Alasdair MacIntyre

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Alasdair MacIntyre
Alasdair MacIntyre.jpg
MacIntyre in 2009
Born (1929-01-12) 12 January 1929 (age 90)
Glasgow, Scotland
Alma mater Queen Mary College, London
University of Manchester
University of Oxford
Notable work
After Virtue (1981)
Era Contemporary philosophy
Region Western philosophy
School Analytic philosophy
Aretaic turn
Thomism
Communitarianism
Main interests
Notable ideas
  • Revival of virtue ethics
  • internal and external goods
  • rationality of traditions

Alasdair Chalmers MacIntyre ( /ˈæləstər/ ; born 1929) is a Scottish philosopher, primarily known for his contribution to moral and political philosophy, but also known for his work in history of philosophy and theology. [2] MacIntyre's After Virtue (1981) is widely recognised as one of the most important works of Anglophone moral and political philosophy in the 20th century. [3] He is senior research fellow at the Centre for Contemporary Aristotelian Studies in Ethics and Politics (CASEP) at London Metropolitan University, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, and Permanent Senior Distinguished Research Fellow at the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture. [4] During his lengthy academic career, he also taught at Brandeis University, Duke University, Vanderbilt University, and Boston University.

Political philosophy sub-discipline of philosophy and political science

Political philosophy, also known as political theory, is the study of topics such as politics, liberty, justice, property, rights, law, and the enforcement of laws by authority: what they are, if they are needed, what makes a government legitimate, what rights and freedoms it should protect, what form it should take, what the law is, and what duties citizens owe to a legitimate government, if any, and when it may be legitimately overthrown, if ever.

<i>After Virtue</i> Book by philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre

After Virtue is a book on moral philosophy by Alasdair MacIntyre. MacIntyre provides a bleak view of the state of modern moral discourse, regarding it as failing to be rational, and failing to admit to being irrational. He claims that older forms of moral discourse were in better shape, particularly singling out Aristotle's moral philosophy as an exemplar. After Virtue is among the most important texts in the recent revival of virtue ethics.

London Metropolitan University

London Metropolitan University, commonly known as London Met, is a public research university in London, England. The University of North London and London Guildhall University merged in 2002 to create the university. With roots going back to 1848, it is one of London's oldest educational institutions.

Contents

Biography

MacIntyre was born on 12 January 1929 in Glasgow, to Eneas and Greta (Chalmers) MacIntyre. He was educated at Queen Mary, University of London, and has a Master of Arts degree from the University of Manchester and from the University of Oxford. He began his teaching career in 1951 at Manchester. [5] He taught at the University of Leeds, the University of Essex and the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, before moving to the US in around 1969. MacIntyre has been something of an intellectual nomad, having taught at many universities in the US. He has held the following positions:

Glasgow City and council area in Scotland

Glasgow is the most populous city in Scotland, and the third most populous city in the United Kingdom, as of the 2017 estimated city population of 621,020. Historically part of Lanarkshire, the city now forms the Glasgow City council area, one of the 32 council areas of Scotland; the local authority is Glasgow City Council. Glasgow is situated on the River Clyde in the country's West Central Lowlands. Inhabitants of the city are referred to as "Glaswegians" or "Weegies". It is the fourth most visited city in the UK. Glasgow is also known for the Glasgow patter, a distinct dialect of the Scots language that is noted for being difficult to understand by those from outside the city.

A Master of Arts is a person who was admitted to a type of master's degree awarded by universities in many countries, and the degree is also named Master of Arts in colloquial speech. The degree is usually contrasted with the Master of Science. Those admitted to the degree typically study linguistics, history, communication studies, diplomacy, public administration, political science, or other subjects within the scope of the humanities and social sciences; however, different universities have different conventions and may also offer the degree for fields typically considered within the natural sciences and mathematics. The degree can be conferred in respect of completing courses and passing examinations, research, or a combination of the two.

