For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

Dependent rational animals: Why human beings need the virtues

by MacIntyre, A C (1999)


According to the author of" After Virtue," to flourish, humans need to develop virtues of independent thought and acknowledged social dependence. This book presents the moral philosopher's comparison of humans to other animals and his exploration of the impact of these virtues. Although he is most widely known for his book "After Virtue" (1981), with its critique of reason and ethics, Alasdair MacIntyre writes in other areas of philosophy as well, including philosophical psychology, political theory, and philosophy of religion. Born in Scotland, he was educated at Manchester, London, and Oxford universities. In 1969, he went to the United States where he has taught at Brandeis, Boston, and Vanderbilt universities. Since 1988, when he also delivered the Gifford lectures, MacIntyre has taught at the University of Notre Dame. "After Virtue" is one of the most widely discussed of all recent books on moral philosophy. It is the culmination of MacIntyre's deep engagement with the history of ethics. In it he argues that modern ethical theory, as it has developed since the seventeenth century, has been exposed by Friedrich Nietzsche as conceptually bankrupt. To find an alternative, he looks to ancient Greece and especially to Aristotle's concept of virtue. Although his critics consider this alternative to be something of an impossible dream, MacIntyre argues that it is central to a recovery of ethics.

Key Passage

When a network of such familial, neighborhood, and craft relationships is in a flourishing state, when, that is, there is a flourishing local community, it will always be because those activities of the members of that community that aim at their common good are informed by their practical rationality. But those who benefit from that communal flourishing will include those least capable of independent practical reasoning, the very young and the very old, the sick, the injured, and the otherwise disabled, and their individual flourishing will be an important index of the flourishing of the whole community. For it is insofar as it is need that provides reasons for action for the members of some particular community that that community flourishes. (p.64)


Virtue, Macintyre, Animals, Society, Social Dependence, Virtues, Reason


Dependent Rational Animals

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