Visual Metaphors in Murdoch’s Moral Philosophy

Lawrence Blum

in Iris Murdoch, Philosopher

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199289905
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191728471 | DOI:
Visual Metaphors in Murdoch’s Moral Philosophy

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  • History of Western Philosophy
  • Moral Philosophy


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Visual metaphors—attention, perception, seeing, looking, and vision—play a central role in Murdoch’s moral philosophy and moral psychology. This chapter distinguishes three importantly distinct phenomena that Murdoch fails consistently to mark: (1) a conscious and successful perception of moral reality (often called “attention”); (2) a focused act of attention that contributes to structuring the world of value as seen by an individual agent, but which can be distorted so that it is not focused on moral reality; (3) the habitual and unselfconscious way of taking in the world around us that has been structured by various forces, including but not limited to (1) and (2). In her account of why people fail to grasp moral reality, Murdoch privileges individual psychological obstacles (illusion, fantasy, self-centered distortion) but neglects social forms of obstacles-stereotypes about race- or class-based groups, for example-that also contribute to (3) and distort moral perception.

Keywords: Iris Murdoch; vision; attention; moral perception; social images; stereotypes; deliberation

Chapter.  9048 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy ; Moral Philosophy

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