I’d agree with Iris Murdoch ‘an unexamined life can be virtuous.’ ‘Goodness is a function of the will.’ ‘Thought cannot be thought unless it is directed towards a conclusion.’ I can’t agree it follows its own paths without the intervention of my will. She does mean a conscious will, when the unconscious would not be engaged, and is quoting Hampshire who’s confined to consciousness.

I do identify myself with my will, my unconscious will that is, which is also myself. I’d let someone go because he wanted to, failing to secure whom I wanted to secure as I could have once I’d got him back to the flat and had space to work in, so had a problem what to do. It was a problem conscious thinking failed to solve and could only be resolved by my unconscious which thought it through while I attended to its thinking, which wasn’t logical, but reached a conclusion I accepted as right though it was impossible to go over the chain of its reasoning from beginning to the end, which was that I should forget who I loved until I met him again, as my unconscious reassured I would and I didn’t doubt, because it would too painful and quite pointless to be knowingly loving him in the meantime.

I’d have to disagree then ‘a decision does not turn out to be an introspectible movement’ when in the above example mine was. It is also possible to consciously decide one way but to act contrarily and as the overriding unconscious will has decided. ‘Something introspectible might occur but if the outward context is lacking that something cannot be called a decision.’ What if the inward movement is between one’s unconscious and another’s? There may be an outward context: a boy asked me to join him on his way to school. I didn’t see why I should but, within, my unconscious intervened with me and I did, asking the boy if a man – as I inwardly then saw my unconscious – had prompted him to ask. He didn’t know about that but he knew the prompting had come from me. Both his decision to ask and mine to comply were introspectible movements. Murdoch also gives an example against Hampshire’s notion that ‘anything which is to count as a definite reality must be open to several observers.’ None of the several observers of the boy’s asking and my complying was party to our introspectible decisions.

‘Difficult choices often present ...experience of void ...of not being determined by the reasons,” conscious reasons. My example above explains how the choice is otherwise made and why there’s no ensuing experience of void in my case or loss, angst. Sartre who has no truck with the unconscious yet says ‘when I deliberate the die is already cast’, an indication of decision by the unconscious, as Murdoch is suggesting. She describes angst as ‘a kind of fright the conscious will feels when it apprehends the strength and direction of the personality which is not under its immediate control.’ She suggests ‘we have to accept a darker, less fully conscious, less ...rational image of the dynamics of the human personality. With this dark entity behind us we may ...decide to act ...and ...find as a result both energy and vision are unexpectedly given. But if we do leap ahead of what we know we still have to try to catch up.’ No amount of understanding can replace the action of will, that of the unconscious one that is.

What does ‘good’ mean? Moore asked. She says the answer concerns the will. I doubted my will was good since he activated faults in others, Mrs Thompson’s jealousy of me for example which incited her son, my friend to assault me. I didn’t want to think about it because if my man was bad so was I and my concern was to be good. ‘Can we make ourselves morally better?’ No. Since goodness or badness is a spiritual attribute, we can only be made better if our unconscious will is made better by a good one. ‘Sartre can admit ...we choose out of some pre-existent condition which he also ...calls a choice.’ It is, if the condition is that of the unconscious will’s choice. ‘Kant pictured the mystery [of moral choice] in terms of an indiscernible balance between a ...rational agent and [a] mechanism. We have learned from Freud to picture the mechanism as something ...individual and personal which is ...very powerful and not easily understood by its owner. What we ...are ...is an obscure system of energy out of which choices and ...acts of will emerge at intervals in ways which are often unclear and ...dependent on the condition of the system in between the moments of choice. Is there any way that when moments of choice arrive we [can] be sure of acting rightly? ’

‘Deliberately falling out of love is not a jump of the will, it is the acquiring of new objects of attention and thus of new energies as a result of refocusing,’ or using the love determinedly not on the person who invoked it but in order to make art in accordance with the choice of the unconscious will in inciting love as means to that end.

‘Explicit ...willing can play some part, ...as an inhibiting factor.’ My man wanted me to go to Oxford to shake the hand of a future American president. I demurred. He, my unconscious will, is, however, my daemon, so she is wrong to cite that of Socrates, which ‘only told him what not to do’, as substantiating inhibition by a conscious will. Mine doesn’t tell me what to do. It no longer speaks to me at all.

'Words lead to deeds and we ought not to brutalize our minds by abusing and mocking other people.' I don't like making a fool of other people nor their being made fools of but I do use irony a lot and have found people amusing while keeping a straight face. "Are you laughing at me?" Mum asked. "I'm not laughing, Mum." I certainly don't abuse other people but one has to be able to defend oneself against abuse or others' absurdity. A laugh can clear their minds because it makes them see from another perspective. ‘There is something anti-authoritarian about violent laughter,’ and Plato is nothing if not authoritarian and po-faced.

Plato has Socrates say that fields and trees have nothing to teach him. I exclaim at that. Fields maybe but trees?

