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After Virtue: a study in moral theory [Paperback]

Alasdair MacIntyre
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory 4.6 out of 5 stars (8)
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Book Description

4 Sep 1997
First published in 1981this edition has a new final chapter which elaborates on the connections between philosophy/history and moral philosophy/theology.

Product details

  • Paperback: 252 pages
  • Publisher: Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd; New edition (4 Sep 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0715616633
  • ISBN-13: 978-0715616635
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15.2 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 87,539 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
It is now almost 20 years since MacIntyre wrote this powerful critique of modern attempts to find a plausible basis for morality. Its influence,whether acknowledged or not, has increased steadily since that time. It is reflected in the "communitarian" philosophies which, since the demise of the socialist bloc, have provided the most telling and coherent critiques of market religiosity availble. In the first chapters Kantian, Utilitarian and Emotivist moral theories are examined and found wanting. They are seen to be vulnerable to Nietzsche's devastating appeal for honesty in admitting the will to power. The Enlightenment Project with its rejection of traditional morality has failed and all we are left with is the what remnants of the traditional system can sustain us. MacIntyre then proceeds to argue for the continued validity of the Aristotlean attempt to ground moral thinking in the virtues, those qualities which develop in us as we seek a vision of the good, striving in collaboration with others towards ends which disclose themselves more fully as we pursue them. MacIntyre, in rejecting absolutist accounts of morality is often accused of relativism. "After Virtue" written in a pelucid English and rooted in practical concerns, shows how far this misconception is from the truth. If you want to understand about our moral plight and be given some conceptual tools to deliver you and others from it, buy and read this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Desired Things 13 Aug 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Let me first acknowledge Mark O'Neill's useful review of the 2013 Bloomsbury edition of this book. Professor Alasdair MacIntyre must be amused at the fact of a Bloomsbury Revelation whose meanings can only be understood by acts of intuition. My Duckworth second edition contains some typos, but no aridity.

Reading 'After Virtue' reminded me of a recent memorial service for the father of a family friend, who'd died having developed dementia. Recalling his father's mental deterioration, the son said 'He could still hold a long discussion with me about philosophy, but he hadn't a clue who I was'.

This 1981 book by MacIntyre depicts contemporary moral debates and disagreements as shrill, emotive, interminable, weighing incommensurables, characterised by assertion and counter-assertion, and arguments within ourselves. Fragments, eclectic mélange. Sounds demented?

MacIntyre looks back past the philosophy of the Enlightenment to root his teleological view of man and the good in the thinking of Aristotle, and latterly that of Thomas Aquinas. In doing this, he makes a lot of sense. MacIntyre is a Roman Catholic. In a talk filmed at Notre Dame University he's equally sceptical of government and markets, liberals and conservatives (public intellectuals and advertising executives).

For a flavour of this fine man's thinking and disposition, that and several other talks can be found by searching the internet.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read 28 Oct 2010
By Martine
Though very difficult to read, definitely worth it. Take your time and read it twice.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.3 out of 5 stars  26 reviews
50 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a moral thriller 21 Mar 2005
By Mennonite Medievalist - Published on
I read this book conflicted. On the one hand the book contained sentences, frequent sentences, of such numbing bodilessness as "For beside rights and utility, among the central moral fictions of the age we have to place the peculiarly managerial fiction embodied in the claim to possess systematic effectiveness in controlling certain aspects of social reality." On the other hand the book was so fascinating I could scarcely put it down at points. It felt like masochism.

All this to say: MacIntyre writes a moral thriller of great drama and urgency. He writes it with a tactic used by more conventional suspense novelists like Ruth Rendell: give the end at the beginning, then explain how such a bizarre and catastrophic end came to be. Our moral language assumes a universality we do not believe, he argues at the beginning. How have our moral beliefs become so ruptured from (and so much smaller than) the language we use to describe them? That rupture is the history he traces. The setting is the Western world; the characters are philosophers; the plot is the murder of Aristotle. Who killed him? Was it Hume in the Enlightenment with the candlestick? Was it Machiavelli in the Renaissance? Was it Kierkegaard the Dane with a book: Enten-Eller? Was it the Bloomsbury group with their emotivist approach to ethics? Was it, after all has been said and done, Nietzsche?

And, can Aristotle (and his teleological view of morality) be brought back to life?

MacIntyre's style is that of a perfectly trustworthy guide. He fends off more counter-arguments than I could have generated for him in a lifetime. "How is he going to get out of this scrape he's just identified?" I asked myself, and rested in peace that he would. He manages to tie literature, scientific results, case studies and metaphorical examples to his abstractions, rendering his work not only readable but practical.

