The virtue of history: Alasdair maclntyre and the rationality of narrative

Philosophy and Social Criticism 24 (1):43-61 (1998)
Abstract
Maclntyre's critique of modern moral theory is supported by a theory of narrative in turn premised on a discontinuous reading of history. Thought through to the end, historical discontinuity redefines objectivity according to the rules of the particular context in which it appears. This claim both founds Maclntyre's intervention in moral debate and troubles that intervention from within. Against his opponents, he claims to have the argument most in accord with the rules of our context; Maclntyre's narra tivity is thus universalistic within the post-Enlightenment context. But contrary to his own tendency and occasional statements, that same com mitment to contextuality deprives him of the possibility of a final, secure position. This tension within Maclntyre's argument better expresses his theory of contextuality than does the specific direction he wishes to take it in: narrativity can be considered to embody an instability essential to not only moral debate but also moral identity. Key Words: Aristotle • . context • Maclntyre • narrative • rationality • relativism • Spinoza • tradition • universalism.
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