Okay, a little bit of abuse here. 'Philosophy is a training for death, when the soul will exist without the body.' 'Balls' I've commented. Since the soul is what is life, when the body dies it dies with it. To think otherwise is the wishful thinking of a deflated ego wanting in importance; it's its form of self-importance. Plato's excuse is he's trying to bring the stability of the eternal into the flux of life, so is making out the soul comes from wherever the eternal resides and goes back there on death. That also gives rise to the idea the body is at odds with the soul, corrupting it, when the two are in fact one in the here and now.

'Writing spoils the direct relationship to truth in the present.' Okay. When my man composed art from my life then, with my, Mum's and everybody's collaboration, it wasn't written but in duologue form that when decades later it was realised intact from unconscious memory where it was stored and as it was being written, the writing did not spoil the direct relationship to truth in that past present and wasn't being untrue to the present it was being realised in either. That 'world rediscovered in anamnesis is the world of, she says Plato says, 'the Forms'.

The soul, psyche, is equated with mind. Maybe, but not just conscious mind.

Sex or Eros is a ...universal energy ...which may be destructive or can be used for good. It's the most common manifestation of the spirit, made matter so to speak, and an indication of the unity of souls with body.

Truth in art is ...hard to estimate critically. This is gone into in 'the book' and ultimately it's a matter for the reader to decide whether it's true or not though any decision it's not reflects on the reader's inability to realise truth from writing. It's a matter ultimately of faith.

‘There is only one true artist ...and only one true work of art, the cosmos,’ which evoked from me ‘oh for god’s sake.’ That fabricator is the demiurge, who ‘is active nous, best translated as mind,’ evoking ‘oh god’. Iris Murdoch believes, ‘The image of a morally perfect but not all-powerful Goodness seems ...better to express some ultimate ...truth about our condition.’ She suggests the demiurge ‘realized his limitations at the start whereas Jehovah realized his later and was correspondingly bad-tempered.’ Her favourite word, ‘muddle’, makes its appearance. Either she can’t spell ‘harass’ or the OUP can’t; the misspelling occurs twice. She sells the pass, as do the religious and – god help them! - scientists by regarding us as created beings. ‘Form in art is for illusion and hides the true cosmic’ ie ordered ‘beauty and the ...real forms of necessity and causality, and blurs with fantasy.’

I didn’t know what to make of it. There was no emotional effect from what had been most interesting throughout. I realised I had yet to read the introduction to An Accidental Man. I hadn’t wanted to read it beforehand, to avoid corrupting my innocent eye. I must’ve known which character failed the moral test on watching two strangers knife another when I was reading but by the time I’d finished I was attributing the failure to another character. I’ve done that before, conflating two characters, but Murdoch was very good at distinguishing each of her host of characters so the fault is mine, except the better character wasn’t that good either or I wasn’t sure the dilemma he faced was fairly posed and could’ve been motivated by what I was falsely attributing to him. I scanned through the book to make sure the introducer was right and I wrong.

I wasn’t sure how I’d behave on seeing two men knifing a third. One doesn’t know how one might instinctively respond and it is an instinctive response in the first instance. I’ve said, “stop that!” on seeing somebody brain somebody else, thinking I’d then have to act as I didn’t want if he didn’t, so I’m guessing I might have done the like in an American city street. I’m much less likely on seeing protesters in a Soviet society to go over and shake their hands and become involved and be needlessly arrested myself. The better character had committed himself to another and has second thoughts. So? He’s entitled to. I find it less convincing he should therefore do what he does decide on because it’s good. Is it? He himself doesn’t think he’s all that great a man. He’s not. I found myself anticipating what the author would have the character do next and not just that character but what others would do next or have done to them from the exigency of the plot it took me a while to work out.

There’s an intricate philosophical discussion which clarifies things for him that I’m not sure I followed successfully, something to do with a link where god would be if he existed but doesn’t, yet the link still holds good. Seems a shaky argument to me unless you take it a step farther, which Murdoch doesn’t, and conclude the god that doesn’t exist was a projection of that good in the first place, reversing grandma’s dictum that good is god with nothing added to god is good with nothing taken away and now surplus to moral requirements.

Murdoch is putting herself in the position of god, which makes sense of the rationale of the book, that of the omniscient author monitoring her characters, distancing them a little from the reader and herself almost coming through the text transparently.

I was just thinking she doesn’t do working class characters when she did, quite effectively, though I doubted she’d ever have one as a hero or anti-hero. The introducer says she was responding to criticism that she never did.

This is the first book of Iris Murdoch I read except for the introduction which came later. She says ‘Sartre attempts to see history as “driven… by human willed purposes, so that it’s explanation and being lies in a study of conscious human activity”.’ This presupposes the will is conscious whereas any drive has to be by the unconscious will consciousness need not even be aware of. The purposive projet characteristic of consciousness is apparently an imagined future! Would that explain Brexit?

