Talk:Iris Murdoch

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Distracting blank spaces[edit]

Formatting that encases the framed table of contents in text, in just the way a framed map or image is enclosed within the text, is now available: {{TOCleft}} in the HTML does the job.

Blank space opposite the ToC, besides being unsightly and distracting, suggests that there is a major break in the continuity of the text, which may not be the case. Blanks in page layout are voids and they have meanings to the experienced reader. The space betweeen paragraphs marks a brief pause between separate blocks of thought. A deeper space, in a well-printed text, signifies a more complete shift in thought: note the spaces that separate sub-headings in Wikipedia articles.

A handful of thoughtless and aggressive Wikipedians revert the "TOCleft" format at will. A particularly aggressive de-formatter is User:Ed g2s

The reader may want to compare versions at the Page history. --Wetman 20:19, 9 August 2005 (UTC)


I experience disquiet when I see this word. At first glance it suggests she was of English descent but born in Ireland. Which turns out to be true. However, that's only part of the story. She was born in Ireland, but had British citizenship which is why she's entitled to be known as Dame Iris. Would it not be more correct to say she was an Irish-born British writer? JackofOz 11:16, 7 February 2006 (UTC)

You're right. Its really an ethnic divider so we should avoid using it in the header. It also tells an incomplete story as while her mother's family were Dublin Anglicans, her father's family were Ulster Scots Presbyterians (also some Quakers) and she probably had native gaelic ancestry too. Arniep 14:16, 7 February 2006 (UTC)

In the Francis Bacon discussion page there's been a lot of discussion about the problem of deciding how we should describe people born in Ireland but who moved to England early enough in life to make their identity ambiguous. Irish born British writer seems more appropriate than 'Dublin born' since that leaves her identity unnamed and also suggests that she was Irish in the full sense of that term. Birth and parents aside it would be more appropriate to say she is English. (talk) 09:49, 14 November 2008 (UTC)

Given this I propose that she is described as an English writer and philosopher born in Dublin, Ireland. Any objections? (talk) 13:24, 1 December 2008 (UTC)

If I may quote Murdoch herself, "I'm profoundly Irish and I've been conscious of this all my life, and in a mode of being Irish which has produced a lot of very distinguished thinkers and writers."[1] So place of birth, parentage and personal opinion aside, she may be described as British. I don't think it's accurate in any sense of the word to describe her as English. She lived in England but never self-identified as English. IrishPete (talk) 09:29, 24 February 2009 (UTC)

Atypical gay?[edit]

'She often included atypical gay characters in her fiction'

This is ambiguous...were the characters atypical gay people (ie not like the majority of gay people) or were the characters atypical by virtue of being gay (and therefore unusual in literature of that time)? I would say the latter is true but the former probably not.

I suspect the author of this phrase probably meant to say "non-stereotypical gay characters". David | Talk 23:47, 2 March 2006 (UTC)


I've read the AN Wilson book and I think the quotes selected are taken out of context. As a whole Wilson's book comes across as quite a loving attempt to rehabilitate a mentor he had been distressed to find was becoming simply the 'Alzheimer's lady' of popular imagination. His comments aobut her, reproduced here, were made in the spirit of raucous honesty rather than disapproval. I think this section needs to be retitled. Perhaps 'controversy' is better? At the moment it seems to say that Wilson wrote a damning exposé of someone he hated. This isn't the case at all.

Daviddariusbijan 23:52, 2 March 2006 (UTC)

The article essentially deforms and wildly misrepresents A.N. Wilson's viewpoint on Murdoch and Bayley. As Wilson's memoir of the couple shows us throughout, he despised Bayley, but felt great affection and respect for Murdoch. Wilson clears up several misconceptions which were caused by Bayley's self-serving accounts. For one thing, Iris did badly want children. It was Bayley who did not. In their later years, and especially as Iris's dementia progressed, the couple lived in filthy and unsafe conditions in their home. It was Bayley's choice not to hire cleaners or caregivers, but there was no need for this penury. When Murdoch died, she left an estate exceeding two million pounds. (Presumably Bayley found this useful in his second marriage.) Bayley also enjoyed exercising his completely random and irrational judgment as to where they lived. Even in the years when Murdoch was in her right mind, without consulting her he would suddenly decide to sell their house and move--usually to someplace inferior.

