By Anne Rowe
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Extra resources for Iris Murdoch: A Re-Assessment
419–21). Stephen Mulhall 31 Murdoch’s Platonic substitution of the Good for God is here presented as part of an attempt to depersonalize or demythologize traditional Christianity. One might say: the problem with God the Father is that, since He is divine, He is too much like a person, whereas the problem with God the Son is that, since He is a person, He is too much like a divinity. With respect to Christianity’s personal conception of God the Father, the danger Murdoch sees is certainly a real one.
Some uniquely necessary status for moral value as something (uniquely) impossible to be thought away from human experience, and as in a special sense, if conceived of, known as real (pp. 395–6). 6 For her, our everyday experience of reality reveals moral value to be ubiquitous, ineliminable 30 Iris Murdoch: A Reassessment and hierarchical; and it is these inter-related truths about the Good of which the Ontological Proof of God is such a valuable symbol. Anselm’s sense of God’s existence as necessary reflects Murdoch’s sense of value as less dispensable even than our idea of a material object, and of moral perfection as necessarily lying outside our experience, although implicitly indicated by our experience of degrees or levels of goodness, and as endlessly drawing us up through those levels, attracting us to the next unattained level which always comes into view as each new level is attained.
417). Murdoch takes her bearings for this third path from Anselm himself – more specifically from her citation of his response to the monk Gaunilo, his earliest critic, when he challenges Anselm’s assumption that he, or anyone, can frame an idea of God. ‘I do not know that reality itself which God is, nor can I frame a conjecture of that reality from some other reality. For you yourself assert that there can be nothing else like it’. Here Gaunilo leaps upon the apparent absoluteness with which the Stephen Mulhall 29 ontological proof, on Murdoch’s reading of it, excludes God from the range of possible human experience, and thereby uproots the idea of perfection in general, and so moral perfection in particular, from the human grasp.