For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work


by Knight, Kelvin (2008)


Parts 1 to 3 of this paper explore the theoretical rationale and ethical significance of Alasdair MacIntyre’s twin distinctions between goods internal and external to practices and between goods of excellence and of effectiveness. Parts 4 and 5 then relate this analysis to his critique of contemporary institutions, compartmentalisation and management. My argument is that these concepts express a teleological theory of why and how goods should be ordered which, in refusing to identify practical rationality with institutional actuality and instead differentiating between rival traditions, progresses beyond the theories of Aristotle and of other, past and present anglophone Aristotelians.

Key Passage

MacIntyre’s argument is that habituation into the virtues accompanies education in skills in pursuit of the goods internal to practices. For example, if one cheats in chess one may win candy, or money, or prestige, but one will only learn how to become a better chess player by cultivating personal excellence in the emulation of standards established by others. And such internal standards can only be emulated if one cultivates the virtues of self-control (or self-management), of friendship towards one’s co-practitioners, of justice in acknowledging their achievement, of truthfulness to both oneself and others in appraising one’s own achievement or lack of achievement, and, importantly, of courage in defending such achievements against institutional corruption or repression. (p.114)


Alasdair Macintyre, Macintyre, Aritotle, Goods, Practices, Practical Rationality


On MacIntyre

Links to Reference



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