A Thomistic Critique of the Ethics of Alasdair MacIntyre

Dissertation, University of Central Florida (2014)

Alasdair MacIntyre argues in favor of a historicist Thomism in ethics and political philosophy. In his theory, sociological categories take up much of the space traditionally occupied by metaphysics. This peculiar feature of MacIntyre’s Thomism, and its merits and demerits, is already a subject that has been taken up by many critics. In this thesis, these criticisms are supplemented and unified by identifying what is perhaps the most fundamental difficulty with MacIntyre’s ethics: his version of Thomism is problematic because it treats epistemology as first philosophy. This misstep compromises MacIntyre’s ability to provide a defense of moral objectivity, while also undermining his theory’s usefulness in deriving moral rules. The result is an ethics of doubtful coherence. If Thomism is to offer a viable alternative to Enlightenment morality and Nietzschean genealogy, it must defend the priority of metaphysics with respect to epistemology.
Keywords Thomas Aquinas  Alasdair MacIntyre  Ethics  Metaphysics  Epistemology  Thomism
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