The narrative structure of the book (its movement through time) is intricate. For perhaps the first time in my (limited) exposure to philosophy, I found myself in suspense. Knowing what happened, I wanted to know, had to know, why--because it is my story, and yours, and the crux of the plot has been reached, but the end has not yet been written.
87 of 91 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MacIntyre dissects 400 years of doomed moral philosophy 25 Jun 2000
By Thayne Currie - Published on
After Virtue is a delightful book which presents the contemporary problem of moral philosophy today. MacIntyre says that there is an interminability of moral debate today. No consensus solution to the variety of moral issues such as abortion and war will present itself because proponents of both sides of the arguments in these two issues argue from a different set of premises from a different tradition of moral philosophy. You have Thomistic ideals of the value of life and justice against Rousseauist ideals of individuality, for example, in life issues. Can any of the enlightenment moral philosophies really help us make rational, clear decisions about the morality of a particular decision? MacIntyre investigates the moral philosophies of Kant, Hume, & Kierkegard, showing how each of them miserably fail as possible moral systems. Utilitarianism, pragmatism, and emotivism are also wonderfully skewered. With what are we left? It seems as if after the failure of these systems we are left with the Nietzschean amorality of total chaotic relativism. MacIntyre understands the enigma of Nietzsche's ideas and shows how his attacks toppled the pompous, arrogant ideals of the Enlightenment. But Nietzsche's system seems impossible from a human standpoint, since, for example, we are left with the unsettling discovery that events such as the Holocaust are not really "wrong" in any objective sense. MacIntyre interjects that there is another alternative: go back to the source of the Enlightenment project. Sometime around then a bald decision was made philosophically to abandon the Neo-Aristotelian metaphysics that had supported Western thought for the previous 2000 years whether in the purest Aristotelian form or rather in highly developed Thomistic incarnations such as that which the Catholic Church held (and still does) and similar ones influences by Islamic and Jewish philosophers during the middle ages. Can this form of moral philosophy withstand criticism and ultimately rise as a viable alternative to Nietzsche? MacIntyre thinks so, and he spends a large amount of time laying the groundwork for a revived account of such a system. When he poses the question, Nietzsche or Aristotle, finally I at least think that he has made a compelling argument in favor of Aristotle (and Aquinas as some of his later work will evolve towards).
Overall, I think this book is an incredible account of traditional Catholic Christian ethics and is a must for a Catholic as well as anyone else wanting to advance a conservative moral system.
36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A necessary read for anyone interested in ethics 13 Nov 1998
By A Customer - Published on
In this work Alasdair MacIntyre argues that morality as we currently understand it has suffered a great disaster. As a result of the Enlightenment project's failed attempt to justify morality on its own terms, as MacIntyre argues, we are left with nothing more than shards of a once complete and coherent moral tradition. As a result the current state of morality is a form of emotivism, according to MacIntyre. MacIntyre's argument comes to a head when, in ch. 9, he claims that we must either go the way of Nietzsche's critique of morality or opt for a reworked version of Aristotle's ethics in which our moral claims can be justified.
This work is, in part, resoponsible for the renewed interest in virtue ethics among contemoporary moral philosophers. Regardless of whether one ultimately affirms or denies MacIntyre's conclusions this work is necessary reading for anyone who wishes to keep informed of current debates in moral philosophy.
Along these same lines I would recommend MacIntyre's other works which include Three Rival Versions and Whose Justice? Which Rationality? as well as Bernard Williams' Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy, and John Rawls' Political Liberalism.
26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It comes down to Aristotle or Nietsche 1 Jan 2004
By Penn Jacobs - Published on
Writing polemics in support of virtue became something of a cottage industry in the '90's. This is one of the texts that drove that trend. Fortunately, its tone is not polemical in the slightest. MacIntyre's argument is measured and well-reasoned, and he gives several useful concepts for addressing moral issues, e.g., institutional *practices* that provide internal rather than external goods, and narratives and stories as constitutive of human existence.
It's an involved argument, and at least partly relies upon a reading of intellectual history for its strength. For MacIntyre, upon investigation there are only two consistent moral viewpoints: one associated with Aristotle that views morality as objectively valid and rational because it's based on a natural teleology and sees that morality exercised through the development of virtues and intricately entwined with them, another, based upon Nietsche, which sees morality only as a mask for irrational power.
Lucid and well-written. Highly recommended.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a fierce response to today's philosophical status quo 10 Aug 2003
By Amazon Customer - Published on
This book is really two books in one.
The first half in large part lays out MacIntyre's wholesale critique of contemporary moral/ethical/deontological discussion. This in my opinion is the book's greatest accomplishment; the first two chapters are a must read for all inquiring philisophical minds inasmuch as they unflatteringly lay bare the emptiness of any and all moral discussion in the post-Enlightenment West.
The second half comprises MacIntyre's attempt at reconstructing a deontological system predicated on individual virtue. Special mention should be given to the chapter on life experienced as a narrative, a needed defense of the pre-Humean/Whiteheadian understanding of the human being as having an individual substance, a neccesary principle for making sense of the concepts of moral responsibility.
I can't recommend this book enough, it is a gem admist the piles of pithy philisophical work coming out of the academy these days.
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