Saturday, July 11, 2020

Philosophy for Murdoch Fans

Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 5:03 AM

The previous post contained a passage from Iris Murdoch’s
1961 essay “Against Dryness.”  Some related philosophy —

'Crystal and Dragon' by David Wade, publisher's description

For those who prefer pure mathematics to philosophical ruminations
there are some relevant remarks in my webpage of August 27, 2003.

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Iris Contingency

Filed under: General — m759 @ 10:00 PM

From a spring 2004 Michigan State University syllabus for the
T-Th course English 487, “The Twentieth Century English Novel”—

Tuesday, March 30: Murdoch
(her essay “ The Sublime and the Beautiful Revisited “)

Thursday, April 1: Murdoch

Related material from this journal—

Posts of Tuesday, March 30, 2004, and of Thursday, April 1, 2004.

For a related reference to the mathematician Michael Harris from
the Free-Floating Signs link in this afternoon’s 4:30 post, see
the  posts of Wednesday, March 31, 2004, the day intervening
between the above two class dates.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Globe Services

Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 1:16 PM

“Perhaps only Shakespeare manages to create at the highest level
both images and people; and even Hamlet  looks second-rate
compared with Lear .”

Iris Murdoch, “Against Dryness,” 1961

Byline from a 2019 post — ‘GLOBE STAFF AND NEW SERVICES’ —


Above: Dr. Harrison PopeHarvard professor of psychiatry,
demonstrates the use of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale
“block design” subtest.

 — From a Log24 search for “Harrison Pope.”

Related drama — Other posts tagged Plastic Elements.

Sunday, August 6, 2017


Filed under: General — m759 @ 10:09 AM

"Simone Weil said that morality
was a matter of attention not of will.
We need a new vocabulary of attention."

Iris Murdoch, "Against Dryness"

Friday, January 23, 2015

Complex Symplectic Fantasy

Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 8:08 PM

"We are not isolated free chosers,
monarchs of all we survey, but
benighted creatures sunk in a reality
whose nature we are constantly and
overwhelmingly tempted to deform
by fantasy."

Iris Murdoch, "Against Dryness"
in Encounter , p. 20 of issue 88 
(vol. 16 no. 1, January 1961, pp. 16-20)

"We need to turn our attention away from the consoling
dream necessity of Romanticism, away from the dry
symbol, the bogus individual, the false whole, towards
the real impenetrable human person."

Iris Murdoch, 1961

"Impenetrability!  That's what I  say!"

Humpty Dumpty, 1871

Thursday, January 22, 2015


Filed under: General — m759 @ 9:45 PM

* See the previous post's link Against Dryness.

A Shot at Redemption

Filed under: General — m759 @ 7:00 PM


“I need a photo opportunity, 
I want a shot at redemption.
Don’t want to end up a cartoon 
in a cartoon graveyard.”

— Paul Simon

Photo opportunity
for the late John Bayley and Iris Murdoch —

From a cartoon graveyard, in memory of
a British artist who reportedly died yesterday: 

Against Dryness —

Cartoon by Martin Honeysett

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Black Key

Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 11:00 AM

The title was suggested by a post on The Piano
and by the dimensions of an image in this morning’s
previous post:  404 x 211 pixels, suggesting
4/04, a date significant to author Katherine Neville,
and 2/11, the date of a Log24 post from 2014.

These dates are both related to the post…

Everybody Comes to Rick’s
(original title of Casablanca ).

Whimsical, yes, but see Iris Murdoch
on the contingent  in literature and the word
“whimsical” in  a post of January 26, 2004
(in a series of posts involving Michael Sprinker).

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Butcher’s Clay

Filed under: General — m759 @ 9:14 PM

Friday evening’s post Musement dealt with Iris Murdoch’s
phrase “the clean crystalline work.”

For dirty bloody work see the life of Don Reitz, who
reportedly died at 84 on March 19.

Friday, March 28, 2014


Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 7:00 PM

(The title is from a work by Charles Sanders Peirce.)

