MacIntyre’s Contemporary Aristotelianism: Aristotelianism as a Tradition

Phainomena 72:153-165 (2010)
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Since the 1980’s, a key issue in political philosophy has been the debate between communitarian philosophers, such as Alasdair MacIntyre, Michael Sandel, Michael Walzer and Charles Taylor, and those who support forms of liberal individualism, such as that found in Rawls’s Theory of Justice. In this debate, reference has quite often been made to Aristotle. This is particularly so in the case of Alasdair MacIntyre, who is frequently seen as presenting a neo-Aristotelian view. Nevertheless, it is not clear whether MacIntyre always presents a plausible interpretation of Aristotle’s arguments. What is most important concerns the historical foundations of the concept of the Aristotelian tradition. If, as I argue in this paper, MacIntyre articulates an unhistorical view of what he calls the ‘Aristotelian tradition’, then his is a forced view of methodology that must fail. However, if this ‘embedded’, historicist methodology fails, then MacIntyre’s argument loses its strength. He would have to support it by using rationalistic methodology, since all his historicist methodology is unhistorical, but this would mean using argumentative resources that he does not have, since he has rejected the possibility that philosophical theory must be based on recognised first principles available to us all.



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Eleni Leontsini
University of Ioannina

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