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Iris Murdoch: The Novelist as Philosopher / The Philosopher as Novelist

The Unicorn as a Philosophical Novel


Guy Backus

This work deals with the overlap between Iris Murdoch's fiction and her philosophy. And within that overlap the philosophical vein considered is mainly Anglo-Saxon and the Fiction mainly one novel: The Unicorn. The mere fact that Murdoch's professional duties were, for twenty years, concerned with 'analytical' philosophy makes it likely that links exist between Murdoch's 'analytic' concerns and her fiction. But what kind of links? The author's argument is that Murdoch's novels aim at relaxing tensions existing in her moral philosophy. And that these tensions are relaxed in two ways. Sometimes by a specifically philosophical solution being pointed to, sometimes by a parody of her own moral theories. The work illustrates how one novel, The Unicorn, accommodates the strains at work in Murdoch's thought.
Contents: The scope of the book - Murdoch on language and metaphor - Murdoch on inner experience - Murdoch's moral philosophy (1) 'Vision and Choice in Morality' - (2) Controversy with Stuart Hampshire - (3) Mark Platts on Murdoch's ethics - The 'solution' to The Unicorn - The sado-masochistic system in Murdoch's thought - Literary influences and the 'Gothic' form - Introduction to the commentary on The Unicorn - A commentary on TheUnicorn.