One can live or tell; not both at once, she paraphrases Sartre’s thinking. Maybe true to his but not to my experience. Mum said, agreeing with Sartre, ‘life is not a play, Johnny.’ ‘No, it’s a book,’ in which she was a character and her words scripted. She quite failed for all her clever consciousness to disprove this. The future is not already there, Murdoch goes on paraphrasing. It may be. My cousin offered to show me a flip book. ‘You’ve shown me that already.” He hadn’t but my unconscious had in a dwam presaged his doing so. From this Mum, another mum, realised I could see the future which is, therefore, already there, in fact remembered as past.

‘The relation of …words to their context of application is shifting and arbitrary.’ I didn’t understand the word ‘and’. I no longer knew what it meant, what it did. I could see it was made up of three letters which might as well be in a different order of combination or a permutation of a different no of different letters or no letters at all for all the enlightenment they brought to bear on what together they meant and function served. There was no necessary relation between letters, word and meaning. This apparently old and familiar metaphysical doubt lasted from school to past the railings I wasn’t sure of either. ‘What does exist is brute and nameless, …it escapes from language and science.’ She regards the rationality of science of a limited kind but so is her admirable philosophical rationality which is restricted, quite properly in this context, to conscious thinking.

‘The subject is the final arbiter, Sartre argues. Sartre thus rejects the idea of the unconscious mind.’ Oh! I didn’t go on to think how can so clever a man be so stupid because Murdoch does immediately go on, ‘but has his own substitute for it in the notion of the half-conscious, unreflective self-deception which he calls “bad faith”.’ That could be consistent with an unconscious having its way with a consciousness it must act through. Without an unconscious, it’s the reflective consciousness that’s thought of by Sartre as imagining. He describes ‘imagination as a spontanéité envoûté.’ Bewitched? By what? By something coming from within the writer’s consciousness is aware of but that didn’t originate in it. Using the word, ‘bewitched’, is an act of glib bad faith by both his consciousness and unconscious for the former to take all credit for a joint act while maintaining its ignorance of an unconscious that doesn’t want to be known to it.

‘What the aspiring spirit… desires is complete stillness,’ which can only come through unconscious communication without any use of consciousness except on an interface with the unconscious that would render it also unconscious but able to be realised from unconscious memory. The ideal of an aspiring spirit would not be that of the silence of consciousness. That’s simply a side-effect.

Sartre treats ‘personal relationships at the level of the psychological casebook.’ I may do too. At least that’s how Betty Clark described me as doing, as seeing people as psychological cases. “Is that bad?” She thought not. Iris Murdoch thinks it is, in Sartre’s case.

Sartre does not view consciousness as what Ryle has called ‘the ghost in the machine.’ I thought by ghost in the machine what was meant was spirit, not consciousness.

She says, ‘Serious reflexion about one’s own character will often induce a curious sense of one’s emptiness.’ Really? ‘Our consciousness of how other people label us …and how they see us is often very acute.’ Really? Maybe I’ve achieved the desideratum of self-completion without experiencing ennui or être-pour-autrui respectively. I like that ‘autrui’ is indefinable in French.

Kant believed the rational will, which alone was good, remained separate from the world of empirical phenomenon and [was] unseen in its operation. That, I wrote in the margin, sounds like my unconscious will. His he’d think was conscious. She, paraphrasing what he’d think, says ‘I do not know the working of the rational will in myself.’ That sounds like the view of a consciousness of its unconscious will it’s ignorant of. My unconscious will is rational. Other people’s aren’t so much, not when they’re attributing to themselves that they’re the absolute centre of the universe, that they’re the king, while their father’s alive etc as explanations by their unconsciouses to themselves why they’re important. Such irrationality need never surface into consciousness. I never did work out if by keeping his eyes on me, whether Rich was conferring reality on me or only felt real if I were keeping my eyes on him. ‘Stability derives ..from the steady adoring gaze of the lover, caught in which the beloved feels full, compact and justified.’ Sartre wishes …to preserve the sovereignty of the individual psyche as a source of meaning. ‘For him the psyche is coextensive with consciousness.’ He’d nowhere else he could consciously think to put it.

Sartre says no good novel could be written in praise of anti-Semitism. How does he know? Murdoch asks. Wasn’t Ce-ine of his time a good novelist?

John said Manuel had gone through all of us for sex, that I was dancing reluctantly with him. I have only the most skiting recollection of this but, on telling Adrian what John said, he remembered I had, latterly to stop Manuel stumbling, obviously to no avail. John saw the fight starting outside on the balcony when he came back to return Adrian’s card. Adrian has no memory of this. He said he put Manuel in a taxi. Oleg went to Rich who went back with him to Adrian’s to supervise them, in bed when I pressed the bell. The gravel underfoot John thought, on our conjecture it was Oleg being proved wrong, that it might’ve been his throwing up for access when the buzzer wasn’t working.

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