Alasdair MacIntyre explores some central philosophical, political and moral claims of modernity and argues that a proper understanding of human goods requires a rejection of these claims. In a wide-ranging discussion, he considers how normative and evaluative judgments are to be understood, how desire and practical reasoning are to be characterized, what it is to have adequate self-knowledge, and what part narrative plays in our understanding of human lives. He asks, further, what it would be to understand the modern condition (...) from a neo-Aristotelian or Thomistic perspective, and argues that Thomistic Aristotelianism, informed by Marx's insights, provides us with resources for constructing a contemporary politics and ethics which both enable and require us to act against modernity from within modernity. This rich and important book builds on and advances MacIntyre's thinking in ethics and moral philosophy, and will be of great interest to readers in both fields. (shrink)
"Every word, like a sacred object, has its place. No _précis_ is possible. This extraordinary book must be read."—Edmund Carpenter, _New York Times Book Review _ "No outline is possible; I can only say that reading this book is a most exciting intellectual exercise in which dialectic, wit, and imagination combine to stimulate and provoke at every page."—Edmund Leach, _Man _ "Lévi-Strauss's books are tough: very scholarly, very dense, very rapid in argument. But once you have mastered him, human history (...) can never be the same, nor indeed can one's view of contemporary society. And his latest book, _The Savage Mind_, is his most comprehensive and certainly his most profound. Everyone interested in the history of ideas _must_ read it; everyone interested in human institutions _should _read it."—J. H. Plumb, _Saturday Review_ "A constantly stimulating, informative and suggestive intellectual challenge."—Geoffrey Gorer, _The Observer_, London. (shrink)
Imagine first the case of J (who might be anybody, jemand). J used to inhabit a social order, or rather an area within a social order, where socially approved roles were unusually well-defined. Responsibilities were allocated to each such role and each sphere of role-structured activity was clearly demarcated. These allocations and demarcations were embodied in and partly constituted by the expectations that others had learned to have of those who occupied each such role. For those who occupied those roles (...) to disappoint those expectations by failing to discharge their assigned responsibilities was to invite severe disapproval and other sanctions. To refuse to find one's place within the hierarchies of approved roles, or to have been refused a place, because judged unfit for any such role, was to be classified as socially deviant and irresponsible. The key moral concepts that education had inculcated into J were concepts of duty and responsibility. His fundamental moral beliefs were that each of us owes it to others to perform her or his assigned duties and to discharge her or his assigned responsibilities. A good human being performs those duties, discharges those responsibilities, and does not trespass into areas that are not her or his concern. A philosopher who comes across the likes of J will understand his attitudes as cultural parodies, in part of Plato (conceiving of justice as requiring ‘that each do her or his own work and not meddle with many things’ Republic 433a) and in part of Kant (doing one's duty just because it is one's duty and not for the sake of any further end), authors who had influenced J's school teachers. A sociologist will entertain the suspicion that in certain types of social order it may be only in the form of parodies that some types of concept can continue to find expression. But for the moment let us put this thought on one side and return to J. (shrink)
Alasdair MacIntyre has written a selective history of the Catholic philosophical tradition, designed to show how belief in God informed and informs philosophical enquiry in different historical and social settings.
What is an epistemological crisis? Consider, first, the situation of ordinary agents who are thrown into such crises. Someone who has believed that he was highly valued by his employers and colleagues is suddenly fired; someone proposed for membership of a club whose members were all, so he believed, close friends is blackballed. Or someone falls in love and needs to know what the loved one really feels; someone falls out of love and needs to know how he or she (...) can possibly have been so mistaken in the other. For all such persons the relationship of seems to is becomes crucial. It is in such situations that ordinary agents who have never learned anything about academic philosophy are apt to rediscover for themselves versions of the other-minds problem and the problem of the justification of induction. They discover, that is, that there is a problem about the rational justification of inferences from premises about the behaviour of other people to conclusions about their thoughts, feelings, and attitudes and of inferences from premises about how individuals have acted in the past to conclusions expressed as generalizations about their behaviour - generalizations which would enable us to make reasonably reliable predications about their future behaviour. What they took to be evidence pointing unambiguously in some one direction now turns out to have been equally susceptible of rival interpretations. Such a discovery is often paralysing, and were we all of us all of the time to have to reckon with the multiplicity of possible interpretations open to us, social life as we know it could scarcely continue. For social life is sustained by the assumption that we are, by and large, able to construe each other's behaviour - that error, deception, self-deception, irony and ambiguity, although omnipresent in social life, are not so pervasive as to render reliable reasoning and reasonable action impossible. But can this assumption in any way be vindicated? (shrink)
