For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

The Tasks of Philosophy: Selected Essays, Volume 1

by MacIntyre, Alasdair (2006)


How should we respond when some of our basic beliefs are put into question? What makes a human body distinctively human? Why is truth an important good? These are among the questions explored in this 2006 collection of essays by Alasdair MacIntyre, one of the most creative and influential philosophers working today. Ten of MacIntyre's most influential essays written over almost thirty years are collected together here for the first time. They range over such topics as the issues raised by different types of relativism, what it is about human beings that cannot be understood by the natural sciences, the relationship between the ends of life and the ends of philosophical writing, and the relationship of moral philosophy to contemporary social practice. They will appeal to a wide range of readers across philosophy and especially in moral philosophy, political philosophy, and theology.

Key Passage

The telos/finis of any type of systematic activity is, on an Aristotelian and Thomistic view, that end internal to activity of that specific kind, for the sake of which and in the direction of which activity of that kind is carried forward. Many types of activity, of course, are intelligible as human activities only because and insofar as they are embedded in some other type of activity, and some types of such activity may be embedded in any one of a number of other types of intelligible activity. So it is, for example, with tree-felling, which may as an activity be part of and embedded in an architectural project of building a house or a manufacturing project of making fine papers or an ecological project of strengthening a forest as a habitat for certain species. It is these more inclusive and relatively self-sufficient forms of systematic activity which serve distinctive human goods, so that the telos/finis of each is to be characterized in terms of some such good. So the Posterior Analytics in its account of scientific demonstrative explanations as the telos/finis of enquiry furnishes us with an account of what it is to understand, that is, of the distinctive human good to be achieved by enquiry as a distinctive type of activity. (p.156)


Macintyre, Aristotle, Aquinas, Telos


The Tasks of Philosophy: Selected Essays, Volume 1, Ethics and Politics, 2 Vols

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