How important is “Home” to human existence? Is home a place? Or do we carry it with us? How do places shape our possibilities as individuals? So many questions not enough time!
‘Home’ can mean various things in different contexts. When a schoolchild says ‘Can’t wait for home time’, she means the residence where she lives; when an emigrant says ‘I’m going home’, she may well mean simply her home town or even the country where she grew up. When teenagers ‘leave home’ they are merely leaving their childhood home, and typically ceasing to live with their parents. Home has associations with numerous concepts: location, origin, shelter, intimacy with others, belonging and cultural outlook. The adjective ‘homely' conveys the idea that a home is welcoming, comfortable, and sheltered. Research shows the powerful influence on later life exerted by one’s ‘home background’.
Yet anglophone philosophy has largely ignored this topic, perhaps because it has largely ignored the condition of childhood, where home is so fundamental. European thought has more to say about ‘lived’ space, its possibilities and meanings, the contrast between feeling ‘at home’ within, or estranged from, the world, and the social role of family. Hegel, Marx, Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty and Bachelard are just some of the places one might start.
I approach Murdoch's work through my interest in Sartre's philosophy. Murdoch's first book was very positive about Sartre, but by 1970 she was taking a far more hostile position in relation to what she took to be his moral philosophy. I think the main criticism, about the importance of inward moral change, is very compelling.