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Simone Weil and Iris Murdoch: the relevance of personality to the concept of virtue

Sim, Rosemary (1985) Simone Weil and Iris Murdoch: the relevance of personality to the concept of virtue. Masters thesis, Durham University.



I have tried to trace a recurring theme in Simone Weil's thought: I have not tried to make an appraisal of her theology as a whole. She was trained as a philosopher but her work transcends the conventional boundaries between disciplines. She was widely read and wrote with authority on history, education, politics and comparative religion as well as philosophy, and in herpersonal faith and consequently her theology she drew extensively on this formidable cultural and intellectual background. As aasresult her theological writings are complex but they are also very much of a piece I have been able to follow in them the theme of the fraudulence of personality. Simone Weil is deeply pessimitic about human nature and speaks of its gravitational force which only divine grace can reverse. This process she pictures as the takeover of the soul by Christ at the expense of the individual's personality which in itself can never offer the key to the attainment of virtue. She believes virtue to be very close to obedience, which we achieve through the exercise of attention. I have tried to explore the strong similarity which exists between this position and some aspects of the moral philosophy of Iris Murdoch who is also a pessimist about human nature. She too believes in an absolute good which we can only know by breaking down the barrier of self. I have used Dorothy Emmet, Elizabeth Anscombe and Mary Midgley as commentators on the state of British moral philosophy as deplored by Iris Murdoch, and Mary Midgley has provided me with a picture of personality which I think is more realistic than that of Simone Weil and Iris Murdoch because it admits virtue as an actual quality not a mere ideal.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Thesis Date:1985
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:08 Feb 2013 13:48

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