Wilson's contempt for Bayley is scarifying and obvious. His love for Iris is equally obvious. Whoever wrote the article needs to undertake a serious rewrite which will accurately present the attitudes and information very clearly set forth in Wilson's memoir. Younggoldchip (talk) 17:01, 7 November 2016 (UTC)

Yes, that's true. Wilson's book was a lot more hostile to Bayley than it was about Murdoch. It is about Bayley, NOT Murdoch, that the Guardian called him "mischievously revelatory and quite spectacularly rude". And he says he attacks Bayley in defense of Iris as a serious artist--he thought her husbands books dumbed her down and made her seem a sweet, harmless old coot.
Also, aren't the excerpts we have right now a little...pointlessly smutty? It's no surprise to anybody that Murdoch had lots of lovers, and that fact COULD be made into part of an analysis of her psychology and relevant to the books. But as it stands it just sounds like "Hee hee hee, Iris slept around." Which is not, as they say, "encyclopedic" in tone.
Finally, why have a section just on this one biography? Shouldn't there be one called "Biographies," including a discussion of the Conradi and Bayley as well as Wilson? I am actually working on a few notes--I'll put them up when I have a paragraph or two.

Dybryd 11:03, 16 July 2006 (UTC)

Nothing on her philosophy?[edit]

I'm shocked to find that there's no discussion of her philosophical ideas at all. I'm not really competent to do it, but my inclination is to add a section that others can expand and correct. Would that be all right, or is it preferred to have nothing on the page until a thorough job can be done? Dybryd 02:11, 16 July 2006 (UTC)

Get it started, please; I'll help out where I can. Angelicakrasia 19:49, 25 July 2006 (UTC)

This may not go here, but the paragraph describing her philosophy ends with a line that is very confusing: "It is the interest, for Murdoch, in St Anselm's remarks on the ontological proof, 'I believe in order to understand'." I don't know much about IM, but I have no idea what this sentence means. (talk) 07:16, 10 April 2010 (UTC)

The Ontological argument for God's existence is: "God is the greatest, therefore he must exist; if he didn't exist, he wouldn't be the greatest." It is not "I believe in order to understand." That statement was only used in Anselm's Introduction where he is talking to God and Anselm thinks that he has to assure God that he is a believer. Lestrade (talk) 00:16, 10 January 2011 (UTC)Lestrade


Is it really neccessary/appropriate to add the street address of her birth home? Seems to be more potentially harmful than informative.

I agree and have removed the address on the following grounds: the house is currently occupied by residents whose permission has not been given, in addition the address has no arguable historical significance. There are cases in which it is appropriate to list an address, such as the house in which Sylvia Plath ended her life in 1963, however this incident has gone into mainstream litery history whereas the birthplace of Iris Murdoch is not signigicant enough in my opinion to be regarded as adding anything to the article. --Thedaveformula (talk) 02:43, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
I have however narrowed down the location to Phibsborough, the area of the address. Thedaveformula (talk) 02:47, 3 December 2011 (UTC)

Copyright problem[edit]


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Link to PhilPapers search results[edit]

I've been tidying up the references here lately. One was a reference in the Secondary Literature to a search on Iris Murdoch's name in PhilPapers. The link went from the title "journals" in the SL list to a URL to the search, in the Reference list. This was confusing. Also, the terms were entered in such a way that it was being parsed as Iris OR Murdoch instead of "Iris Murdoch". I've corrected the search and moved the link to External Links. However, I'm not sure it should be there at all. If PhilPapers, why not Google Scholar? (etc etc) Is there a rule or convention about including links like that? HazelAB (talk) 17:51, 20 June 2012 (UTC)

Wittgenstein Student?[edit]

The page claims she went up to Cambridge for philosophy in 1947 (the year Wittgenstein left) but never heard Wittgenstein lecture. The Cambridge Wittgenstein Archive [1] lists her as one of his students. I can't see the subscripton-only bio reference to check how confident it is that she never heard him lecture. Can you? ThisIsMattRose (talk) 15:01, 6 January 2015 (UTC)

