Iris Murdoch's Critique of Three Dualisms in Moral Education

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Journal of Philosophy of Education


There is a sustained critique of autonomy in Iris Murdoch's work in moral philosophy and moral education. I explicate Murdoch's arguments against a moral education that aims at autonomy, showing that this kind of moral education is ensnared in problematic dualisms: a fact and value dualism (sometimes discussed as a dualism between metaphorical concepts and empirical concepts); a dualism of moral and non‐moral human nature; and a dualism of philosophising and moralising (or form and content). If the dualisms go unacknowledged, I contend, the moral educator is left with the confused task of providing the foundation of moral autonomy in a morally neutral way. I argue, drawing on Murdoch's work, that there is another kind of moral education that is free of such dualisms. On this view, moral education is basic and ubiquitous. It does not aim at moral autonomy, but instead aims at the development of moral vision, a capacity to see reality more clearly. While Murdoch's conception of moral education throws moral autonomy out of the picture, Murdoch's conception of moral education is attractive because it is not beset by dubious dualisms.