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Murdoch is in high style in this novel with an engaging story that keeps unfolding against a subtle background of moral philosophy. As in her other books she anchors twisty philosophical issues in a cunning narrative but for anyone with a minimal sense of the subject Murdoch provides both entertainment and enlightenment. For example, it doesn't take much to see that the disheveled, mainly anti-social philosopher of the title is based on Socrates,that the action, mainly set around a second-rate spa in Britain (known as the "Institute") registers the Greek-Roman focus on the town bath as the center of social life. etc. The plot goes a bit off the rails from time to time, and the book is too long for its own good, but I enjoyed it. The reading is very fine.
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