On Moral Reality

So was Murdoch a novelistic philosopher or a philosophical novelist? Her philosophy, like her fiction, is populated by the varied reality of moral life: mothers who find their daughters-in-law unpolished and juvenile, concentration camp guards who are kindly fathers. There is nothing illusory about this life: the courage of a parent, the meanness of a child, are as much features of the world as cabbages and kings. And someone with a just and loving gaze can discern these aspects of moral reality just as someone with a good eye can appraise the length of a timber. But being good is difficult and that dear self, our selfish ego, gets in the way of our seeing things as they really are. If we are to do better, we need the virtues, we need beauty, we need the development of a capacity for loving attention. It is this unselfconscious and visceral belief in the enduring power of love that is at the centre of both Murdoch’s philosophy and her fiction. Her work now, as then, is a provocation, where goodness is real, and love is seeing aright.

Anil Gomes, “Iris Murdoch and the Power of Love,” - www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/public/iris-murdoch-power-love/