Iris Murdoch on Philosophy and Literature: Section 3

Iris Murdoch on Philosophy and Literature: Section 3

you suggested just now that we that we move on to considering philosophical ideas about literature and I think it would be their instinct to do that which which of the philosophical views of art that there have been would you pick out as being the most interesting to consider I well I find Plato's are interesting because I it raises all those subjects which one wants to clarify and what's mind a bit I've been wants to defend art I don't know I think philosophers haven't written very well or not on the whole partly because they very often put it in as a minor is sure they've got a general view saith moral also metaphysics so island they they put in their view of art as a kind of peace discussion be fitted into the picture and they don't consider it to too seriously or to generously not generously enough earnest if I could chip in there there is one philosopher whom I would exempt from that charge I agree that is generally true but I think Schopenhauer is an exception I think he is genuinely deep on the subject of art he unlike nearly all other philosophers he did regard art as being central to human life and they provide things to say yes this is this especially true yes I agree with you oh yes I think that I mean I think that countess is very interested on I think his distinction between a sublime and beautiful beautiful is purely formal the sublime is to do with kind of moral appeal to the emotions which actually he didn't think I was being asked to but that that distinction I think in itself is very informative but on the whole philosophers have tended to be polemical about art and I rather fruitless way I mean they've tended to produce and of course any discussion about our attenders endlessly to produce again and again a separate sort of either/or version yes that arts got to be one thing or the other yes I think this is a trouble with any philosophy of art isn't it that it's it's exclusive I mean once you think that all art has got to be of a certain kind yeah it's it in with your particular theory then it follows from that that every that doesn't fit in with that theory is not yes yes I think this fortunately without his don't pay too much attention to philosophers just carry very oh but I think philosophy can be damaging to art in the sense if I think it the people it damages of course I'm students who long to have theories and main one sees this very often but they young people long to feel that art too can be explained or the aim of art can be explained I mean there's these it's very familiar sorts of fights either oars that should be for art's sake or should it be for society's sake and this I mean this is is quite interesting too because again if one one's instincts or to reject this choice which mine or than to say exactly why I can be quite informative we've been talking up to this point about philosophy and literature all philosophical ideas about literature let's move on now to philosophy in literature let me let me say what I mean by that first of all they've been some famous philosophers or thinkers that it like philosophers like Voltaire who've also been major novelists I mean not only Voltaire but also in our end time jean-paul Sartre or among say it's simply famous novelists there are some who've been obviously very profoundly influenced by certain rather philosophical ideas I mean Tolstoy appends to his novel war and peace a great long epilogue in which he explains that in this novel he's been trying to express a certain philosophy of history or if you take another famous Russian novelist Dostoevsky he's often described by existentialists as the greatest of all existentialist writers because he's involved in certain kinds of problem but they themselves are also concerned with well one could actually one can think of a large number of examples top done I mean it's obvious that boost in our chefs to top they'll do is concern deeply concerned with problems about time which is also one of the traditional problems that philosophers have been concerned with and so on do you I mean what I would like to get at in the form of the question to you is what sort of road do you think that philosophy can play in the future in let us take novels for example well I think it'll better keeper I think that people see these things about writers like Tolstoy Dostoevsky in order to have something interesting to say about them as well I mean obviously writers are influenced by the climate of ideas of their time and that they liked it to be educated people who know a little bit about philosophical change and so forth but the amount of philosophy they succeed in expressing the book is very smaller and I think as soon as philosophy gets into a novel welcome to church it ceases to be philosophy it becomes something else it becomes a placing of the of the writer and and quite rightly I mean a pure novel of ideas I mean I I don't know that it's you know it's very likely that it will the heart of the writer works to present his ideas unless good his work of artists like Judith Cummings very dangerous activity I think that again you see the great 19th century writers get away with quite a loss of idea play in their writings but if you look at is you you couldn't possibly regard it as philosophy it's its idea play well I wonder if I agree with you I mean you say that people say this kind of thing about philosophers in order to have something interesting to say well no doubt there is a lot of pseudo talk about about novels of this kind but I did mention for example that that Tolstoy himself says in war and peace look this is one of the things he's trying to do well take a major English lover like Lauren stands tristram shandy I mean not only was that directly influenced by Locke's theories about the association of ideas but there's a there's quite a bit about that in the novel and in terms which obviously refer to the novel itself in other words that Stern most was quite clearly doing something which he himself related to Locke's theory of the association of ideas so I think there are in fact a number of instances a great novel so in really outstanding novels where the where the use of philosophical ideas is part of the structure this part of what it's about um yes all right this I just I mean I practiced yesterday I feel in myself such an epidural of putting theories as such into into a book I mean so the philosophical ideas might I mean I perhaps to put things about philosophy into my novels because I haven't to know about philosophy I mean if I knew about sailing ships I'd put sailing ships in if I knew about hospitals I'd put hospitals in and in a way as a novelist I'd rather know but I'd say chefs hospice was a bad philosophy but I don't think that there had been the rice I necessarily am knows in fact I think it's just material well I think I mean I today interstices but I don't know why should we attend to him we read his his books you know you know don't trust the right I trust the tale one has to see what what he's actually achieved and I think that I mean I can only think of one really good philosophical novel which is South Llano say which very much which might be said to be a falafel novel which is demonstrating something about contingency its interestingly it's it's some it's a philosophical subject which is very close to the novelist thought I mean there's a kind of a good marriage there as it were between the Ovilus sort and they and the the and the subject well let's take that shall we jean-paul Sartre was London's day I mean I I agree with you I think some magnificent book but surely it also articulates a philosophical theory in fact my introduction to existentialism so to speak was reading that bottle and I thought that that novel actually expressed an existentialist view and it rather marvelous I mean in the form of a work of fiction it may well be as you say unique but the fact that it exists at all shows that it can be dominant yes yes um you seem to be driving I not to say yes I think that I think there's a genuine difference of opinion between you and me yes which we simply may not be able to resolve in this discussion but but you you it seems to me our trying to say that that philosophy as such has no place in imaginative writing except insofar as it can simply be material and like anything else on the material whereas I think I want to say that that that there are really a number of exceptions to this and that that some major novels do make use of philosophical ideas not just as material in that sense but in ways which inform the book

