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Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals (Vintage Classics)

3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  175 Ratings  ·  15 Reviews
The decline of religion and ever increasing influence of science pose acute ethical issues for us all. Can we reject the literal truth of the Gospels yet still retain a Christian morality? Can we defend any 'moral values' against the constant encroachments of technology? Indeed, are we in danger of losing most of the qualities which make us truly human? Here, drawing on a ...more
Paperback, 544 pages
Published April 7th 2003 by Vintage (first published 1992)
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Manny
[A conference room somewhere in California. On the far side of the table, SERGEI BRIN and LARRY PAGE. Enter IRIS MURDOCH]

PAGE: Welcome to the Googleplex, Iris.

MURDOCH: I-- What--

BRIN: Don't worry. The disorientation is entirely normal. It'll wear off soon.

MURDOCH: But how-- I mean, a minute ago I was--

PAGE: Let's just say it's an experimental technique we've been developing. I'm sure you won't be interested in the details, you've always been more concerned with the big picture. Why don't we disc
...more
David
Oct 06, 2010 David rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Philosophy teachers and students
Recommended to David by: Professor N.J.H. Dent


Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals presents the story of Philosophy as the story of a kind of Art ('Art launches philosophy'), as an attempt to imagine (key Murdoch word) the world in which we find ourselves. A similarly ambitious narrative is Bertrand Russell's History of Western Philosophy, but whereas Russell is often concerned to find the logical error in a philosophical vision, Murdoch asks whether it is true to life. Russell's guiding question allows for complications of historical detail bu
...more
loafingcactus
Basically Murdoch's reading notes from her entire life... 500 pages of aphorisms. It took me something like 6 months and 40+ pages of notes to read it. A cogent organized argument throughout? No. Brilliant? Yes. And by the end the reader cannot have any doubt as to what she means to have said. I would rate this as one of the best things on ethics I have ever read and one of the best books I have ever read, but it's difficult to recommend because there's no getting away from the fact that it is a ...more
Gary
Apr 26, 2014 Gary rated it it was amazing
This book is hands down the second most important work in metaphysics in the last 200 years. The 1st most important work is Whitehead's "Process and Reality;" taken together, the "200" year frame is quite possibly overly conservative.

Murdoch does not present us with a metaphysical "theory." Rather, she presents a comprehensive argument about the nature and purpose of metaphysical *inquiry*. It is impossible to overstate the significance of such a shift in emphasis.

Murdoch carefully leads the rea
...more
Szplug
Oct 08, 2012 Szplug marked it as intermittently-reading
And I need a guide, 'cause I'm a morally turpitudinous bastard—just today, I ignored the cries to hold the elevator from some poor schlep scooting along with an armload of groceries. Wee-hah! Take the stairs or wait your turn, motherfucker!*

This little plumper is actually quite good—clear and graceful writing backed up by an impressively learned grasp of an immensely complex subject. It'll prolly take me some time to saunter through, but I firmly believe it will prove to be worth it. Several rev
...more
Drenda
Apr 02, 2012 Drenda rated it it was ok
I couldn't recommend this book to anyone. It has become quickly dated in the three decades since first presented as lectures in 1982, and would perhaps offend people younger than myself. With that said, it remains a text that brought back to me why I read philosophy, which I somewhat needed when I took it down from my bookshelf. There's no doubt of the broad grasp of her readings and she particularly reawakened in me the lure of Schopenhauer,who is complimented for being one of the few philosoph ...more
David Kleppe
An awesome and spectacular erudition of a first-rate thinker and novelist, Iris Murdoch writes with great wisdom and understanding about philosophy, ethics, literature, and religion in a conversational tone that has more clarity than a formal academic treatise. I go back time after time to re-read and gauge the depth of her insight into the kind of classical knowledge that integrates being and thinking with insights and arguments that really matter and are important to us. Though claiming not to ...more
Stephen Brody
Jun 02, 2014 Stephen Brody rated it it was amazing

I have the idea, along with one or two other commentators here, that this is the most important book of the 20th century. It’s also so intelligent and prodigiously well-informed as to be above the smaller minds of most of us, covering as it does the whole of Western philosophy and insisting in the Platonic spirit on the truth of ‘value’ above ‘fact’. It might be almost unreadable, even on second time, were it not for Murdoch’s elegant, clear-sightedly benign and often charming (which she would c
...more
Sue Bird
Aug 25, 2012 Sue Bird rated it did not like it
Didn`t understand a word. ...more
Domhnall
Aug 13, 2016 Domhnall rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
I gave a lot of time to this book, both reading it and deferring my review while thinking about it. I normally write reviews within a day and just put down my first reactions and, despite the time taken, that is probably the only way I can review this book.

My fantasy about Murdoch is this - that she has taught philosophy at a leading university for many years, associating with many leading philosophers and many students of whom some at least were very bright, and that she has developed a weary
...more
Christopher Sutch
Jun 23, 2010 Christopher Sutch rated it it was ok
Where to begin with the many, many things that are wrong with this book... First, Murdoch willfully misreads Derrida as a "structuralist," which he is not (though his thinking is, in part, descended from structuralism), and then equating structuralism with marxism (marxism is not structuralist int he same way that Derrida is (by Murdoch's definition)). Second, her eurocentric--actually ANGLO-centric--assumptions about culture. All peoples do not see the world as the English do (thank God) and, t ...more
Warren Ward
Jan 26, 2013 Warren Ward rated it it was amazing
A delicious wander through the highest and most noble ideas of mainly European philosophers, from Kant to Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer to Nietzsche, and Wittgenstein to Derrida. But anchored in Murdoch's favourite Plato. This is Murdoch at her peak, and late in her life just before her crystal-clear mind was ravaged by dementia. In this work she searches for an answer to the question: now that religion has lost its authority, is there anything transcendental that can redeem and fulfil us as humans ...more
Bob Breckwoldt
Aug 21, 2014 Bob Breckwoldt rated it really liked it
A sprawling compendium of ideas, notes and essays that reflect her thoughts and reading. A guide to morals? No. A fascinating commentary on the people, books and ideas that affected her, whilst still holding on to the idea of the power of a transcendent good.
Yanni
Jan 02, 2009 Yanni rated it liked it
Not light reading - but would like to re-read this now that I am a grown-up!
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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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