Vision and Encounter in Moral Thinking (MGM Chapter 15)
Iris Murdoch thinks that ‘the activity and imagery of vision is at the centre of human consciousness’, ever re-orienting us to ‘reflection, reverence, respect’ for reality. Murdoch believes that Buber’s emphasis on the ‘I-Thou’ relation conflicts with this morally re-orienting power of the visual. Buber thinks that his language of encounter and dialogue makes space for the moral challenge of the other, and for growth, movement, creative response in human life, in a way shouldered out by ‘visual metaphysics’. Murdoch’s privileging of ‘the visual’ is a source of her moral objections to Buber’s I-Thou God, and of her objections to his language of encounter and dialogue more generally. I mount various criticisms of Murdoch’s championing of the visual and of her broader critique of Buber.
My thanks to Hugo Strandberg for helpful comments on an earlier draft.
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