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After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory Paperback – 30 Mar 2007

4.7 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: University of Notre Dame Press; 3rd Revised edition edition (30 Mar. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0268035040
  • ISBN-13: 978-0268035044
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.3 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 322,289 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

""After Virtue" is a striking work. It is clearly written and readable. The nonprofessional will find MacIntyre perspicuous and lively. He stands within the best modern traditions of writing on such matters." --"New York Review of Books"

""After Virtue" is a rigorous, ambitious, and original book. It is a reinterpretation of the entire history of Western moral philosophy, as decline, fall, and--possibly--rebirth." "--The Village Voice"

"After Virtue" is a striking work. It is clearly written and readable. The nonprofessional will find MacIntyre perspicuous and lively. He stands within the best modern traditions of writing on such matters. "New York Review of Books""

MacIntyre s arguments deserve to be taken seriously by anybody who thinks that the mere acceptance of pluralism is not the same thing as democracy, who worries about politicians wishing to give opinions about everything under the sun, and who stops to think of how important Aristotelian ethics have been for centuries. "The Economist""

"After Virtue" is a rigorous, ambitious, and original book. It is a reinterpretation of the entire history of Western moral philosophy, as decline, fall, and possibly rebirth. " The Village Voice""

"After Virtue is a striking work. It is clearly written and readable. The nonprofessional will find MacIntyre perspicuous and lively. He stands within the best modern traditions of writing on such matters." --New York Review of Books

"MacIntyre's arguments deserve to be taken seriously by anybody who thinks that the mere acceptance of pluralism is not the same thing as democracy, who worries about politicians wishing to give opinions about everything under the sun, and who stops to think of how important Aristotelian ethics have been for centuries." --The Economist

"After Virtue is a rigorous, ambitious, and original book. It is a reinterpretation of the entire history of Western moral philosophy, as decline, fall, and--possibly--rebirth." --The Village Voice

About the Author

ALASDAIR MacINTYRE is research professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame. He is the author of numerous books, including Whose Justice? Which Rationality? (University of Notre Dame Press, 1988) and Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry: Encyclopaedia, Genealogy, and Tradition (University of Notre Dame Press, 1990).


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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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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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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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By Mr. G. Morgan TOP 500 REVIEWER on 13 Sept. 2014
Format: Paperback
Having known his work since his socialist youth, I was fascinated to see how he developed his thesis: that moral philosophy has lost its moorings and indeed bearings, making it effectively a set of monologues with only apparently the same language in fact 'belonging' to different things[moral systems] in the same way or the same things in different ways. He Begins with a Thought Experiment that has us imagine that moral discourse is actually a residue of a moral universe in fragments, a forgotten intellectual apocalypse. He sees various moralities as sharing the same vocabulary but not the same referents: thus he demonstrates how different notions of the Right can be seen as like the result of a detachment from original context, of a sort of disaster. A radical recasting of The Moral is therefore required. Looking at and finding wanting the various moralities on offer, a chapter title gives the alternatives starkly: Nietzsche or Aristotle. Then after a rigorous, uncompromising critique, MacIntyre shows how we must choose either a form of (neo) Aristotelianism or surrender to the radical subjectivism of the German. Not an easy book to read, self-evidently important; well worth at least two readings and one of the few books of modern philosophy that I reread frequently.
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