November 5, 2013
Iris Murdoch is known for defending metaphysical thinking in the anti-metaphysical atmosphere of mid- and late 20th-century analytic philosophy. Yet, she does not present anything easily recognizable as a metaphysical theory in her own writings, but rather circles around her preferred neo-Platonic metaphysical imagery in various ways. But what, then, does she mean by metaphysics? I argue in this paper that it is essential for understanding Murdoch’s place in 20th-century thought - and the direction she points out - to understand the peculiar nature of her own contribution to metaphysics in her late work. To elucidate this issue, I will discuss three aspects of what she means by metaphysics in her late book Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals: 1) traditional metaphysical theories or systems (and why she doesn’t present one); 2) metaphysics as underlying worldviews; and 3) metaphysics as ‘heuristic images’ of our understanding of the world.