12 thoughts on “Iris Murdoch on Philosophy and Literature: Section 3”

  1. Thanks for the video. intersting how this so called "intellect " could NOT even explain anything particular of art? could not explain the difference between fine art images and texts and also third element.


  2. You see, it is possible for intelligent people to exchange ideas even if they disagree. Oh, by the way, Murdoch is a philosophical purist asshole. Both philosophy and literature can coexist and thrive within the same work. As the interviewer said Sartre's "Nausea" is a successful example of a marriage between the two disciplines. Philosophical novels make the most intellectually profound stories. P.S. She does look a little odd…

  3. @knocked44 You underestimate Magee's intelligence when you say that. When you read Magee's books you instantly notice how intelligent he really is. Magee is also a first rate interpreter of Schopenhauer's philosophy.

  4. I would argue that Literature can serve as a means of projecting philosophical ideas to a broader audience and clarifying them (despite Murdoch's claim that Literature serves to mystify). For example one can gain a very solid understanding of Nietzsche's Ubermensch from Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment. Or, to use a more contemporary example, the idea of man in the state of nature by reading Cormac McCarthy's 'The Road'.

  5. @knocked44 And how are you to quantify the answer to the question: Who, between the two (Iris or Bryan), is the more intelligent?! I'd say to that statement that M.Magee is more than capable of holding his own with the people he interviews.

  6. Susan Boyle is so confident and intelligent … although the footage is a little whisky for 2009 don't you think?

  7. Magee was in the right here I think. Dostoevsky is doing philosophy in Karamazov, you can't say Rebellion or The Devil isn't philosophical or mere idea play.

  8. this stuff makes me feel really thick

    What year was this?

    do we know if they were friends? Murdoch seems slightly irritated by him

    Thanks for posting

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