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

The answer that I have sketched is that in order to flourish, we need both those virtues that enable us to function as independent and accountable practical reasoners and those virtues that enable us to acknowledge the nature and extent of our dependence on others. Both the acquisition and the exercise of those virtues are possible only insofar as we participate in social relationships of giving and receiving, social relationships governed by and partially defined by the norms of the natural law. (p.90)


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


Dependent Rational Animals

Links to Reference



How to contribute.