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After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory [Paperback]

Alasdair MacIntyre
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

20 Jun 2007
When "After Virtue" was first published 25 years ago, it was immediately obvious that Alasdair MacIntyre had produced an important and highly controversial re-evaluation of contemporary moral philosophy. MacIntyre drew on more than 500 years of history to explore the causes of the current crisis in moral description and showed how attempts to formulate moral principles had grown progressively more difficult in the period after the Enlightenment. With extraordinary vigour and range, MacIntyre convincingly explains what has driven moral philosophy into its current quagmire and suggests ways out of it. This edition includes a new preface in which Professor MacIntyre responds to some of the central questions raised by the first edition, and reflects on the progress or otherwise of moral philosophy in the intervening quarter-century. The status of "After Virtue" is now assured. This new edition gives us a chance to assess its impact and to reach out to a new generation of readers.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd; 3rd Revised edition edition (20 Jun 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0715636405
  • ISBN-13: 978-0715636404
  • Product Dimensions: 15.4 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 249,103 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"'Offers a diagnosis of the present state of moral philosophy which expands into a diagnosis of the present state of modern society.' Richard Rorty 'Frank, original and full of incidental insights... unquestionably one of the most lively, interesting and provocative books to have appeared for at least a decade.' Steven Lukes"

About the Author

Alasdair MacIntyre is Research Professor of Philosophy at Notre Dame University, USA. For a succinct assessment of his works and their significance see Wikipedia:

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Imagine that the natural sciences were to suffer the effects of a catastrophe. Read the first page
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Barbarians at the Gates? 9 Dec 2009
By Nicholas Casley TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a review of the third edition of 2007. I originally read the second edition (1985) on the recommendation of one of my philosophy lecturers when I did my degree. The third edition has an additional prologue, but otherwise there are no changes; it is a reprint, page by page. I was always aware that it was an important book and so it was never thrown into a charity bag like many others. It has always sat on my shelf waiting to be re-read; and now I have had the chance with this new edition. The title of the book's opening chapter - `A Disquieting Suggestion' - immediately arouses intrigue and curiosity, especially when its first sentence asks us to "Imagine that the natural sciences were to suffer the effects of a catastrophe."

Much of the first half of the volume is given over to elaborating MacIntyre's theory that the history of philosophy took a wrong turn with what he calls the `enlightenment experiment'. It is not until the fourteenth of the book's nineteen chapters that he finally starts to build the foundations of his own case, constructed on the support of the Aristotelian tradition. He declares liberal individualism to be at odds with this tradition, hence his argument's need for diversions into matters of `fact', `predictability', and `ideology'. The book's final paragraph contains warnings about "the new dark ages which are already upon us ... 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."

It is simply not possible for me to give a full review of this book in the limited space available.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A mad genius? 20 Dec 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the kind of infuriating book that makes you wonder whether the author is on to something big, or whether he is simply a highly erudite purveyor of bunk. I suspect the former, but I can't rule out the latter either!

"After Virtue" is a sophisticated work of moral philosophy, historical criticism, and much else besides, and I readily admit that I haven't assimilated all its arguments.

At the same time, MacIntyre strikes the reader as a highly eclectic thinker, and this is what makes you wonder whether he has a point (everyone who rejects the current political scene en toto will bee seen as quaint or indeed eclectic - no matter whether he's right or wrong), or whether he is simply a confused intellectual stitching together what really can't be united. Indeed, one of the chapters of the book is titled "Nietzsche *or* Aristotle? Trotsky *and* St. Benedict". Benedict and...who? I also noticed that some of MacIntyre's followers call themselves revolutionary Aristotelians!

I don't think any review can give this book its due, so here I will only attempt the barest outline. MacIntyre is usually considered left-wing, and he does indeed criticize slavery, the subordination of women, and racism. He also has a soft spot for some Marxists, including Trotsky, whom he seems to regard as a closet critic of dogmatic Marxism. MacIntyre also rejects liberal capitalism, individualism and postmodernism. But in the name of what? After converting to Roman Catholicism, MacIntyre began to see the philosophy of Aristotle as a positive alternative, and some years after writing "After Virtue" he also embraced Thomism.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tough but rewarding 9 Nov 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
By no means an easy read, but a book which repays careful thought and study. Unusually for a modern philosopher, MacIntyre writes interestingly about ethics - how shall we live our lives? - and does so in a way that makes you feel, when you close the book, that you have learnt a number of useful things from it. In particular, he gives a clear and cogent explanation of why modern political discourse is so fragmentary and so incoherent, because most arguments begin from "incommensurable" moral notions - ie notions where there is not even any agreement between the parties on what the arguments are about. MacIntyre is not the first writer to address this issue, but he does through a careful historical argument which explains convincingly where we are, and why.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic in moral Philosophy 19 Mar 2014
By A. I. Mackenzie VINE VOICE
The book is rightly famous, and well written although I found it tended to wander a bit at times.
McIntyre's thesis is that the Enlightenment project has gone badly wrong - there is no way of producing a consitent ethical framework with the tools it provides. Essentially his point is that ethics cannot be grounded in individualism but must be embedded in society and practice. He believes that rejecting Aristotle's ethics was a mistake.

He's very convincing about the failure of individualism and I think his point that morality has to be grounded in a community as correct. He's less sure on how we would apply Aristotelian ethics given the society we have now, how would we move from one to another where would we judge what the set of virtues is, who would be the authority and how would disputes be settled?

On the way he made me re-appraise both Nietzsche and Jane Austen, quite impressive but I didn't buy his whole argument.
For students chapter 12 (last half) is essential and the last chapter gives a handy guide to the whole book.

Worth the (considerable) effort!
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