The Wittgenstein archive has IM in a list of Wittgenstein's new students under the heading 1944 but In 1944 IM was working for UNRRA. She went up to Cambridge for the first time in October 1947. The article at Oxford Dictionary of National Biography states: "From 1947 to 1948 Murdoch studied philosophy at Newnham College, Cambridge, and briefly met Wittgenstein, whose work deeply interested her." It doesn't say explicitly that she did not hear him lecture. However, that fact is stated in Peter Conradi's biography, on pages 262-263: "She had arrived too late, to her bitter regret, to listen to him lecture: in the summer just prior to her going up, Wittgenstein had resigned his chair as from 31 December, keeping his rooms for one last Sabbatical term". [2] He goes on to say that IM spent a lot of time with a group of Wittgenstein's students, who talked about him to her. Conradi's source for this information is a letter to him from Stephen Toulmin. I've added the Conradi biography reference to the appropriate point in the IM article. HazelAB (talk) 17:43, 6 January 2015 (UTC)


  1. ^
  2. ^ Conradi, Peter J., (2001). Iris Murdoch: a life. New York: Norton. ISBN 0393048756. 

Economist Obituary[edit]

@SageGreenRider:, I noticed that you added some material, mostly a direct quotation, from Bayley's Economist obituary to the article. Since you've quoted the two sentences already in the citation and they appear in the reference list with a link to the Economist obit online, they're redundant in the article, so I've taken them out. HazelAB (talk) 14:24, 16 February 2015 (UTC)

@HazelAB:, OK I tried again, this time with the info in the body text but not duplicated in the cite. I wonder if your concern is really my original duplication, or whether your real concern is the struggle to balance WP:NOTCENSORED with WP:UNDUE. If that is so, I agree it is a tough call. SageGreenRider (talk) 14:55, 16 February 2015 (UTC)
@SageGreenRider:, good question! There is certainly the technical matter - material doesn't need to be quoted twice, once in the article and once in the citation list. And there is the question of balance. The "Life" section of the IM article is basically a brief overview of her biography. Do two sentences about IM and JB's sex lives, based on a charming but rather gossipy obituary of JB, really belong there? Personally, don't think so. Anyway, if you decide to leave them in, you should put the quotation marks back or else rewrite them so the wording isn't directly copied from the obituary. You then wouldn't need to quote them in the citation. HazelAB (talk) 15:45, 16 February 2015 (UTC)
@HazelAB: Will do. If she wrote about business, or gardening, or cookery, then I'd say a mention of her sexuality would indeed be irrelevant. However, given that sexuality was a frequent theme in her books so I think this mention in the body text is appropriate. The Economist, a reliable source, certainly thought so. I'll wordsmith it as you suggest. SageGreenRider (talk) 16:45, 16 February 2015 (UTC)

Bidisha and Wilson: Who said what?[edit]

The Biographies and Memoirs section now contains this sentence: "In a BBC Radio 4 discussion of Murdoch and her work in 2009, Wilson agreed with Bidisha's view that Murdoch's philosophical output consisted of nothing but "GCSE-style" essays on Plato". This content originated with an edit on 24 February 2010 that said something rather different: "Elsewhere, Wilson has passed judgement on Murdoch's philosophical achievement, assenting in a Radio 4 appreciation of Iris Murdoch (Archive on Four: An Unofficial Iris, 28/06/09) to the view that Iris Murdoch’s philosophical output consisted of nothing but “G.C.S.E. style” essays on Plato." There's no mention there of whose view Wilson was assenting to. Bidisha only gets mentioned in this edit on 6 October 2010: "In a BBC Radio 4 discussion of Murdoch and her work in 2009, Wilson assented to Bidisha's view that Murdoch's philosophical output consisted of nothing but “GCSE-style” essays on Plato". The reference in both cases is to this radio program which Bidisha hosted. The program is "not currently available" so as far as I know it's not possible to tell whose "view" Wilson was "assenting to" - my hunch is, not Bidisha's. Today's edit - to "Wilson agreed with Bidisha's view" - is a stylistic improvement but arguably moves the sense even farther from whatever it was to begin with. HazelAB (talk) 01:20, 7 April 2015 (UTC)

This program was rebroadcast on August 30 2015 and is accessible for the next 30 days. At the 48 minute mark Bisdisha asks Wilson if he thinks Murdoch was "a worse philosopher than she wished to be" and if she had wanted to be "the new Plato" but only produced "GCSE-style analyses of Plato", to which he replies that she's hit the nail on the head and goes on to make that extraordinary comment about her developing Alzheimers because of her struggle to write up the Gifford lectures. I edited the article to leave out "Bidisha's opinion" because it's not clear that it was an opinion - it sounds more like a leading question. HazelAB (talk) 13:23, 30 August 2015 (UTC)

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