For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

Ethics in the Conflicts of Modernity: An Essay on Desire, Practical Reasoning, and Narrative

by MacIntyre, Alasdair (2016)


Alasdair MacIntyre explores some central philosophical, political and moral claims of modernity and argues that a proper understanding of human goods requires a rejection of these claims. In a wide-ranging discussion, he considers how normative and evaluative judgments are to be understood, how desire and practical reasoning are to be characterized, what it is to have adequate self-knowledge, and what part narrative plays in our understanding of human lives. He asks, further, what it would be to understand the modern condition from a neo-Aristotelian or Thomistic perspective, and argues that Thomistic Aristotelianism, informed by Marx's insights, provides us with resources for constructing a contemporary politics and ethics which both enable and require us to act against modernity from within modernity. This rich and important book builds on and advances MacIntyre's thinking in ethics and moral philosophy, and will be of great interest to readers in both fields.

Key Passage

They do so [teachers educate badly] when they focus more or less exclusively on the acquisition of skills with far less attention to the variety of uses to which those skills might be put or to the ends that they might serve. They do even worse when they concentrate on just those skills for which there is a demand in the workplace rather than on developing the powers of each child. One function of education in the school is of course to prepare students for apprenticeship in the workplace, but this is only one function among several, and students are badly prepared for the workplace when education in the school is treated as though it itself were an apprenticeship in the workplace. A good school is a place where students, in the course of developing their powers, are able to find a direction that they can make their own...Such an exclusive focus is the expression of a will to prepare students to take their place in the workforce, so that their pursuit of their own ends may, whatever else it does, serve the ends of economic growth. (p.173)


Desire, Practical Reason, Aristotle, Neo-Aristotelian, Marx, Aquinas, Politics, Ethics, Self-Knowledge Moral Philosophy, Skill, Education


Ethics in the Conflicts of Modernity

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