For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Moral education at work: On the scope of MacIntyre’s concept of a practice"

by Sinnicks, Matthew (2019)


This paper seeks to show how MacIntyre’s concept of a practice can survive a series of ‘scope problems’ which threaten to render the concept inapplicable to business ethics. I begin by outlining MacIntyre’s concept of a practice before arguing that, despite an asymmetry between productive and non-productive practices, the elasticity of the concept of a practice allows us to accommodate productive and profitable activities. This elasticity of practices allows us to sidestep the problem of adjudicating between practitioners and non-practitioners as well as the problem of generic activities. I conclude by suggesting that the contemporary tendency to regard work as an object of consumption, rather than undermining MacIntyre’s account of practices, serves to demonstrate the potential breadth of its applicability.

Key Passage

I argue that even a relatively minimal engagement in a practice can, in principle, be morally educative.…. practices are not to be regarded as esoteric activities available only to a few, but rather as a ubiquitous feature of human societies, and present in every human life. Even if practices are central in some societies and relatively marginalised in others, all of us engage in practices of one sort or another. While, as Keat (2008) points out, MacIntyre’s account of the good is not comprehensive, something MacIntyre readily admits, his concept of a practice nevertheless provides a powerful basis for an account of moral education and of the ethically ameliorative role good work can play in our lives. (p.106)


Macintyre, Ethics, Business Ethics, Morality At Work, Moral Education, Moral Training, Practice


On MacIntyre

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