Iris Murdoch: Perspectives on Moral Philosophy

September 20, 2019 - September 21, 2019
Department of Philosophy , Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario

Watson, Room 517
49 Bader Lane
Kingston K7L2S7

This will be an accessible event, including organized related activities


  • Canadian Journal of Philosophy


Queen's University
University of Massachusetts, Boston
Durham University
University of Liverpool



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Iris Murdoch was a novelist and philosopher who was active from the 1950s until the 1990s. While mid-twentieth century moral philosophy sought to describe ordinary moral practices and to analyze concepts like ‘goodness’, Murdoch thought that moral philosophy should address the question: ‘How can we make ourselves better?’ This means understanding what human beings are like and what qualities of consciousness can support or inhibit their struggles to improve themselves.

Although she has sometimes been cited as an influence by the likes of Cora Diamond, John McDowell, and Bernard Williams, her philosophical writing was not initially given the attention it deserved. In recent years, however, some philosophers have been working to understand the profundity of the intellectual debt that thinkers like McDowell owe to Murdoch. Others have been researching her role within the group of women philosophers who studied together in Oxford during WWII (which includes Elizabeth Anscombe, Phillipa Foot and Mary Midgley), defending the claim that these women formed a distinct school of thought in the history of analytic philosophy. In her own right, Murdoch has been recognized as someone whose work sheds light on:

•                  The relationship between vision, attention, and moral goodness;

•                  how moral realism might be understood and sustained in secular modern times;

•                  and the place of literature in the moral life.

This conference will bring contemporary moral philosophy into conversation with these Murdochian insights and ensure that a Canadian event is held to honour the Murdoch Centenary. 2019 is the 100th anniversary of Murdoch’s birth, an occasion that will be celebrated in Britain and Europe through events such as the Iris Murdoch Centenary Conference. 

Speakers include: Rachael Wiseman (Liverpool), Clare Mac Cumhaill (Durham), Lawrence Blum (U Mass, Boston), Gary Browning (Oxford Brookes), Mark Freeman (Holy Cross), and David Bakhurst (Queen's). 

All events are free and open to the public; Watson Hall is wheelchair accessible and all events will have sound amplification.

For accessibility inquiries, please contact [email protected] 

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September 19, 2019, 3:00pm EST

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