Philosophy and Literature with Iris Murdoch and Bryan Magee

I love doing the washing up, it gives me a chance to catch up with a whole host of interesting YouTube channels.  As you might expect these are a pretty eclectic mix; Agadmator’s chess match analyses, Bob Ross‘ happy little paintings, David Lynch’s weather report, a few channels dealing with apologetics, film reviews, Football Manager (as I have no time to go indepth with such a game), other assorted retro games, and science videos.

This time I wanted something a bit different so typed ‘literature’ into the search bar.  Having previously done this and ended up scrolling through a bunch of identikit YA booktubers I, understandably, left it a few years before trying again.

The below video turned up, and having heard of Iris Murdoch, but not having read any of her works I decided to give the interview a whirl. It’s an interesting chat that takes places in that nostalgically British way of having a dull studio filled with browns and beiges. I already have Murdoch’s Existentialists and Mystics: Writings on Philosophy and Literature, on my list but any recommendations for her fiction would be most welcome.

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14 Replies to “Philosophy and Literature with Iris Murdoch and Bryan Magee”

  1. Hi, Ste J! I went through my Iris Murdoch phase a bunch of years ago, but with the fiction rather than the philosophy. I largely don’t read philosophy anymore. But if you do read any of the fiction, let me know if you find out which book it’s in that there’s either an actual event or a meditation/fantasy/dream about a woman driving into a pond or lake in a station wagon. Have a good time, reading!

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      1. Thanks so much, Liz. I read that when I wasn’t really in a reading place (a rare event for me), and it is the only part I remember, though I think there was something also about discord before or after the event (if she survived!) with a husband or romantic interest. I didn’t like the book especially well, and don’t really know what a Morgan car is, so my mind probably just made it a station wagon. Thanks again for answering, maybe I’ll give it another chance sometime.

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  2. You knew I’d jump for that lure, right? Her philosophy is quite hard but her books very entertaining. The Sea, The Sea is great, but you might like to start with her first one, Under the Net: I think you’d like it a lot. A Severed Head is also excellent and if you want some myth with your philosophy, her later masterpiece The Green Knight is worth a look. You can find most of them in charity shops although they have recently been reprinted. If you want a sort of guide or blog posts (with spoilers!) and discussions once you’ve read some or to look into what to read, my project page for my last re-read is here: https://librofulltime.wordpress.com/about/the-great-iris-murdoch-readalong-november-2017-december-2019/

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    1. What coud be better than a severed head, I am now recalling many severed heads that come to mind in literature, which could well be a blog post in itself, and one probably not yet attempted by anyone. Thanks for titles, I am refining my list now and no doubt will go on a binge soon.

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  3. Ha! I love Agadmator’s chess match analyses (his coverage of Mikhail Tal games is amazing) and Lynch’s weather reports. What else Youtube is for if not for these? Ok, it is also for watching MrBallen’s series of criminal mysteries. As someone who writes film reviews as well, it always comes as a shock to me to hear that someone “listens” to them (but yeah, most people do and I’d rather forget that! lol)

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    1. I have never heard of MrBallen, if you hadn’t mentioned it I probably would have clicked by as I can’t stand those arrows and hammy shocked faces. I will give them a whirl when I have lots of dishes to wash.

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  4. You have succeeded in making me interesting in reading Murdoch. I’ve never read any of her works. I think it’s funny how she said that philosopher’s are still struggling with the same questions, that they haven’t made much progress, LOL. Perhaps the argument should be made that it’s not the destination, it’s the journey.

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    1. WIth such questions, perhaps there will never be concrete answers to the abstract. As you say though the journey is the thing, it is always fascinating to see how far we have come, and speculate on where next!

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