For LYNX 760 —

IMAGE- Image search for 'the clean crystalline work'

For more beauty and strangeness, see Strange McEntire.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Ay Que Bonito

Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 2:00 AM


From Iris Murdoch's novel The Bell 

" 'With an engineer to help me,' said Dora,
'I can do anything.'  And indeed as she
stood there in the moonlight, looking at
the quiet water, she felt as if by the sheer
force of her will she could make the great
bell rise.  After all, and after her own fashion,
she would fight.  In this holy community
she would play the witch."

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Structure vs. Character

Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 12:00 PM

“… Reality is not a given whole. An understanding of this,
a respect for the contingent, is essential to imagination
as opposed to fantasy. Our sense of form, which is an
aspect of our desire for consolation, can be a danger to
our sense of reality as a rich receding background.
Against the consolations of form, the clean crystalline
work, the simplified fantasy-myth, we must pit the
destructive power of the now so unfashionable naturalistic
idea of character.

Real people are destructive of myth, contingency is
destructive of fantasy and opens the way for imagination.
Think of the Russians, those great masters of the contingent.
Too much contingency of course may turn art into journalism.
But since reality is incomplete, art must not be too much
afraid of incompleteness. Literature must always represent a
battle between real people and images; and what it requires
now is a much stronger and more complex conception of the

Iris Murdoch, January 1961, “Against Dryness

See also the recent posts Structure and Character.

Saturday, August 18, 2012


Filed under: General — m759 @ 4:01 AM

"Art indeed, so far from being
a playful diversion of the human race,
is the place of its most fundamental insight,
and the centre to which the more uncertain
steps of metaphysics must constantly return"

Iris Murdoch, "On 'God' and 'Good,'" in
Existentialists and Mystics , Penguin Books,
1999, page 360

Related material —

Wendy Derleth

" 'In the West,' she observed, 'anything that must be hidden
is suspect; availability and honesty are interlinked. This clashes
irreconcilably with Islam… where the things that are
most precious, most perfect and most holy are always hidden….' "

— Pauls Toutonghi, review of a recent novel, Alif the Unseen

(page BR19, New York Times Sunday Book Review , August 12, 2012

Monday, July 7, 2008

Monday July 7, 2008

Filed under: General — m759 @ 7:00 AM

Last evening’s entry referred to a 1961 essay by Iris Murdoch titled “Against Dryness.”  Murdoch’s use of “dryness” as a literary term is taken from a 1911 essay by T. E. Hulme, “Romanticism and Classicism.” Hulme says that

“There is a general tendency to think that verse means little else than the expression of unsatisfied emotion. People say: ‘But how can you have verse without sentiment?’ You see what it is: the prospect alarms them. A classical revival to them would mean the prospect of an arid desert and the death of poetry as they understand it, and could only come to fill the gap caused by that death. Exactly why this dry classical spirit should have a positive and legitimate necessity to express itself in poetry is utterly inconceivable to them.”

Related philosophy from Hollywood:

Bentley: … What is it, Major Lawrence, that attracts you personally to the desert?
Lawrence:  It’s clean.
Bentley:  Well, now, that’s a very illuminating answer.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Sunday July 6, 2008

Filed under: General — m759 @ 9:00 PM

"Hancock" Powers to the Top
of July Fourth Box Office

This evening's online
  New York Times

New York Lottery
Sunday, July 6,
Mid-day 307
Evening  921

Log24  3/07:


Three 3x3 symbols of a language game:  the field, the game, checkmate

Log24  9/21:

"The consolations of form,
the clean crystalline work"
Iris Murdoch
"Against Dryness"

Will Smith
on Chess

Will Smith with chessboard

Will Smith

The Independent, 9 July 2004:

"A devoted father, Smith passes on his philosophy of life to his children through chess, among other things.

'My father taught me how to play chess at seven and introduced beautiful concepts that I try to pass on to my kids. The elements and concepts of life are so perfectly illustrated on a chess board. The ability to accurately assess your position is the key to chess, which I also think is the key to life.'

He pauses, searching for an example. 'Everything you do in your life is a move. You wake up in the morning, you strap on a gun, and you walk out on the street– that's a move. You've made a move and the universe is going to respond with its move.

