The decline of religion and ever increasing influence of science pose acute ethical issues for us all. Can we reject the literal truth of the Gospels yet still retain a Christian morality? Can we defend any 'moral values' against the constant encroachments of technology? Indeed, are we in danger of losing most of the qualities which make us truly human? Here, drawing on a novelists insight into art, literature and psychology, Iris Murdoch conducts an ongoing debate with major writers, thinkers and theologians - from Augustine to Wittgenstein, Shakespeare to Sartre, Plato to Derrida - to provide fresh and compelling answers to these crucial questions.
The most conspicuous citizens of our epoch, according to Murdoch, are ``demonic individuals,'' egoistic go-getters in pursuit of money, fame, power and sex. The English novelist-philosopher sketches a new morality that would end the compartmentalization of public from private, work from pleasure and aesthetic from ethical concerns. Plato's view of the cosmos, as Murdoch interprets it, speaks to our age and can help us forge a religion without a personal God. Religion should be ``demythologized,'' she urges, adding that religious thinking ought to incorporate the transcendental experiences of mystics, artists and poets. This dense, demanding treatise engages the ideas of Plato, Kant, Wittgenstein, Schopenhauer, Simone Weil, Nietzsche, Jung and structuralists. For diligent readers, it presents many riches as Murdoch ranges from Shakespearean tragedy to Martin Buber's philosophy and the nature of imagination.