Literature and Moral Thought

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6 Citations (Scopus)


I will consider what literature might add to moral thought and understanding as distinct from moral philosophy as it is commonly understood. My argument turns on a distinction between two conceptions of moral thought. One in which the point of moral thought is that it should issue in moral judgement leading to action; the other in which it is concerned also with what Iris Murdoch calls 'the texture of a man's being or the nature of his personal vision'. Drawing on this second conception and Dostoevsky's The Idiot, I argue that the question 'what ought I to do?' can itself distort moral understanding - that this question may undermine the connection between understanding human life and living a human life. I then argue that insofar as literature is concerned with what is possible within a human life, it has a distinct contribution to make to moral thought, in particular to our reflections on the nature of moral thought itself.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285-298
Number of pages14
JournalBritish Journal of Aesthetics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2014


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