 10, 2009 Ed rated it liked it
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
Jan 05, 2014 Richard rated it really liked it
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.

Mar 21, 2015 Andrew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
These three essays have been on my radar to read since a friend told me about them maybe 20(?) years ago. Finally I've read them, and they are definitely worth it: mid-late twentieth century retrievals of a Platonic vision of perfect Good, for people whose moral imaginations are gripped by claims that what's good is a matter of heroic willfulness and/or cost-benefit calculation.
Nov 27, 2007 Nathan rated it it was amazing
'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.'
Matthew Shaw
Feb 22, 2015 Matthew Shaw rated it it was amazing
Murdoch's philosophy is challenging and calls readers to a life of greater attention and love. She is persuaded that good actions are not a substitute for intentional goodness, devoid of hope for reward or recognition. Despite her own eclectic spirituality, it seems to me a profoundly Christian ideal.
Jul 20, 2014 Carolyn rated it it was ok
Shelves: philosophy
There were occasional places where I was struck by insight, but for the most part I found her arguments to be tedious and unnecessarily convoluted. This is the kind of philosophical writing that makes people not read philosophy.
Ai Miller
Jan 10, 2014 Ai Miller rated it really liked it
Shelves: for-school
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.
Sep 21, 2016 Jeremiah added it
Shelves: philosophy
"The enjoyment of art is training in the love of virtue."
Mark Spano
Aug 05, 2012 Mark Spano rated it it was amazing
Spend some time with IM. You won't regret it.
Apr 10, 2016 Matt rated it really liked it
This was very helpful.
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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
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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.” 6 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.” 5 likes
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