Analytic Philosophy

Analytic Ethics

What was Alasdair Maclntyre’s contribution to virtue ethics?

Alasdair MacIntyre (1929–) has approached ethics with a rejection of both Marxism and late-twentieth century consumer capitalism. In his return to Thomistic Aristotelianism, or Aristotelianism influenced by the altruistic and religious values of Christianity, he considers the nature of moral argument about competing systems and has reclaimed Edith Stein (1891–1942) as a phenomenologist.

MacIntyre views virtues as moral qualities needed to fulfill human potential. He has focused on the combination of practice, virtue, and tradition: practice is communal action; virtue is the individual dispositions and habits that are necessary to participate in practice; tradition is the history of a community as an object of reflection. MacIntyre thus thinks that virtues develop and are practiced in communities and that moral communities must be understood in terms of their history.

MacIntyre’s view is not intended to be conservative in a social or political sense, but is instead developed as an understanding of Aristotelian virtues that would not have been possible without the fact of all the history that has ensued since Aristotle wrote. MacIntyre’s main works on this subject include After Virtue (1981), Whose Justice, Whose Rationality? (1988), and Three Rival Versions of Moral Inquiry (1990).


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