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Mysticism and morality. Iris Murdoch’s Platonic mysticism

Giuliana Di Biase


The paper aims to investigate Iris Murdoch’s Platonic mysticism, setting it in the context of the contemporary debate between perennialists and constructivists. Like many perennialists, Murdoch believed in the existence of an essential link between mysticism and morality: this clarifies why she was fascinated by Plato’s philosophy. She conceived of mysticism and morality as having the same essence, love intended as an eros purified from selfishness, and viewed mysticism as the perfection of moral life. Like constructivists, however, Murdoch rejected the idea that mystical experiences are essentially unitive: she used Plato’s imagery of the eternal forms to emphasize that complete unity with the mystical “You” can never be achieved, and that this impossibility assures the existence of a relationship. Mysticism is essentially this relationship, for Murdoch.


mysticism; morality; unity; relationship; eros;

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