Why do clouds move? Why do birds wonder about the streets? Why does fabric ruffle against the wind? Why do people move! What is the source of motion? How should I keep my inner self motivated, moving in a world that is constantly in motion?

Philosopher's reply

Dear Henrim,

How should we keep out inner selves in motion, in a way that connects us to an external world that is already moving, and perhaps does not always move in the ways we desire? Iris Murdoch introduces the idea of “unselfing” here: She suggests that we direct our attention away from our sometimes brooding and self-preoccupied ego, and consciously attempt to attend to the reality of the world outside. We may, for instance, as you so poetically do on your postcard, observe the movements of nature and their beauty. Or we might attend to others not as a source of approval or love for us, but as fellow humans with fragilities and needs. In this way, Murdoch hopes, we may gain new motivations – motivations that are less centred around our self-constructed narratives and fantasies and more attuned to the reality and beauty of that which surrounds us.

All the best, Julia

Philosopher's profile

Julia Borcherding

University of Cambridge, UK

One of my favorite Murdochian insights is the idea that the cognitive is always moral. For Murdoch, there are no neutral facts that - in the light of Kantian reason - give us moral direction. Rather, our choices are always already shaped by our particular vision of reality. To be a virtuous person, therefore, first and foremost means to be willing to learn to perceive others and the world around us in a just and loving way, because only then will we be able to act accordingly.

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