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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Iris Murdoch and St Anselm

Iris Murdoch (1919-1999)


The novelist Iris Murdoch argued that modern ethics had become an abstract and arid affair, detached from a) the concrete conditions of human action, b) any overarching conception of the good, and c) from the sort of spiritual exercises that make moral transformation possible.

In the essay below, Hibbs argues that Anselm’s writings provide a neglected resource for recovering what Murdoch thinks contemporary ethics has lost.

It is not surprising that Anselm situates all human reasoning within an overarching account of the good, but what has been less obvious to readers is the way, not just in his prayers but even in his speculative writings, he never loses sight of the concrete conditions of the individual human soul, its virtues and vices.

In Anselm’s writings, Hibbs argues that we can discern patterns for practices that amount to spiritual exercises designed to bring about the moral transformation of the reader

See Thomas S. Hibbs, Iris Murdoch, Spiritual Exercises, and Anselm's Proslogion and Prayers in The Saint Anselm Journal 3.1 (Fall 2005) 62