The Ockham Society (Thursday - Week 1, HT22)

Ockham Society

In this essay, I reconstruct the meaning of Iris Murdoch’s claim that tragedy is a potent moral concept that has a role to play in moral philosophy. In order to understand how tragedy––a form of literary art––can play a role in philosophy, I put it into the context of the larger context of Murdoch’s philosophy. First, I consider the arguments for her claim that philosophers are artists creating pictures and that metaphysics is really a kind of myth-making. These little philosophical vignettes are what Murdoch refers to as “limited wholes.” The mistake that is made in philosophy, but also in the moral life, is to take these limited wholes as representations of the actual whole. Thus, second, these limited wholes become sources of illusion that actually block us from properly perceiving and attending to reality––in other words, they are further productions of the ego that prevent it from attending to other real people with the kind of loving attention that Murdoch believes is central to morality. Third, tragedy, as a “broken whole” challenges us––both in our own individual moral lives and in our moral philosophy––by functioning to break the spell of these illusory wholes and the drive to create them in philosophy.

Ockham Society Convenors: Lara Scheibli and Kimon Sourlas - Kotzamanis | Ockham Society Website