Saturday, May 3, 2008

Perception, the Individual, and Goodness

"I would say that the best picture of most kinds of thinking is perception, and the best picture of serious contemplative thinking is serious contemplative perception; as when we attend to a human face, music, a flower, a visual work of art (etc. etc.). Such close mental attention involves the conception of 'presence'. ... The definition of God (the necessity and sovereignty of Good) is connected with the definition of a human being. ...

"Why the quest for certainty, why should that be so specially important? ... Should not the idea of certainty be regarded with sceptical caution? 'Certainties' occasion persecutions. ... The idea of Good (goodness, virtue) crystallises out of our moral activity. The concept of good emphasises a unity of aspiration and belief concerning the absolute importance of what is done on the heterogeneous scene. ... The charm and power of technology and the authority of a 'scientific outlook' conceal the speed with which the idea of the responsible moral spiritual individual is being diminished. The fragmentation of morality menaces this individual, as it menaces the society in which he flourishes. ...

"The unity and fundamental reality of goodness is an image and support of the unity and fundamental reality of the individual. What is fundamental here is ideal or transcendent, never fully realised or analysed, but continually rediscovered in the course of the daily struggle with the world, and the imagination and passion whereby it is carried."

--Iris Murdoch, Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals (1992)

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