Is Iris Murdoch a Closet Existentialist? Some Trouble with Vision, Choice and Exegesis



Abstract: Richard Moran argues that Iris Murdoch is an Existentialist who pretends not to be. His support for this view will be shown to depend on his attempt to assimilate Iris Murdoch's discussion of moral ‘vision’ in the parable of the Mother in Law to Sartre's thought on ‘choice’ and ‘orientation’. Discussing both Moran's Murdoch exegesis and Sartre's Being and Nothingness, I develop the Sartrean view to which Moran hopes to assimilate Murdoch, before pointing out how Moran's assimilation fails. Murdoch's thought that when M is just and loving she sees D ‘as she really is’ cannot be accommodated on Sartre's picture. I develop this point of disagreement between Murdoch and Sartre, and argue that Murdoch has not as Moran claims made a misattribution to Sartre of an unsituated will, but has instead offered a penetrating critique of the central theme of Sartre's epistemology.