Victoria University of Manchester British university (1851-2004)

The former Victoria University of Manchester, now the University of Manchester, was founded in 1851 as Owens College. In 1880, the college joined the federal Victoria University, gaining an independent university charter in 1904 as the Victoria University of Manchester after the collapse of the federal university.

Brandeis University private research university in Waltham, Massachusetts

Brandeis University is an American private research university in Waltham, Massachusetts, 9 miles (14 km) west of Boston. Founded in 1948 as a non-sectarian, coeducational institution sponsored by the Jewish community, Brandeis was established on the site of the former Middlesex University. The university is named after Louis Brandeis, the first Jewish Justice of the U.S Supreme Court.

Boston University private research university in Boston, Massachusetts, United States

Boston University is a private research university in Boston, Massachusetts. The university is nonsectarian, but has been historically affiliated with the United Methodist Church.

Henry Luce American publisher

Henry Robinson Luce was an American magazine magnate who was called "the most influential private citizen in the America of his day". He launched and closely supervised a stable of magazines that transformed journalism and the reading habits of millions of Americans. Time summarized and interpreted the week's news; Life was a picture magazine of politics, culture, and society that dominated American visual perceptions in the era before television; Fortune reported on national and international business; and Sports Illustrated explored the world of sports. Counting his radio projects and newsreels, Luce created the first multimedia corporation. He envisaged that the United States would achieve world hegemony, and, in 1941, he declared the 20th century would be the "American Century".

He has also been a visiting professor at Princeton University, and is a former president of the American Philosophical Association. In 2010, he was awarded the Aquinas Medal by the American Catholic Philosophical Association.

Princeton University University in Princeton, New Jersey

Princeton University is a private Ivy League research university in Princeton, New Jersey. Founded in 1746 in Elizabeth as the College of New Jersey, Princeton is the fourth-oldest institution of higher education in the United States and one of the nine colonial colleges chartered before the American Revolution. The institution moved to Newark in 1747, then to the current site nine years later, and renamed itself Princeton University in 1896.

The American Philosophical Association (APA) is the main professional organization for philosophers in the United States. Founded in 1900, its mission is to promote the exchange of ideas among philosophers, to encourage creative and scholarly activity in philosophy, to facilitate the professional work and teaching of philosophers, and to represent philosophy as a discipline.

The American Catholic Philosophical Association (ACPA) is an organization of Catholic philosophers established in 1926 to promote the advancement of philosophy as an intellectual discipline consonant with Catholic tradition. Among the means used to achieve this objective, the organization strives to develop philosophical scholarship, to improve the teaching of philosophy, and to communicate with other individuals and groups with similar aims. The organization sponsors an annual conference and several scholarly publications, including a peer-reviewed journal, American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly, and the Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association. Individual and institutional members of the ACPA receive online access to all ACPA publications as a benefit of membership.

From 2000 he was the Rev. John A. O'Brien Senior Research Professor in the Department of Philosophy (emeritus since 2010) at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, US. He is also professor emerit and emeritus at Duke University. In April 2005 he was elected to the American Philosophical Society, and in July 2010 became senior research fellow at London Metropolitan University's Centre for Contemporary Aristotelian Studies in Ethics and Politics. Since his retirement from active teaching in 2010, he remains the senior distinguished research fellow of the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture, [6] where he retains an office. He continues to make public presentations, including an annual keynote as part of the Center for Ethics and Culture's Fall Conference. [7]

University of Notre Dame Private Catholic university in Notre Dame, Indiana, United States

The University of Notre Dame du Lac is a private Catholic research university in Notre Dame, Indiana. The main campus covers 1,261 acres (510 ha) in a suburban setting and it contains a number of recognizable landmarks, such as the Golden Dome, the Word of Life mural, the Notre Dame Stadium, and the Basilica. The school was founded on November 26, 1842, by Edward Sorin, who was also its first president.

