Philosophy by Postcard: Iris Murdoch

In 2019 I contributed a ‘postcard’ to the Philosophy by Postcard-initiative to celebrate the centenary of the birth of writer and philosopher Iris Murdoch (1919–1999).1 The idea: anyone can send in a postcard with a (philosophy) question; others write in reply. The postcard I responded to, by a person identified as ‘Josie’, inquired about self-love. What is it? Is it even possible?

As it happened, I had spent much of the Summer of 2018 immersed in Murdoch’s letters, and this reply is (nearly?) entirely concocted from fragments of those.

Postcard with reply to question on self-love
Figure: The self-love reply postcard (not my handwriting, in case you were planning on doing some graphology!)


Dear Josie,
My dear creature, thanks for very nice card. What is this self we love, when we love selves? I should think it can’t be some isolated, egotistical crumb. My self is simply I, my doing things in the world. Loving selves, then, simply affirms as much: your (mine, our) being and agency. What keeps the body nurtured? What calms the mind, makes it see more clearly? What helps you step up to support others—a neighbour, social group, the earth? What pushes you forward creatively? (Write, write, write!), There self love springs.
Very much love,

Read the full postal interchange between Josie and myself on Philosophy by Postcard.

  1. The Philosophy by Postcard project is an initiative of the In Parenthesis group, ran by the magnificent Clare Mac Cumhaill & Rachael Wiseman↩︎