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Ethics and Politics: Selected Essays, Volume 2

by MacIntyre, Alasdair (2006)


Alasdair MacIntyre is one of the most creative and important philosophers working today. This volume presents a selection of his classic essays on ethics and politics collected together for the first time, focussing particularly on the themes of moral disagreement, moral dilemmas, and truthfulness and its importance. The essays range widely in scope, from Aristotle and Aquinas and what we need to learn from them, to our contemporary economic and social structures and the threat which they pose to the realization of the forms of ethical life. They will appeal to a wide range of readers across philosophy and especially in moral philosophy, political philosophy, and theology.

Key Passage

The failure of those modern institutions that have been the embodiment of the best social and political hopes of the Enlightenment is quite as striking. And those institutions fail by Enlightenment standards. For they do not provide – in fact they render impossible – the kinds of institutionalized reading, talking and arguing public necessary for effective practical rational thought about just those principles and decisions involved in answering such questions as: “How is a human life to be valued?” or “What does accountability in our social relationships require of us?” or “Whom, if anyone, may I legitimately deceive?” – questions to which we need shared answers. And there is no type of institutional arena in our society in which plain persons – not academic philosophers or academic political theorists – are able to engage together in systematic reasoned debate designed to arrive at a rationally well-founded common mind on these matters, a common mind which might then be given political expression. Indeed the dominant forms of organization of contemporary social life militate against the coming into existence of this type of institutional arena. And so do the dominant modes of what passes for political discourse. We do not have the kinds of reading public necessary to sustain practically effective social thought. What we have instead in contemporary society are a set of small-scale academic publics within each of which rational discourse is carried on, but whose discourse is of such a kind as to have no practical effect on the conduct of social life; and, by contrast, forms of organization in the larger areas of our public life in which effective decisions are taken and policies implemented, but within which for the most part systematic rational discourse cannot be systematically carried on, and within which therefore decisions and policies are by and large outcomes of the distributions of power and money and not of the quality of argument. Within these contexts of academic and public life the same central moral and political concepts of the Enlightenment are at home, but the divorce between them is such that the original projects of the Enlightenment have been frustrated. (p.185)


Macintyre, Aristotle, Aquinas, Telos, Marxism, Moral Disagreement, Moral Philosophy, Ethics, Free Markets, Enlightenment


Ethics and Politics, 2 Vols

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