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“Suppose the truth were awful”: Reflections on Morality without God
in Iris Murdoch’s The Time of the Angels

Liverpool Hope University

This paper examines the outworking of Iris Murdoch’s moral philosophy in her novel The Time of the Angels. One of Murdoch’s philosophical projects was to construct a vision of the Good which could fund an adequate morality within a non-theistic framework. This counters claims that in a post-religious era morality has lost all moorings and foundations. The Time of the Angels presents several characters struggling with the issue of moral life within a Godless age and experiencing abjection in their failure to come fully to terms with it. The crisis of meaning with regard to God the Father is paralleled by crises in relations with one of the central figures, Father Carel Fisher; replete with Freudian themes, Carel’s incestuous relations with one of his daughters and subsequent suicide shatter the enclosed world of the Rectory. Each character struggles to locate meaning and value in the world in their futures paths. Such successes as they have can be related to key themes in Murdoch’s moral philosophy – the relationship between love and death, the acceptance of contingency and transience, and the importance of the individual and the everyday.

Iris Murdoch, The Time of the Angels, God and the Good, Moral Philosophy and Literature, Abjection and the death of God, Morality without God


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