University of Hertfordshire

Suffering and Contentment

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)

  • Tony Milligan
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Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIris Murdoch and the Moral Imagination
EditorsSimone Roberts, Alison Scott-Bowmann
Place of PublicationJeferson, North Carolina
ISBN (Print)9780786440269
Publication statusPublished - 2010


In what follows, I will focus primarily upon Iris Murdoch's philosophical texts and more occasionally draw from her novels. Section one will set out the marginalisation of contentment within the former and argue that Murdoch has the aspiration to place a commitment to contentment within her philosophical ethic but little scope to do so. Section two will suggest that this problem results, at least in part, from her conception of unselfing as a distinctive mode of suffering and not as a comprehensive way out of suffering. Section three will argue that making sense of unselfing in this way has a number of advantages. It is, for example, a corrective to any overemphasis upon Murdoch’s proximity to Buddhism and it rules out any conception of unselfing as an exercise in escaping from familiar forms of human vulnerability. The concluding section will set out the way in which unselfing, understood as a mode of suffering that does not exclude a concern for contentment, allows us to give content to the concept of moral courage. (A virtue of some relevance to our times.)

ID: 2539963