Tensile Moral Subjects
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Building on the last chapter, which focused on vocabulary and language, this chapter develops Murdoch’s conception of the human and her moral psychology. Murdoch understands the self to be a “field of tension,” where one constantly feels the pull of various loyalties, obligations, loves, and so on. This is an aspect of Murdoch’s thought that has received no attention in philosophy in terms of its application. The chapter describes this tension, its constitutive elements, and how Murdoch’s image of moral psychology and experience is helpful in understanding the experience of moral injury. This chapter ends paying specific attention to an aspect of this tension that Murdoch calls “void.” When one experiences violence or situations that make a good solution impossible, one can begin to feel that it is impossible to try and be moral. Either the world or one’s self may seem hostile to leading an ethical life. The tension that is definitive of selfhood and ethics can break, resulting in a moral subjectivity dominated by void. This can undermine the very possibility of ethics. When extreme, such a subjectivity may lead one to despair and lasting harm, which are central to moral injury.