Indiana State of the United States of America

Indiana is a U.S. state in the Midwestern and Great Lakes regions of North America. Indiana is the 38th-largest by area and the 17th-most populous of the 50 United States. Its capital and largest city is Indianapolis. Indiana was admitted to the United States as the 19th U.S. state on December 11, 1816. Indiana borders Lake Michigan to the northwest, Michigan to the north, Ohio to the east, Kentucky to the south and southeast, and Illinois to the west.

Duke University Private university in Durham, North Carolina, United States

Duke University is a private research university in Durham, North Carolina. Founded by Methodists and Quakers in the present-day town of Trinity in 1838, the school moved to Durham in 1892. In 1924, tobacco and electric power industrialist James Buchanan Duke established The Duke Endowment and the institution changed its name to honor his deceased father, Washington Duke.

He has been married three times. From 1953 to 1963 he was married to Ann Peri, with whom he had two daughters. From 1963 to 1977 he was married to former teacher and now poet Susan Willans, with whom he had a son and daughter. Since 1977 he has been married to philosopher Lynn Joy, who is also on the philosophy faculty at Notre Dame.

Philosophical approach

MacIntyre's approach to moral philosophy interweaves a number of complex strands. Although he largely aims to revive an Aristotelian moral philosophy based on the virtues, he claims a "peculiarly modern understanding" of this task. [8]

This "peculiarly modern understanding" largely concerns MacIntyre's approach to moral disputes. Unlike some analytic philosophers who try to generate moral consensus on the basis of rationality, MacIntyre uses the historical development of ethics to circumvent the modern problem of "incommensurable" moral notions, whose merits cannot be compared in any common framework. Following Hegel and Collingwood, he offers a "philosophical history" (as opposed to analytical and phenomenological approaches) in which he concedes from the beginning that "there are no neutral standards available by appeal to which any rational agent whatsoever could determine" the conclusions of moral philosophy. [9]

In his most famous work, After Virtue , he deprecates the attempt of Enlightenment thinkers to deduce a universal rational morality independent of teleology, whose failure led to the rejection of moral rationality altogether by successors such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Charles Stevenson. He emphasizes how this overestimation of reason led to Nietzsche's utter repudiation of the possibility of moral rationality. [10]

By contrast, MacIntyre attempts to reclaim more modest forms of moral rationality and argumentation which claim neither finality nor logical certainty, but which can hold up against relativistic or emotivist denials of any moral rationality whatsoever (the mistaken conclusion of Nietzsche, Sartre, and Stevenson). He revives the tradition of Aristotelian ethics with its teleological account of the good and of moral actions, as fulfilled in the medieval writings of Thomas Aquinas. This Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition, he proposes, presents "the best theory so far," both of how things are and how we ought to act.

More generally, according to MacIntyre, moral disputes always take place within and between rival traditions of thought relying on an inherited store of ideas, presuppositions, types of arguments and shared understandings and approaches. Even though there is no definitive way for one tradition in moral philosophy to logically refute another, nevertheless opposing views can dispute each others' internal coherence, resolution of imaginative dilemmas and epistemic crises, and achievement of fruitful results. [11]

Major writings

After Virtue (1981)

Probably his most widely read work, After Virtue was written when MacIntyre was already in his fifties. Up to then, MacIntyre had been a relatively influential analytic philosopher of Marxist bent whose moral inquiries had been conducted in a "piecemeal way, focusing first on this problem and then on that, in a mode characteristic of much analytic philosophy." [12] However, after reading the works of Thomas Kuhn and Imre Lakatos on philosophy of science and epistemology, MacIntyre was inspired to change the entire direction of his thought, tearing up the manuscript he had been working on and deciding to view the problems of modern moral and political philosophy "not from the standpoint of liberal modernity, but instead from the standpoint of… Aristotelian moral and political practice." [13]

In general terms, the task of After Virtue is to account both for the dysfunction of modern moral discourse in modern society and to rehabilitate the alternative of teleological rationality in Aristotelian virtue ethics. MacIntyre's philipic articulates a politics of self-defence for local communities who aspire to protect their traditional way of life from the corrosive capitalist free market. [14]

