Iris Murdoch's Criticism of Traditional Views of the Moral Self: An Alternative Account of "seeing" the Others


  • Ana Lita



Iris Murdoch, ethics, aesthetics, moral self, existentialism


The main objective of this article is to reconstruct Iris Murdoch's criticism of the moral self as it was developed by liberalism, romanticism, existentialism and linguistic empiricism that interpreted the moral person as entangled either in a world of essences (Kant's view) or in a world of mere existence in which the interplay of both necessity and freedom is at stake. Thus what is missing from all these theories is a sufficient development of what it is to have a regard for others through aesthetic perception, which is the most important aspect of the moral self. At the difference of these conceptions Murdoch offers an alternative view, both to liberal ethics in the Kantian tradition and to contemporary ethics, as she argues that to have regard for others demands responsiveness which can also be explained in terms of aesthetic sensibility. Murdoch's ethics rests on an analogy between aesthetic sensibility and moral sensibility based upon the model of the artist's unconditional love for his characters, which she interprets as being a matter of seeing and loving others. The author's thesis is that love is the crucial point of Murdoch's conception of the moral self where the moral and aesthetical sensibility, as well cognition, intersect each other, because seeing others incorporates emotions of respect and compassion that characterize love and such seeing is cognitive love.


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How to Cite

Lita, A. (2014). Iris Murdoch’s Criticism of Traditional Views of the Moral Self: An Alternative Account of "seeing" the Others. Labyrinth, 16(2), 100–116.