Existentialists and Mystics: Writings on Philosophy and Literature

Overview

Best known as the author of twenty-six novels, Iris Murdoch has also made significant contributions to the fields of ethics and aesthetics. Collected here for the first time in one volume are her most influential literary and philosophical essays. Tracing Murdoch's journey to a modern Platonism, this volume includes incisive evaluations of the thought and writings of T. S. Eliot, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Simone de Beauvior, and Elias Canetti, as well as key texts on the continuing importance of the ...

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Existentialists and Mystics: Writings on Philosophy and Literature

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Overview

Best known as the author of twenty-six novels, Iris Murdoch has also made significant contributions to the fields of ethics and aesthetics. Collected here for the first time in one volume are her most influential literary and philosophical essays. Tracing Murdoch's journey to a modern Platonism, this volume includes incisive evaluations of the thought and writings of T. S. Eliot, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Simone de Beauvior, and Elias Canetti, as well as key texts on the continuing importance of the sublime, on the concept of love, and the role great literature can play in curing the ills of philosophy. Existentialists and Mystics not only illuminates the mysticism and intellectual underpinnings of Murdoch's novels, but confirms her major contributions to twentieth-century thought.

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Editorial Reviews

Evans
This is that rare achievement, a collection of writings by a great mind which is not only fascinating, but accessible. . . .Murdoch her reveals herself to be an enviably fine essayist.
Observer
Observer
This is that rare achievement, a collection of writings by a great mind which is not only fascinating, but accessible. . . .Murdoch her reveals herself to be an enviably fine essayist.
Hilary Spurling
This book is Murdoch's key. . .readers will find much her to stimulate, entertain, and edify. No one conveys the beauty and excitement of philosophy better than Murdoch.
The Daily Telegraph
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Dame Iris Murdoch not only wrote many celebrated novels like Under the Net and A Fairly Honourable Defeat;, she also taught philosophy for many years at Oxford University, where she is now professor emeritus. The present book, intelligently organized and presented by editor Conradi, is a selection of Murdoch's occasional essays, book reviews, speeches, transcribed interviews and creative Platonic 'dialogues.' These are grouped into subjects like 'Encountering Existentialism'" (Murdoch was an early explicator of Sartre's existentialism to the British public), 'Towards a Practical Mysticism' and 'Re-Reading Plato.' As in her novels, Murdoch's philosophical musing revels in disturbing implications as the basis for interest and achievement in art. She states, 'Plato was notoriously hostile to art.... [T]he paradox is that Plato's work is great art in a sense which he does not theoretically recognise.'

A number of these essays read like speeches in some ideally intelligent parliament, in which the author expects to be interrupted by cries of 'Hear, Hear!' For example, she asserts that T.S. Eliot did not like prose 'except when it is used for didactic purposes,' or that George Eliot, like Tolstoy, 'displays that god-like capacity for so respecting and loving her characters as to make them exist as free and separate beings.' Not a powerful original philosopher like Hannah Arendt or Leo Strauss, Murdoch is nevertheless a critic with considerable rhetorical punch.

Library Journal
Most readers think of Murdoch first as a novelist, but as this excellent anthology makes clear, she is an outstanding philosopher as well. After World War II, she established herself as an authority on existentialism, though she did not herself accept this doctrine, viewing it as stressing human autonomy to an undue degree. She locates a similar failing in much contemporary analytic moral philosophy. Instead, she thinks of values as objective: human beings contemplate them rather than create them. Her philosophy culminates in a nontheistic mysticism bearing strong affinities to Plato. The best introduction available to an important and unusual thinker; for all academic and most public libraries. -- David Gordon, Bowling Green State University, Ohio
Library Journal
Most readers think of Murdoch first as a novelist, but as this excellent anthology makes clear, she is an outstanding philosopher as well. After World War II, she established herself as an authority on existentialism, though she did not herself accept this doctrine, viewing it as stressing human autonomy to an undue degree. She locates a similar failing in much contemporary analytic moral philosophy. Instead, she thinks of values as objective: human beings contemplate them rather than create them. Her philosophy culminates in a nontheistic mysticism bearing strong affinities to Plato. The best introduction available to an important and unusual thinker; for all academic and most public libraries. -- David Gordon, Bowling Green State University, Ohio
Evans
This is that rare achievement, a collection of writings by a great mind which is not only fascinating, but accessible. . . .Murdoch her reveals herself to be an enviably fine essayist. -- The Observer
Stephen Mulhall
Existentialists and Mystics makes accessible the full harvest of a lifelong intellectual project. . . .Murdoch's reiterated commitment to a vision of philosophical prose as a careful, lucid and sober medium for thinking ensures that even her more professionally directed lectures and essays are a pleasure to read. -- Times Literary Supplement
Hilary Spurling
This book is Murdoch's key. . .[readers] will find much her to stimulate, entertain, and edify. No one conveys the beauty and excitement of philosophy better than Murdoch. -- The Daily Telegraph
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140264920
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 7/28/1999
  • Pages: 576
  • Sales rank: 472,569
  • Product dimensions: 5.29 (w) x 7.93 (h) x 1.22 (d)

Table of Contents

Foreword Editor's Preface
Part One: Prologue
Literature and Philosophy: A Conversation with Bryan Magee
Part Two: Nostalgia for the Particular, 1951-57
Thinking and Language Nostalgia for the Particular Metaphysics and Ethics Vision and Choice in Morality
Part Three: Encountering Existentialism, 1950-59
The Novelist as Metaphysician The Existentialist Hero Sartre's The Emotions: Outline of a Theory
De Beauvoir's The Ethics of Ambiguity
The Image of Mind The Existentialist Political Myth Hegel in Modern Dress Existentialist Bite
Part Four: The Need for Theory, 1956-66
Knowing the Void T. S. Eliot as a Moralist A House of Theory Mass, Might and Myth The Darkness of Practical Reason
Part Five: Towards a Practical Mysticism, 1959-78
The Sublime and the Good Existentialists and Mystics Salvation by Words Art is the Imitation of Nature
Part Six: Can Literature Help Cure The Ills of Philosophy? 1959-61
The Sublime and the Beautiful Revisited Against Dryness
Part Seven: Re-reading Plato, 1964-86
The Idea of Perfection On "God" and "Good"
The Sovereignty of Good Over Other Concepts The Fire and the Sun: Why Plato Banished the Artists Art and Eros: A Dialogue about Art Above the Gods: A Dialogue about Religion Acknowledgments and Sources Index

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