Whose Justice? Which Rationality? (1988)

MacIntyre's second major work of his mature period takes up the problem of giving an account of philosophical rationality within the context of his notion of "traditions," which had still remained under-theorized in After Virtue. Specifically, MacIntyre argues that rival and largely incompatible conceptions of justice are the outcome of rival and largely incompatible forms of practical rationality. These competing forms of practical rationality and their attendant ideas of justice are in turn the result of "socially embodied traditions of rational inquiry." [15] Although MacIntyre's treatment of traditions is quite complex he does give a relatively concise definition: "A tradition is an argument extended through time in which certain fundamental agreements are defined and redefined" in terms of both internal and external debates. [16]

Much of Whose Justice? Which Rationality? is therefore engaged in the task of not only giving the reader examples of what MacIntyre considers actual rival traditions and the different ways they can split apart, integrate, or defeat one another (e.g. Aristotelian, Augustinian, Thomist, Humean) but also with substantiating how practical rationality and a conception of justice help constitute those traditions. Specifically, according to him, the differing accounts of justice that are presented by Aristotle and Hume are due to the underlying differences in their conceptual schemes. [17] [18] [19] MacIntyre argues that despite their incommensurability there are various ways in which alien traditions might engage one another rationally – most especially via a form of immanent critique which makes use of empathetic imagination to then put the rival tradition into "epistemic crisis" but also by being able to solve shared or analogous problems and dilemmas from within one's own tradition which remain insoluble from the rival approach. [20]

MacIntyre's account also defends three further theses: first, that all rational human inquiry is conducted whether knowingly or not from within a tradition; second, that the incommensurable conceptual schemes of rival traditions do not entail either relativism or perspectivism; third, that although the arguments of the book are themselves attempts at universally valid insights they are nevertheless given from within a particular tradition (that of Thomist Aristotelianism) and that this need not imply any philosophical inconsistency.

Three Rival Versions of Moral Inquiry (1990)

Three Rival Versions of Moral Inquiry was first presented by MacIntyre as part of the Gifford lecture series at the University of Edinburgh in 1988 and is considered by many the third part in a trilogy of philosophical argumentation that commenced with After Virtue. As its title implies, MacIntyre's aim in this book is to examine three major rival traditions of moral inquiry on the intellectual scene today (encyclopaedic, genealogical and traditional) which each in turn was given defence from a canonical piece published in the late nineteenth century (the Ninth Edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica , Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals and Pope Leo XIII's Aeterni Patris , respectively). MacIntyre's book ultimately conducts a complex series of both interior and exterior critiques of the encyclopaedic and genealogical positions in an attempt to vindicate philosophical Thomism as the most persuasive form of moral inquiry currently on offer. His critique in chapter IX of Nietzsche's and Foucault's genealogical mode as implicitly committed to an emancipatory and continuous notion of self which they cannot account for on their own terms has been of particular influence.

Dependent Rational Animals (1999)

While After Virtue attempted to give an account of the virtues exclusively by recourse to social practices and the understanding of individual selves in light of "quests" and "traditions," Dependent Rational Animals was a self-conscious effort by MacIntyre to ground virtues in an account of biology. MacIntyre writes the following of this shift in the preface to the book: "Although there is indeed good reason to repudiate important elements in Aristotle's biology, I now judge that I was in error in supposing an ethics independent of biology to be possible." [21]

More specifically, Dependent Rational Animals tries to make a holistic case on the basis of our best current knowledge (as opposed to an ahistorical, foundational claim) that "human vulnerability and disability" are the "central features of human life" and that Thomistic "virtues of dependency" are needed for individual human beings to flourish in their passage from stages of infancy to adulthood and old age. [13] As MacIntyre puts it:

It is most often to others that we owe our survival, let alone our flourishing ... It will be a central thesis of this book that the virtues that we need, if we are to develop from our animal condition into that of independent rational agents, and the virtues that we need, if we are to confront and respond to vulnerability and disability both in ourselves and in others, belong to one and the same set of virtues, the distinctive virtues of dependent rational animals [22]

