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

Productive practices are compromised by necessity. They must necessarily aim at something other than the excellences and goods characteristic, and indeed partially definitive of, the practice itself. This is the essence of MacIntyre’s critique of market economies. The necessary focus on success, understood in terms of external goods, serves to undermine the extent to which devotion to internal goods is possible. However, it need not destroy such devotion. Indeed, there is significant scope for individuals who are appropriately committed to goods internal to productive practices to pursue them.  (p.111)


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


On MacIntyre

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