Iris Murdoch's distinction between philosophy and literature

Dissertation subject: Iris Murdoch's distinction between philosophy and literature 


Supervisor: Niklas Forsberg

Abstract: Iris Murdoch was a philosopher and a novelist who insisted on regarding philosophy and literature as two separate activities. “Philosophy”, she said, “aims to clarify and explain”. Literature, on the other hand, “is full of tricks and magic and deliberate mystification.” Despite this, much of the philosophical as well as literary research on Murdoch has attempted to overcome the divide, often by interpreting her novels as roundabout expressions of her philosophy. Contrary to this tendency, my PhD project aims at digging deeper into her distinction, by engaging with questions such as how literature ”is essentially more free and enjoys the ambiguity of the whole man”, what it means that literature (and not philosophy) “is connected with sex” and should be considered as “close dangerous play with unconscious forces”, how she in writing her own novels had the self-conscious ambition of creating works of art as something different from doing philosophy, and why she nevertheless considered Sartre’s La Nausée to be a “good philosophical novel that I admire very much”.