Iris Murdoch-“Morality and Religion”: Notes
pg. 733, para 1: Murdoch’s purpose is to question the relationship of morality to religion, and look at their differences as well as the definition of religion. -She claims this essay is moral philosophy and feels she must clarify whether her philosophy is religious or not.
-She discusses how some believe religion really must be “breathed in” during childhood (taught to children by their parents); otherwise, adults may feel they are just faking it—but, Murdoch notes, those who are religious when younger will have a hard time giving it up as adults. pg. 733, para 2: Virtue (doing right) is the most obvious connection between morality and religion.
-Seeking virtue has lost popularity, and some are suspicious that it’s self-indulgent or priggish. -Cynics don’t trust virtue and even the religious may see this personal goal to be virtuous as selfish compared to, say, helping others or extending your energy to others rather than yourself. pg. 733, para 3: With religion, a person doesn’t have to analyze/scrutinize/actively think through his/her morality because morality comes with the religious system as pre-established. A person can just accept the morality the religion teaches.
pg. 734, para 3 (con’t): Religion’s demand for morality and being good trumps a person’s decision to fulfill a personal/independent call toward duty. -Murdoch separates “call of duty” from religion’s demand to “be good” and states that a person may take time off from duty, but not from the demand to be good. -So duty involves free will to choose and doesn’t have to involve religion -Murdoch clarifies duty as the “rational formation of moral maxims for particular situations,” emphasizing again a personal choice based on reason for how to act. -Murdoch states that we can sense morality intuitively even without religion. For this intuitive knowledge, she uses the term “noumenal.”
-The German Philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) seems to have struggled with the tension between intuitively felt morality and practical morality based on duty. -Murdoch claims that we can tell apart the dutiful man from the virtuous man, and this distinction is not the same as the relationship of the dutiful man to the religious man. -Duty seems to imply a more practical morality, like giving taxes, than a morality of virtue, which is less tangible.
pg. 735, para 3 (con’t): Murdoch begins to discuss the complexity of moral choices and balancing one’s competing moral questions/demands while living a single moral existence. -She gives the examples of a character from a novel who must choose between lying or saving her own life, or in Shakespeare, a character won’t give up her virginity to save her brother’s life. -Murdoch calls our desire for a unified morality, for a reconciliation of these competing moral demands, a “religious craving.” [so whether or not we’re religious, we have religious tendencies?]
-She thinks that maybe clear moral rules from religion would make things easier, but she sees a trend in her time of a relaxing of black/white clear-cut morality that used to be so prevalent. pg. 735, para 4: Murdoch thinks that religious belief may push a person toward morality more effectively than non-religious morality because it’s so ingrained in a person. -Even criminals who grew up religious keep Christian images with them their whole lives, which shows religion’s staying power.
-This retention of religious images from childhood suggests religion’s importance for children, and so even many parents who have given up religion as adults may feel that it makes sense to raise their own children with religion.
-But more no nonsense type people would argue that raising a child with religion, when religion isn’t true, seems deceptive toward the child.
-Murdoch wonders if maybe the only difference between a morally upright religious person and a morally upright non-religious person may be completely superficial distinction like...
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