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after-virtue alasdair macintyreA crucial turning point in that earlier history occurred when men and women of good will turned aside from the task of shoring up the Roman imperium and ceased to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of that imperium. What they set themselves to achieve instead…was the construction of new forms of community within which the moral life could be sustained so that both morality and civility might survive the coming ages of barbarism and darkness. If my account of our moral condition is correct, we ought also to conclude that for some time now we too have reached that turning point…This time, however, the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament. We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another — doubtless quite different — St. Benedict. –After Virtue

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4 replies to this post
  1. Might anyone here please comment on MacIntyre, particularly on his 'Dependent Rational Animals' (1999) where it appears that he links the needs of animal social behaviour with human tradition? (apologies if I have got this wrong)

    I recall the joy with which his 1970 book on Marcuse was received. Marcuse, an object of some merry mockery by Dr Kirk, is largely forgotten now but was a somewhat terrifying Marxist in his day, famous for his theory of 'repressive tolerance,' which contended that Western liberty was a form of oppression in that it distracted people from the bigger issue of class struggle. MacIntyre, I was told, was selected to write up Marcuse because of his own Marxist credentials, but which he had abandoned some years before in favour of something more Aristotilean and Thomist (he says he was converted while trying to refute St Thomas Aquinas in the 50s). What resulted, some philosophers tell me, was one of modern philosophy's most relentless and accurate 'hatchet-jobs' ever written, reducing Marcuse to little more than scraps.

  2. A sonnet I wrote after reading "Dependent Rational Animals"

    EX NIHILO (Out of Nothing)

    How much a nestling needs a parent's care
    To feed it till its downy feathers fill,
    Allowing it to take itself to air!
    We human bipeds need much longer still

    To find our way onto the world's wide stage.
    (And when we do, we're hardly on our own.)
    Though we may enter sturdy middle age,
    The needs we have we can't fill all alone.

    And hardships, sickness, pains and handicaps
    May weigh our actions down and hold us back.
    They seem so very negative, perhaps,
    If we but look upon the things we lack!

    Without our habit of dependency
    We'd not from vacant nothing even be!

  3. Re: Dependent rational animals – the book is his way of grounding ethics (and Aristotelian teleology) within an updated understanding of biology, highlighting the similarities we share with other mammals (living in society, mutual dependence).

  4. Virtue is not taught by institutions but developed by one's own understanding of values and why, although some traditions have taught that virtue was to be taught by "the elders". Teleology is a personal matter, not a public one. Though we are social animals, we have the right to choose our associations, dependent on our values.

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