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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

philosophical enquiry is almost exclusively the work of professionalized academic teachers whose professionalization ensures the inculcation of certain habits of thought, among them habits that ensure the stability of academic hierarchies. The prerequisites for initiation into academic professions are such that those engaged in philosophical enquiry are generally, like the members of other professions, limited in their life experience. They will rarely have been soldiers or trade union organizers, worked on farms, in fishing crews, or on construction sites, played in string quartets or been in prison. This is of course no fault of theirs. Yet what the compartmentalization of contemporary social life ensures is that those who do have these important life experiences in armies or factories, or farms, or prisons, or whatever are generally educated, just as professional philosophers are, to believe that philosophical reflection and enquiry are matter for academic specialists and not for them. Perhaps, however, at least so far as moral and political philosophy are concerned, this is a mistake. Perhaps philosophers need to begin from the everyday questions of plain persons, the plain persons that they themselves were before they took to the study of philosophy. (p.71)


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


Ethics in the Conflicts of Modernity

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