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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

[What kind of practice is it to which Aristotelian moral and political theory is counterpart?]First, because the practice of an Aristotelian community must be one informed by shared deliberation, it must be a type of practice in which there is sufficient agreement about goods and about their rank ordering to provide shared standards for rational deliberation on both moral and political questions. This is of course compatible with the occurrence of extended and significant disagreements, but it still requires a type of community that exhibits a common mind in its practice arising from its shared goals. By contrast the societies of modernity presuppose that we have agreed to disagree about a wide range of questions about goods and that politics is one thing and morals quite another. Is it therefore impossible to find such communities of Aristotelian practice anywhere in contemporary milieus? An answer is suggested by considering a second area of difference. If there is to be practice that involves widely shared participation in deliberation, and if that deliberation is to be effective in decision-making, then communities of practice will have to be small-scale local communities whose members are able to call each other to account in respect of their deliberative standards. And they will have to avoid those destructive conflicts of interest that arise from too great inequalities of wealth and power. Their structure is thus incompatible with that of the dominant institutional forms of modernity, those of the centralized large-scale nation-state and of the large-scale market economy. But they may be and indeed sometimes are exemplified to a significant extent in the forms of various local enterprises: households, fishing crews, farming cooperatives, schools, clinics, neighborhoods, small towns. Thirdly the activities of such communities will presuppose shared standards of rational justification that are independent of the de facto interests and preferences of their members. Those standards define the community’s common good and the fundamental bond between their members will be allegiance to that common good. This means that the self-understanding of members of such communities has to be incompatible with substituting for that fundamental bond any notion of civic unity as arising either from some shared ethnic or religious or other cultural inheritance – important as these may be – or from the shared interests and preferences of its members. (p.39)


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


Ethics and Politics, 2 Vols

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