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Knowing and Not Knowing what a Human Being Is
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Department of Philosophy, Logic and Metaphysics.
2011 (English)In: SATS: Northern European Journal of Philosophy, ISSN 1600-1974, Vol. 12, no 1, 1-17 p.Article in journal, Editorial material (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Following Iris Murdoch, I argue that much contemporary philosophy is guided by a faulty picture of the human being. In a certain sense, we have forgotten what a human being is. This paper traces Murdoch’s view of that kind of forgetting, and tries to show that we now have good reason to re-open the question “What is a human being?” This question comes in as important for philosophy in two respects: First, negatively, as a reminder that we do not normally treat our fellow humans as merely a biological creature having certain properties. Secondly, treating the question of the nature of the human as an open question also serves the purpose of destabilizing dominating pictures that guide and form much contemporary moral philosophy. On a more general level, this paper argues that Murdoch’s thoughts on how we are guided by pictures in philosophy also shows how a philosophical “illusion of sense” can be the result of what Murdoch calls “a general loss of concepts”. Methodologically, this means that the use of simplified and well-defined concepts as philosophical starting-points run the risk of distorting the subject matter to such a point that it no longer is clear what the philosophy is about.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Walter de Gruyter, 2011. Vol. 12, no 1, 1-17 p.
Keyword [en]
Iris Murdoch, human being, moral vision, moral concepts, political vocabulary
National Category
Philosophy, Ethics and Religion
Research subject
Theoretical Philosophy; Practical Philosophy
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-191315OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-191315DiVA: diva2:585316
Available from: 2013-01-09 Created: 2013-01-09 Last updated: 2013-01-11Bibliographically approved

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