Iris Murdoch on love, justice and truth

Nick-Di-smI love it when philosophy and literature walk into a bar together, and I’m a great admirer of the existentialists. I don’t know a lot about Iris Murdoch, but I look forward to reading this book, especially her take on Plato.

Phil Ebersole's Blog

I recently read Existentialists and Mystics: Writings on Philosophy and Literature, a collection of philosophical writings by the late Iris Murdoch from 1951 to 1986.

I bought the book because I enjoyed her novels, although I admit don’t remember the plots of any of them clearly, and because of praise of her by Matthew Crawford, author of The World Beyond Your Head, which I admire and which I am re-reading as part of a reading group.

I admire Murdoch as a thinker, but there is much more in her thought than I could absorb in one reading.

What follows are ideas I took away from reading this book, which may or may not represent her thought.

One idea that, in order to perceive reality as it is, you must cleanse your mind of egotism and wish-fulfillment fantasy, which are the source of illusion.

This is true not only of…

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Something Old and New for April 2019

Nickzengosp

Old

I love philosophy. And I adore used books. So imagine my delight when I found The Gospel According to Zen (editors Robert Sohl and Audrey Carr) at a library sale for an unbeatable price: Freeee! 

This is a fabulous skinny (133 pages) volume of writings about Zen, God, faith, and religion, with the intriguing subtitle of Beyond the Death of God. Originally published in 1970, it can easily be found relevant today. The subject matter and individual essays are timeless. 

Eric Fromm warms up the audience with his opening essay, “Today’s Spiritual Crisis,” which he sees as an epidemic in the West: “It is the crisis which has been described as malaise, ennui, mal du siecle, the deadening of life, the automatization of man, his alienation from himself, from his fellowman and from nature.”

Yeah. Yesterday’s spiritual crisis is today’s spiritual crisis. Go figure. There are also koans, riddles, and poetry mixed in with the critical work to jigger your brain as only philosophical and artistic expression can.

When I went looking online, I found plenty of used copies available at places like Amazon and AbeBooks. Not free, but cheap. My copy has underlining, margin notes, and highlighting all over the place. I’m sure you can do better in the open market. 

I invite you to post a favorite used book treasure on my blog anytime!

New

I talk about my short story “Bella and the Blessed Stone” in this interview posted on the F&SF site (April 11). I hope you get a chance to check it out. You can buy a copy of the March/April 2019 F&SF here

Finally, as a reminder, the March 2019 Galaxy’s Edge (#37) contains my Italian folktale “The Sin-Eaters.” The magazine is available on the GE site.  

Happy springtime reading, peeps!

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