Iris Murdoch and the art of imagination: imaginative philososphy as response to secularism

Altorf, Marije (2004) Iris Murdoch and the art of imagination: imaginative philososphy as response to secularism. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This dissertation examines the work of the British philosopher and novelist Iris Murdoch. A centre concern of this work is a question Murdoch poses more than once: ‘How can we make ourselves morally better?” This question is understood to initiate a form of philosophy which is critical of much of its tradition and its understanding of reasoning and argument. It also recognises its dependence on other disciplines.

Murdoch develops this form of philosophy in reply to the cultural phenomenon of secularisation. In the absence of God, she attributes tasks to philosophy formerly performed by religion. Most importantly, she advocates a concept of transcendent reality in philosophical discourse. This reality is the Good. She finds that in order to do so, she has to reconsider philosophy’s central faculty of reason. Drawing on literary, philosophical and theological sources, Murdoch develops an understanding of reason and argument in which images, imagery and imagination are central.

This study has three objectives. It first aims to present Murdoch as an imaginative philosopher by exploring the role of literature in her philosophical writing. In doing so, it challenges various presuppositions about philosophy, held by both philosophers and non-philosophers. Its second aims is to reconsider these assumptions in general terms. This part draws significantly on the work of Le Doeuff. In particular, it considers the presence of imagery in philosophy as well as philosophy’s assumed neutrality, which has arisen from its long affiliation with science. Thirdly, the thesis presents a reconsideration of the notion of imagination. This notion is often involved in the interdisciplinary debate between theology, philosophy and the arts. Murdoch’s notion of imagination challenges two important assumptions. By releasing imagination from the limited corner of art, it first challenges a strict distinction between literary and systematic writing. By introducing fantasy as the bad opposite of good imagination, it secondly critically assesses unconditional ‘praises of imagination’.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > Theology and Religious Studies
Supervisor's Name: Supervisor, not known
Date of Award: 2004
Depositing User: Elaine Ballantyne
Unique ID: glathesis:2004-1677
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 23 Mar 2010
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:44

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