In the series Dialectics of the Sexes: no. 12

Du temps où je ne t’avais pas
J’amais la Nature comme un moine tranquille le Christ…

Fernando Pesssoa, Le berger amoureux


Obviously, then, from sources it has become clear that Iris Murdoch lusted for sex like ’t was porridge – or so the Dutch colloquial runs. Bailey, loyal spouse of the writer, philosopher and intensely adulterous Iris, commented gently:

The sexual act, after all, is inescapably ridiculous.

Now, this might be a matter of debate. Perhaps, one may not be able to dispute Beauty – after all, it resides in the eye of the beholder. Yet, a discussion on the quality of a work of art is certainly possible, provided the criteria used in the debate are drawn from those works.


Hans Bellmer – The Act

In the case of the sexual act we must acknowledge the possibility of certain couples ‘performing’ in a ridiculous manner, indeed. Other combines, however, could carry on in an admirably athletic, if not choreographic manner.

Whatever! The International New York Times saw fit to let one John Sutherland remark on the quote from courageous husband Bailey, given above, with the following:

The sexual act was anything but ridiculous for Iris Murdoch. Indeed, it may have been as important as writing itself.

Alas for Sutherland – unmistakably the lesser philosopher compared to Murdoch – something can be ultimately important, yet at the same time be ‘inescapably ridiculous’. Perhaps Iris, even during her bouts, may have laughed at her own indispensable physical shenanigans.

It must be said, though, that laughing does not benefit sexual excitement.

Sierksma, Haarlem 8.2.2016


Author: rjsiersk

Sierksma was born in Friesland, a 'county' in the northern part of the Netherlands with its own language which he does not speak and with an obstinate population to which he both belongs and does not belong. A retired Professor of Social Philosophy and Aesthetics, as a Harkness fellow he taught at Rutgers and Berkeley Universities in the USA, and at GUAmsterdam and TUDelft in the Netherlands. In 1991 he was awarded his PhD from Leiden University on the subject of 'Surveillance and Task: Labour Discipline between Utilitarianism and Pragmatism'. His books include Minima Memoria (1993), Lost View (2002 with Jan van Geest), and Litter Scent (2013). He has published poems and articles in Te Elfder Ure, Nynade, Oasis and the Architectural Annual. Half the year he lives in Haarlem, the other half he spends in la France Profonde, living ‘in his own words’ as the house out there was bought with the winnings from his essay Eternal Sin, written for the ECI Essay Prize (1993). In this blog, Sierksma's Sequences, written in English, he is peeping round his own and other people’s perspectives. Not easily satisfied with answers nor with questions, he turns his wry wit to a number of philosophical and historical issues. His aim in writing: to make parts of the world light up in his perspective - not my will, thine! Not being a thief, he has no cook, one wife, some children, one lover and three cats.

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