'Whatever move you're going to make in your life to be successful, you have to accurately access the next couple of moves– like what's going to happen if you do this? Because once you've made your move, you can't take it back. The universe is going to respond.'

Smith has just finished reading The Alchemist, by the Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho: 'It says the entire world is contained in one grain of sand, and you can learn everything you need to learn about the entire universe from that one grain of sand. That is the kind of concept I'm teaching my kids.'"

Related material:

"Philosophers' Stone"
and other entries
of June 25, 2008

Friday, September 21, 2007

Friday September 21, 2007

Filed under: General — Tags: , — m759 @ 8:28 AM
Word and Object

"We may recall the ideal of 'dryness' which we associate with the symbolist movement, with writers such as T. E. Hulme and T. S. Eliot, with Paul Valery, with Wittgenstein. This 'dryness' (smallness, clearness, self-containedness) is a nemesis of Romanticism…. The temptation of art… is to console. The modern writer… attempts to console us by myths or by stories."

Iris Murdoch  

"The consolations of form,
the clean crystalline work"

Iris Murdoch
"Against Dryness"

"As a teacher Quine
was carefully organized,
precise, and conscientious,
but somewhat dry
in his classroom style."

Harvard Gazette 


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The image “http://www.log24.com/log/pix07A/070921-Lindenbaum-Tarski.gif” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Myth and Story:

The five entries ending
on Jan. 27, 2007

"There is such a thing
as a tesseract."
Madeleine L'Engle  

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Wednesday September 19, 2007

Filed under: General — m759 @ 5:00 AM
Einstein, God, and
the Consolation of Form

“The kind of thing that would make Einstein gag”

Peter Woit, Sept. 18, 2007

    “– …He did some equations that would make God cry for the sheer beauty of them. Take a look at this…. The sonofabitch set out equations that fit the data. Nobody believes they mean anything. Shit, when I back off, neither do I. But now and then, just once in a while…
     — He joined physical and mental events. In a unified mathematical field.
     — Yeah, that’s what I think he did. But the bastards in this department… bunch of goddamned positivists. Proof doesn’t mean a damned thing to them. Logical rigor, beauty, that damned perfection of something that works straight out, upside down, or sideways– they don’t give a damn.”

— “Nothing Succeeds,” in The Southern Reporter: Stories of John William Corrington, LSU Press, 1981

“The search for images of order and the loss of them constitute the meaning of The Southern Reporter.”

Louisiana State University Press

“By equating reality with the metaphysical abstraction ‘contingency’ and explaining his paradigm by reference to simple images of order, Kermode [but see note below] defines the realist novel not as one which attempts to get to grips with society or human nature, but one which, in providing the consolation of form,* makes the occasional concession to contingency….”

Richard Webster on Frank Kermode’s The Sense of an Ending

We are here in the
Church of St. Frank.

Marjorie Garber,
Harvard University

* “The consolations of form” is a phrase Kermode quoted from Iris Murdoch. Webster does not mention Murdoch. Others have quoted Murdoch’s memorable phrase, which comes from her essay “Against Dryness: A Polemical Sketch,” Encounter, No. 88, January 1961, pp. 16-20. The essay was reprinted in a Penguin paperback collection of Murdoch’s work, Existentialists and Mystics. It was also reprinted in The Novel Today, ed. Malcolm Bradbury (Manchester, Manchester U. Press, 1977); in Revisions, ed. S. Hauerwas and A. MacIntyre (Notre Dame, U. of Notre Dame Press, 1981); and in Iris Murdoch, ed. H. Bloom (New York, Chelsea House, 1986).

Monday, December 30, 2002

Monday December 30, 2002

Filed under: General — m759 @ 8:30 PM


“No matter how it’s done, you won’t like it.”
— Robert Redford to Robert M. Pirsig in Lila

The evening before Harriet injures Roy,
she asks him, in a restaurant car,
whether he has read Homer.”
Oxford website on the film of The Natural

“Brush Up Your Shakespeare”
— Cole Porter lyric for a show that opened
on December 30, 1948

Judy Davis as Harriet Bird


Thine eyes I love…
Shakespeare, Sonnet 132

“Roy’s Guenevere-like lover is named Memo Paris,
presumably the face that launched a thousand strikes.”
Oxford website on the film of The Natural 

Nicole Kidman
as Memo Paris

Iris is someone to watch over Roy.”
Oxford website on the film of The Natural 

Kate Winslet as young Iris Murdoch

From the second-draft screenplay
for The Sting,
with Robert Redford as Hooker:

(shuffling a little)
I, ah…thought you might wanna come out for a while.  Maybe have a drink or somethin’.

You move right along, don’t ya.

(with more innocence than confidence)
I don’t mean nothin’ by it.  I just don’t know many regular girls, that’s all.

And you expect me to come over, just like that.

If I expected somethin’, I wouldn’t be still standin’ out here in the hall.

Loretta looks at him carefully.  She knows it’s not a line.

(with less resistance now)
I don’t even know you.

You know me.  I’m just like you…
It’s two in the morning and I don’t know nobody.

The two just stand there in silence a second.  There’s nothing more to say.  She stands back and lets him in.

Iris Murdoch on Plato’s Form of the Good,
by Joseph Malikail:

For Murdoch as for Plato, the Good belongs to Plato’s Realm of Being not the Realm of Becoming…. However, Murdoch does not read Plato as declaring his faith in a divine being when he says that the Good is

the universal author of all things beautiful and right, parent of light and the lord of light in the visible world, and the immediate source of reason and truth in the intellectual; and that this is the power upon which [one who] would act rationally either in public or private life must have his eyes fixed (Republic…).

Though she acknowledges the influence of Simone Weil in her reading of Plato, her understanding of Plato on Good and God is not Weil’s (1952, ch.7)*. For Murdoch,

Plato never identified his Form of the Good with God (the use of theos in the Republic… is a façon de parler), and this separation is for him an essential one. Religion is above the level of the ‘gods.’ There are no gods and no God either. Neo-Platonic thinkers made the identification (of God with good) possible; and the Judaeo-Christian tradition has made it easy and natural for us to gather together the aesthetic and consoling impression of Good as a person (1992, 38)**.

As she understands Plato:

The Form of the Good as creative power is not a Book of Genesis creator ex nihilo … Plato does not set up the Form of the Good as God, this would be absolutely un-Platonic, nor does he anywhere give the sign of missing or needing a real God to assist his explanations. On the contrary, Good is above the level of the gods or God (ibid., 475)**.

Mary Warnock, her friend and fellow-philosopher, sums up Murdoch’s metaphysical view of the Vision of the Good:

She [Murdoch] holds that goodness has a real though abstract existence in the world. The actual existence of goodness is, in her view, the way it is now possible to understand the idea of God.

Or as Murdoch herself puts it, ‘Good represents the reality of which God is the dream.’ (1992, 496)**”

*Weil, Simone. 1952. Intimations of Christianity Among The Ancient Greeks. Ark Paperbacks, 1987/1952.

**Murdoch, Iris. 1992. Metaphysics As A Guide To Morals. London: Chatto and Windus. 

From the conclusion of Lila,
by Robert M. Pirsig:

“Good is a noun. That was it. That was what Phaedrus had been looking for. That was the homer over the fence that ended the ballgame.”

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

John Bayley

Filed under: General — m759 @ 11:30 PM

Monday, September 16, 2013

Fleur de Derrida*

Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 9:08 AM

The above news item seems to exemplify Baudelaire's (and Murdoch's)
notion of contingency —

"La modernité, c’est le transitoire, le fugitif, le contingent, la moitié de l’art, dont l’autre moitié est l’éternel et l’immuable."

— Baudelaire, "Le Peintre de la Vie Moderne," IV (1863)

"By 'modernity' I mean the ephemeral, the fugitive, the contingent, the half of art whose other half is the eternal and the immutable."

— Baudelaire, "The Painter of Modern Life," IV (1863), translated by Jonathan Mayne (in 1964 Phaidon Press book of same title)

Thanks to the late Marshall Berman for pointing out this remark of Baudelaire.
(All That Is Solid Melts Into Air , Penguin edition of 1988, p. 133)

* For this post's title, see Language Game in this journal on 9/11,
   the morning of Berman's reported death.

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