Engaging with scientific texts on human biology as well as works of philosophical anthropology, MacIntyre identifies the human species as existing on a continuous scale of both intelligence and dependency with other animals such as dolphins. One of his main goals is to undermine what he sees as the fiction of the disembodied, independent reasoner who determines ethical and moral questions autonomously and what he calls the "illusion of self-sufficiency" that runs through much of Western ethics culminating in Nietzsche's Übermensch . [23] In its place he tries to show that our embodied dependencies are a definitive characteristic of our species and reveal the need for certain kinds of virtuous dispositions if we are ever to flourish into independent reasoners capable of weighing the intellectual intricacies of moral philosophy in the first place.

Virtue ethics

MacIntyre is a key figure in the recent surge of interest in virtue ethics, which identifies the central question of morality as having to do with the habits and knowledge concerning how to live a good life. His approach seeks to demonstrate that good judgment emanates from good character. Being a good person is not about seeking to follow formal rules. In elaborating this approach, MacIntyre understands himself to be reworking the Aristotelian idea of an ethical teleology.

MacIntyre emphasises the importance of moral goods defined in respect to a community engaged in a 'practice'—which he calls 'internal goods' or 'goods of excellence'—rather than focusing on practice-independent obligation of a moral agent (deontological ethics) or the consequences of a particular act (utilitarianism). Before its recent resurgence, virtue ethics in European/American academia had been primarily associated with pre-modern philosophers (e.g. Plato, Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas). MacIntyre has argued that Aquinas' synthesis of Augustinianism with Aristotelianism is more insightful than modern moral theories by focusing upon the telos ('end', or completion) of a social practice and of a human life, within the context of which the morality of acts may be evaluated. His seminal work in the area of virtue ethics can be found in his 1981 book, After Virtue .

MacIntyre intends the idea of virtue to supplement, rather than replace, moral rules. Indeed, he describes certain moral rules as 'exceptionless' or unconditional. MacIntyre considers his work to be outside "virtue ethics" due to his affirmation of virtues as embedded in specific, historically grounded, social practices. [24]

Politics

Politically, MacIntyre's ethics informs a defence of the Aristotelian 'goods of excellence' internal to practices against the modern pursuit of 'external goods', such as money, power, and status, that are characteristic of rule-based, utilitarian, Weberian modern institutions. He has been described as a 'revolutionary Aristotelian' because of his attempt to combine historical insights from his Marxist past with those of Aquinas and Aristotle after his conversion to Catholicism. For him, liberalism and postmodern consumerism not only justify capitalism but sustain and inform it over the long term. At the same time, he says, "Marxists have always fallen back into relatively straightforward versions of Kantianism or utilitarianism"[ citation needed ] and criticises Marxism as just another form of radical individualism, saying about Marxists, "as they move towards power they always tend to become Weberians." Informed by this critique, Aristotelianism loses its sense of elitist complacency; moral excellence ceases to be part of a particular, historical practice in ancient Greece and becomes a universal quality of those who understand that good judgment emanates from good character. It has been argued that MacIntyre's thought is unable to provide a coherent and effective model for a justifiable and politically stable political order, due to its neglect of political theology. [25]

In the 1950s/1960s, MacIntyre was a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain (leaving in 1956), briefly of the Socialist Labour League, and later of the Socialist Review Group/International Socialists. [26]

Religion

MacIntyre converted to Roman Catholicism in the early 1980s, and now does his work against the background of what he calls an "Augustinian Thomist approach to moral philosophy." [27] In an interview with Prospect , MacIntyre explains that his conversion to Catholicism occurred in his fifties as a "result of being convinced of Thomism while attempting to disabuse his students of its authenticity." [28] Also, in his book Whose Justice, Which Rationality? there is a section towards the end that is perhaps autobiographical when he explains how one is chosen by a tradition and may reflect his own conversion to Roman Catholicism. [29] Parallel recent developments in the methods of philosophical research, which carry resonances with MacIntyre's take on Thomism, are witnessed with a modern approach to Avicennism (the historical legacies that were built upon the philosophy of Avicenna or Ibn Sina) as embodied in the works of Nader El-Bizri in connection with Islam, even though the orientation is phenomenological instead of being analytic, and the focus is on ontology rather than moral philosophy.

