Iris Murdoch and the Virtue of Courage

Tony Milligan

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


Iris Murdoch commits to a conception of virtue as, at least in part, sacrificial, it is a matter of unselfing or even in the case of saintly agents, a figurative death of the self. Because of this she cannot index all virtue to a conception of eudaimonia, or at least she cannot do so in the familiarly direct manner of Aristotelian accounts of virtue exemplified in different ways by Rosalind Hursthouse and Alasdair MacIntyre (although some more indirect form of connection may be possible, especially given an assumption of the unitariness of the virtues). What follows will try, instead, to make sense of Murdochian virtue as (a) aretaic; (b) connected to the (Socratic) idea that virtue involves knowledge (in a sense related to moral vision and explained by John McDowell); and (c) that it is bound up with the more Platonic idea of seeing in the light of the Good. However, this still leaves us with the difficult task of individuating the virtues, i.e. carving truthfulness, justice, wisdom, and so on, apart from one another. In the case of moral courage (which, for Murdoch as for Plato has primacy over physical courage) we can begin to do so by consideration of the importance of sustaining openness to love under conditions of loss. This also yields a glimpse of the way in which two key Murdochian virtues are distinct but bound to one another.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIris Murdoch and Virtue Ethics
Subtitle of host publicationPhilosophy and the Novel
EditorsEster Monteleone
Publication statusIn preparation - 20 Feb 2014
EventIris Murdoch and Virtue Ethics - Roma Tre University, Rome, Italy
Duration: 20 Feb 2014 → …


ConferenceIris Murdoch and Virtue Ethics
Period20/02/14 → …


  • Iris Murdoch
  • Virtue Ethics
  • Courage


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