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on 15 September 2010
This book offers a great deal if you are interested in the history of ethics; particularly, what the great philosophers had to say regarding ethics, and what movements have re-shaped ethical discussion (e.g. romanticism, the reformation etc).

MacIntyre displays a thorough knowledge of the ideas of the ancient greek philosophers, dedicating a large share of this book to Aristotle and Plato. His outline here is very impressive, which addresses the complexities in understanding the subtle differences in meanings in greek language, and how these differences can help us understand the mindset of the people and the times (for example, the equivalent words for terms such as 'good' connotated slightly different things, e.g. one could not be 'good' and fail. For in some cases, 'Failure' was a closer binary opposite to 'good' than many terms which would seem more meaningful opposites today).

Unfortuneatley, the section regarding christian ethics is very slight (particularly early, through to the medieval period), which leaves this an unbalanced work, considering there is three whole chapters on Plato. He confesses that his understanding of christian ethics was inadequate at the time of writing thsi book, and highlights errors and inadequacies in the preface. For this reason, I recommend buying this routledge classics edition, as it has a superb and honest preface, where MacIntyre expresses how the book was recieved and acknowledges a number of criticisms.

The book is noteably impressive for the outline of greek ethics (and contextualising them), but there is a very good account of the key approaches to ethics in the 1600s, 1700s and 1800s, e.g. regarding Kant, Hegel, Marx, Nietzche through to the movements of the 1900s (e.g. utilitarianism) and then onto early 20th century writers (Ayer, Warnock and Satre among many others).

The book is challenging to read in places but always rewarding. Its weaknesses are made up for by the fact that he acknowledges them in the preface, so you are aware of these weaknesses as you work your way through the text. A great work, well worth reading.
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on 18 February 2011
This book is a very readable outline of the history of western moral philosophy. I found it highly enjoyable and also think I learned something from reading it. Perhaps I could compare it to Russell's History of Western Philosophy, though limited to the field of ethics. Like Russell, MacIntyre makes his opinins known at times, but one doesn't have to agree with him to enjoy the book.
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on 29 March 2013
More than just a social history of 'ethical concepts', this is a strong argument for the historically-rooted nature of ethical concepts in forms of life without falling into the infinite regress of a Wittgensteinian notion of something like 'language games'. MacIntyre presents a cogent argument for the philosophical analysis of 'ethics' as an active intervention in ethical forms of life.

Not always easy reading, but well worth the effort.
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on 16 September 2012
This is an intelligent and useful overview of the development of ethics, or at least the western approach to ethics. It balances well the needs of a history of ideas and providing some useful explorations philosophy itself. Not too difficult to read without a deep philosophical education, although some familiarity with certain concepts is helpful.
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on 26 August 2015
A very good reference for my essay on morality.
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on 26 August 2014
Brilliant !
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on 10 June 2015
V good
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on 4 February 2015
A challenging read
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