Fuller accounts of MacIntyre's view of the relationship between philosophy and religion in general and Thomism and Catholicism in particular can be found in his essays "Philosophy recalled to its tasks" and "Truth as a good" (both found in the collection The Tasks of Philosophy) as well as in the survey of the Catholic philosophical tradition he gives in God, Philosophy and Universities. [30]

Bibliography

See also

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References

  1. "Christian Smith". Science of Generosity. Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  2. Kelvin Knight, The MacIntyre Reader, Notre Dame Press, 1998, "Interview with Giovanna Borradori," 255–256.
  3. Lackey, 1999, "What Are the Modern Classics? The Baruch Poll of Great Philosophy in the Twentieth Century", The Philosophical Forum, Vol. 30, Issue 4.
  4. Research fellows, Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture.
  5. Hauerwas, Stanley (October 2007). "The Virtues of Alasdair MacIntyre". First Things. Retrieved 16 June 2014.
  6. "Permanent Senior Distinguished Research Fellows // De Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture // University of Notre Dame".
  7. Fall Conference, Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture.
  8. After Virtue, (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 3rd edn, 2007) xii.
  9. After Virtue, 3, xiii.
  10. After Virtue, 257
  11. After Virtue, xii–xiii
  12. The Tasks of Philosophy: Selected Essays, Vol. 1 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006) viii
  13. 1 2 The Tasks of Philosophy: Selected Essays, Vol. 1, viii.
  14. Blackledge, Paul; Knight, Kelvin (15 June 2011). Virtue and Politics: Alasdair MacIntyre's Revolutionary Aristotelianism. University of Notre Dame Press. p. 31. ISBN   978-0-268-02225-9 . Retrieved 21 December 2012.
  15. "Précis of Whose Justice? Which Rationality?" in MacIntyre Reader, ed. Kelvin Knight (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1998) 107.
  16. Whose Justice? Which Rationality? (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1988) 12.
  17. MacIntyre, A. (1991). "Précis of Whose Justice? Which Rationality?". Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. 51 (1): 149–152. doi:10.2307/2107828. JSTOR   2107828.
  18. Annas, J. (1989). "Whose Justice? Which Rationality". Philosophy and Public Affairs. 18 (4): 388–404. JSTOR   2265479.
  19. Mathie, W. (1988). "Whose Justice? Which Rationality?". Canadian Journal of Political Science. 21 (4): 873–875. JSTOR   3228938.
  20. Whose Justice? Which Rationality?, 361–362.
  21. Dependent Rational Animals (Chicago: Carus Publishing, 1999) x
  22. Dependent Rational Animals, 1, 5
  23. Dependent Rational Animals, 127
  24. MacIntyre, “On having survived the academic moral philosophy of the twentieth century”, lecture of March 2009
  25. Kozinski, Thaddeus J (2010). The Political Problem of Religious Pluralism: And Why Philosophers Can't Solve It. Lexington Books. p. 13. ISBN   978-0-7391-4168-7 . Retrieved 18 April 2013.
  26. "Sects & New left disillusionment", The weekly worker.
  27. Solomon, David. "Lecture 9: After Virtue". Twentieth-century ethics. International Catholic University. Archived from the original on 11 January 2010. Retrieved 2 July 2007.
  28. "Alastair MacIntyre", Prospect, October 2010.
  29. Whose Justice, Which Rationality? 1988, pp. 393–95.
  30. The Tasks of Philosophy: Selected Essays, Vol. 1 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006); God, Philosophy and Universities (Plymouth, UK: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2009)

Further reading

Interviews with MacIntyre