Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

Love, Truth and Moral Judgement

  • David Carr

Abstract

A famous section of 1 Corinthians and some influential passages in the work of Iris Murdoch seem to suppose a significant connection between the higher human love of agape and moral knowledge: that, perhaps, the former may provide access to the latter. Following some sceptical attention to this possibility, this paper turns to a more modest suggestion of Plato's Symposium that the ‘lower’ human love of eros might be a transitional stage to higher moral love or knowledge of the good. Still, while conceding that this may be so, the present paper argues that any moral transformations of such loves would need to be informed by moral wisdom or knowledge rather than vice versa. However, the paper concludes that there are ultimately deep and perhaps irreconcilable tensions between the epistemic and agapeic dimensions of moral life.

Copyright

References

Hide All

1 1 Corinthians 13, 4–13, New English Bible (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970) 893.

2 Aristotle, , The Nichomachean Ethics, translated with an introduction by Sir David Ross (London: Oxford University Press, 1969; see book I for general discussion of the practical status of moral reason and deliberation and book VI, section 5, 142–143, for the distinct (non-theoretical) epistemic character of the intellectual virtue of practical wisdom.

3 In a recent paper on related territory, but with ultimately somewhat different concerns from those presently explored, Sophie-Grace Chappell suggests – though without developing the point – that the shortly to be examined epistemic status of love in Murdoch might be clarified by distinguishing some more relevant personally-focused conception of knowledge. While a similar strategy might be proposed in relation to the gnosis of Corinthians, I do not believe that this would accurately reflect either the gnosis of this passage or Murdoch's moral knowledge or be of much help with the key issue addressed in this paper. See Chappell, Sophie-Grace, ‘Love and knowledge in Murdoch’, in Browning, Gary (ed) Murdoch on Truth and Love (Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2018) 89109.

4 See, for example, Murdoch, Iris, The Sovereignty of the Good (London and New York: Ark Paperbacks 1970); Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals (London: Vintage Classics, 2003); Existentialists and Mystics: Writings on Philosophy and Literature (London: Chatto and Windus, 1997) 386–463.

5 The recent trend towards modelling virtues on the pattern of skills, following Aristotle's own employment of this analogy in op. cit., note 2, book 2, may have been set by Annas, Julia in her book Intelligent Virtue (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011); but this has now been taken much further by others and is arguably the default view in both modern-day philosophical and social scientific neo-Aristotelian virtue ethics. See, for example, the survey of this issue in Stichter, Matt, ‘Virtue as a skill’, in Snow, Nancy (ed) The Oxford Handbook of Virtue (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018) 57–81. However, Aristotle himself explicitly repudiates this comparison in op. cit., note 2, book VI, section 5, 143.

6 Plato, Laws, in Hamilton, E. and Cairns, H. (eds) Plato: The Collected Dialogues (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1961) book 5, 731d – 732a, page 1318.

7 Murdoch, Iris, The Sovereignty of the Good (London and New York: Ark Paperbacks 1970) 52.

8 Op. cit., note 7, 17–23.

9 Op. cit., note 7, 28.

10 For example, Lewis, C. S., The Four Loves (London: Collins, Fount Paperbacks, 1960); for more modern philosophical work, see the authors cited by Sophie-Grace Chappell in op. cit., note 3, 91.

11 See Nussbaum, Martha C., ‘Love and vision: Iris Murdoch on eros and the individual’, in Antonacchio, Maria and Schweiker, William (eds) Iris Murdoch and the Search for Human Goodness (Chicago and London: University of Chicago, 1996) 29–53; and ‘“Faint with Secret Knowledge”: Love and Vision in Murdoch's The Black Prince’, in Broackes, Justin (ed) Iris Murdoch, Philosopher (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012) 135154; also, on much this territory, Bagnoli, Carla, ‘Constrained by reason, transformed by love’, in Browning, Gary (ed) Murdoch on Truth and Love (Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2018) 6388.

12 Snow, Nancy, ‘Iris Murdoch's notion of a loving gaze’, Journal of Value Inquiry 39 (2005) 487498.

13 Op. cit., note 11.

14 Plato, Symposium, in Hamilton, E. and Cairns, H. (eds) Plato: The Collected Dialogues (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1961) 516574.

15 Wilde, Oscar, The Picture of Dorian Gray (Harmondsworth: Penguin Classics, 2012).

16 Dickens, Charles, Hard Times (Harmondsworth: Penguin Classics, 2003).

17 Op. Cit., note 2.

18 Plato, Gorgias, in Hamilton, E. and Cairns, H. (eds.) Plato: The Collected Dialogues (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1961) 229307. This claim is pressed throughout the dialogue in converations with both Polus and Callicles.

19 Ecclesiastes 1, 18, New English Bible (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970) 493.

Love, Truth and Moral Judgement

  • David Carr

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed