The Later Politics | Iris Murdoch and the Political (2024)

Iris Murdoch and the Political

Gary Browning



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Iris Murdoch and the Political

Gary Browning


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    June 2024


Browning, Gary, 'The Later Politics', Iris Murdoch and the Political (Oxford, 2024; online edn, Oxford Academic, 24 June 2024),, accessed 10 July 2024.





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Murdoch moved on from radicalism at the end of the 1960s. She was critical of Soviet Communism in Eastern Europe, disagreed with Labour policy on education, Ireland, and the trade unions, and reacted against student revolt. Her letters and journals reveal visceral reactions to everyday politics. Her continued philosophical reading of politics is evident in Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals (1992), where she emphasizes the need to maintain basic axioms, such as rights and the provision of welfare, which differ from moral duties and the demands of personal moral lives. Murdoch highlights the importance of the political in that political rights can provide security and protection from tyrants, and a good polity enables individuals to develop personal moral commitments. Although the personal and the political are different for Murdoch, the one pursuing perfection and the other dealing with imperfection, she recognizes that, at times, individuals will seek to change political norms, and she does not see political axioms as fixed. Indeed, at the end of her life she recognizes the environmental dangers to the planet in her correspondence with the Australian philosopher Brian Medlin.

Keywords: axioms, duties, personal morals, metaphysics, ecology, imperfection


Political Theory Literary Studies (Fiction, Novelists, and Prose Writers)

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The Later Politics | Iris Murdoch and the Political (2024)


What disease did Iris Murdoch have? ›

Iris Murdoch was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 1997 and died in 1999 in Oxford. There is a bench dedicated to her in the grounds of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, where she used to enjoy walking.

What did Iris Murdoch believe? ›

Insisting on the irreducible plurality of the moral 'field of force', Murdoch did not develop a moral theory; yet she also believed that moral experience is haunted by a sense of unity. Her thought revolved around this tension.

Did Iris Murdoch have a child? ›

Murdoch never had children, used her maiden name even after she married and wasn't shy to show that she had a career as a woman. Later on, she gave lectures in philosophy at St. Anne's College, Oxford. She was also later romantically paired with Elias Canetti, a Nobel-prize winner.

Is Iris Murdoch still alive? ›

Iris Murdoch (born July 15, 1919, Dublin, Ireland—died February 8, 1999, Oxford, Oxfordshire, England) was a British novelist and philosopher noted for her psychological novels that contain philosophical and comic elements.

What age did Iris Murdoch get dementia? ›

An opportunity of this kind has presented itself recently via the writings of the novelist and philosopher Dame Iris Murdoch (I.M.), in whom Alzheimer's disease was diagnosed at the age of 76 years, not long after she finished writing the novel Jackson's Dilemma, her final published work.

What happened to Iris Murdoch's husband? ›

John Bayley, a British literary scholar who was married for more than 40 years to the novelist Iris Murdoch, and whose intimate memoirs of her descent into Alzheimer's disease were alternately praised and criticized for their unsparing revelations, died Jan. 12 at age 89.

What is the moral vision of Iris Murdoch? ›

These passages suggest that the second sense of 'moral vision' captures something important about Murdoch's use of visual imagery: moral vision is vision that is itself moral and vision is moral when it is the result of effort and imagination.

Was Iris Murdoch a platonist? ›

Iris Murdoch was an atheist and a Platonist moral philosopher who taught at Oxford from 1948-1963 before retiring to spend the rest of her life writing racy novels. At first glance, she seems an unlikely candidate to offer a fresh vision of moral theology to Catholic thinkers.

Was Iris Murdoch an existentialist? ›

A familiar story we are told about Murdoch's intellectual development is that, while she was one of the first and best interpreters of (Sartrean) Existentialism in the 1950s and 1960, she soon came to see through its political and intellectual barrenness, finding her way to a deeper engagement with the more ...

How many wives murdoch had? ›

Murdoch, 93, had announced his engagement to the 67-year-old retired molecular biologist in March, less than a year after he called off his last engagement, to Ann Lesley Smith, a former model and police chaplain. In all, the founder of News Corp. and Fox News been married five times.

Who is Murdoch's daughter? ›

Elisabeth Murdoch is the eldest child of Murdoch's second marriage. Like her brothers, Elisabeth began working her way through the family business decades ago and was poised to take on similar responsibilities — but was not granted the same leadership roles and later began her own media ventures.

Does Elizabeth Strout have any children? ›

Strout is married to former Maine Attorney General James Tierney, lecturer in law at Harvard Law School and founding director of State AG, an educational resource on the office of state attorney general. She divides her time between New York City and Brunswick, Maine. Strout's daughter Zarina Shea is a playwright.

Why did Murdoch leave his wife? ›

Just weeks after their engagement, the multimillionaire suddenly ended the relationship due to major differences in opinions: Murdoch did not like Smith's evangelical beliefs, according to anonymous sources quoted by Vanity Fair.

Was Iris Murdoch Irish? ›

Iris and her parents divided their summer holidays between Dublin and her civil servant father's cousins in Northern Ireland. Both parents sounded Irish: Rene had a “refined” Dublin accent, Hughes a mild Ulster intonation and idiom: “Wait while I tell you!” he would advise.

Which Murdoch son resigned? ›

James Murdoch, the youngest son of Rupert Murdoch, has resigned from the board of the family's newspaper assets, News Corporation, according to a regulatory filing. His resignation is effective immediately.

What are the diseases of the iris? ›

What are the common conditions and disorders that affect the iris?
  • Horner's syndrome.
  • Glaucoma.
  • Albinism.
  • Cataracts.
  • Fuchs heterochromic iridocycl*tis.
  • Pigment dispersion syndrome.
  • Uveitis.
  • Waardenburg syndrome.

Who was the female author who had dementia? ›

Wendy Mitchell, 68, authored acclaimed books after she was diagnosed with early-onset vascular dementia and Alzheimer's in July 2014, at the age of 58. A best-selling author who detailed her experience with dementia has announced her own death in a posthumous blog post.

Who was Iris Murdoch married to? ›

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