A Short History of Ethics has over the past thirty years become a key philosophical contribution to studies on morality and ethics. Alasdair MacIntyre writes a new preface for this second edition which looks at the book 'thirty years on' and considers its impact. A Short History of Ethics guides the reader through the history of moral philosophy from the Greeks to contemporary times. MacIntyre emphasises the importance of a historical context to moral concepts and ideas showing the relevance of (...) philosophical queries on moral concepts and the importance of a historical account of ethics. A Short History of Ethics is an important contribution written by one of the most important living philosophers. Ideal for all philosophy students interested in ethics and morality. (shrink)
We give a definition, in the ring language, of Zp inside Qp and of Fp[[t]] inside Fp), which works uniformly for all p and all finite field extensions of these fields, and in many other Henselian valued fields as well. The formula can be taken existential-universal in the ring language, and in fact existential in a modification of the language of Macintyre. Furthermore, we show the negative result that in the language of rings there does not exist a uniform definition (...) by an existential formula and neither by a universal formula for the valuation rings of all the finite extensions of a given Henselian valued field. We also show that there is no existential formula of the ring language defining Zp inside Qp uniformly for all p. For any fixed finite extension of Qp, we give an existential formula and a universal formula in the ring language which define the valuation ring. (shrink)
When _After Virtue_ first appeared in 1981, it was recognized as a significant and potentially controversial critique of contemporary moral philosophy. _Newsweek _called it “a stunning new study of ethics by one of the foremost moral philosophers in the English-speaking world.” Since that time, the book has been translated into more than fifteen foreign languages and has sold over one hundred thousand copies. Now, twenty-five years later, the University of Notre Dame Press is pleased to release the third edition of (...) _After Virtue_, which includes a new prologue “_After Virtue_ after a Quarter of a Century.” In this classic work, Alasdair MacIntyre examines the historical and conceptual roots of the idea of virtue, diagnoses the reasons for its absence in personal and public life, and offers a tentative proposal for its recovery. While the individual chapters are wide-ranging, once pieced together they comprise a penetrating and focused argument about the price of modernity. In the Third Edition prologue, MacIntyre revisits the central theses of the book and concludes that although he has learned a great deal and has supplemented and refined his theses and arguments in other works, he has “as yet found no reason for abandoning the major contentions” of this book. While he recognizes that his conception of human beings as virtuous or vicious needed not only a metaphysical but also a biological grounding, ultimately he remains “committed to the thesis that it is only from the standpoint of a very different tradition, one whose beliefs and presuppositions were articulated in their classical form by Aristotle, that we can understand both the genesis and the predicament of moral modernity.”. (shrink)
‘Applied ethics’, as that expression is now used, is a single rubric for a large range of different theoretical and practical activities. Such rubrics function partly as a protective device both within the academic community and outside it; a name of this kind suggests not just a discipline, but a particular type of discipline. In the case of ‘applied ethics’ the suggestive power of the name derives from a particular conception of the relationship of ethics to what goes on under (...) the rubric of ‘applied ethics’. Not everyone who conducts activities under that rubric owes allegiance to this conception and there are doubtless some who would repudiate it as strongly as I do. But it is that dominant conception from which most work in this area derives or aspires to derive its philosophical legitimacy. What is that conception? (shrink)
Against theses of Bernard Williams and Bas C. van Fraassen, it is argued that there are no facts about moral dilemmas, characterizable independently of any moral theory. It is further argued that any adequate theory which denies that there are genuine moral dilemmas must provide a convincing account of how and why moral agents take themselves to be in dilemmatic situations. The ability of rationalist theories, which deny that genuine moral dilemmas occur, to provide such account is examined. Aquinas's contribution (...) receives particular attention. (shrink)
Edith Stein lived an unconventional life. Born into a devout Jewish family, she drifted into atheism in her mid teens, took up the study of philosophy, studied with Edmund Husserl, the founder of phenomenology, became a pioneer in the women's movement in Germany, a military nurse in World War I, converted from atheism to Catholic Christianity, became a Carmelite nun, was murdered at Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1942, and canonized by Pope John Paul II.
The article considers the problem of actions–beliefs link. As author shows, the widespread approach in social science, those origins can be traced back to Hume and Mill and which tries to reveal the causal relations between beliefs and actions, is mistaken. It is mistaken because it proposes that, firstly, beliefs and actions are distinct and separately identifiable social phenomena and, secondly, causal connection consists in constant conjunction. MacIntyre, instead, proposes, taking as a starting point the distinction between physical movement and (...) human action, to consider the actions–beliefs link in terms of the descriptions which the action should correspond to. If we, on being asked for an explanation of what we have done, refer it to an antecedent condition of a Humean kind, we precisely remove it from the class of actions and assign it to, most probably, the class of physical movements. To explain behavior as a genuinely human action, an explanation must refer to the customarily recognized rules of a particular social order. This presupposes that action must fall under some description which is socially recognizable as the description of an action; an action must fall under a description and my actions under a description available to me; and agent can do only what he/she can describe. As an illustration of his approach, author examines the role of Stalin’s philosophical work “Dialectical and historical materialism” in the process of the ideological “closing” of Soviet society. (shrink)