Professor Megan Laverty to speak at Moral Philosophy Conference in Australia

Professor Megan Laverty

Professor Megan Laverty

by Tim Ignaffo

Megan Laverty, Associate Professor in the Philosophy and Education Program, has been invited to join other moral philosophers from around to world to participate in the “Moral Philosophy and its Discontents: New Perspectives on Ethical Thought” conference at Flinders University in Australia.

The conference is bringing together scholars in moral philosophy who take an atypical approach to the discipline. The aim of the conference is to explore moral thought in the broader sense that the work of these philosophers and many others invites by examining how it might feature in literature and art, how it might alter the practice of moral philosophy. From the announcement, “The conference will comprise paper presentations and two evening presentations on the Monday and Tuesday and a half-day intensive workshop on the morning of the Wednesday exploring the ideas and themes raised on the previous two days.”

In explaining the unique format of the conference, which will function almost like a think-tank on moral philosophy, Professor Laverty said “It’s also about solidarity, bringing together these people who are resisting a certain norm within the field of moral philosophy. Creating a space where we can talk to each other and enrich what we’re doing as individuals.” Professor Laverty added “It’s a great opportunity. I’m in awe of all of these people. I feel like I’m someone who should be in the audience, not presenting alongside them. To be a philosopher of education who’s been invited, feels like a significant compliment.”

Professor Laverty’s contribution fits within the context of the conference which is inspired by the work of Iris Murdoch. From the conference website: “moral thought is fundamentally about moral judgement… But as Iris Murdoch amongst others has noted, this conception of moral thought, like any other, is not morally neutral. As she observes, the particular phenomena that one initially picks out as calling for moral thought or reflection – which are themselves partly determined by what we take to be the point of such reflection – ‘shape our conception of the field of study.’ Murdoch responded to this by developing a neo-Platonic conception of moral understanding employing a metaphor of vision.”

Iris Murdoch by Ida Kar, bromide print, 1957, © National Portrait Gallery, London

Iris Murdoch by Ida Kar, bromide print, 1957, © National Portrait Gallery, London

As Professor Laverty explains, “For Murdoch, every moment has moral import. To be moral is to always be becoming moral. Murdoch was a philosopher of education in the sense that she was interested in human formation, in the context within which we become moral, in the way every relationship is pedagogical – in the the way one allows one’s character to be shaped by the other.”

Professor Laverty’s paper seeks to understand what Murdoch had in mind when she said that “every moment has a moral import.” Professor Laverty explains, “every moment is formative or educative in ways we might not appreciate at the time. Every moment has the potential to be miseducative. The way it works is not through concepts: friendship, love, peace, family.”

To flesh out the implications of Murdoch’s thought, Professor Laverty will put Murdoch’s ideas in conversation with other works, such as Villette by Charlotte Bronte, a novel that documents (the protagonist) Lucy Snowe’s becoming, and also explores teaching as a dialectical activity.

Professor Laverty is also the author of a book on Iris Murdoch’s moral philosophy, entitled In Iris Murdoch’s Ethics: A Consideration of Her Romantic Vision (Bloomsbury Academic, 2007).

To read more about the conference, please visit: