If a human life is understood as a progress through harms and dangers, moral and physical, which someone may encounter and overcome in better and worse ways and with a greater or lesser measure of success, the virtues will find their place as those qualities the possession and exercise of which generally tend to success in this enterprise and the vices likewise as qualities which likewise tend to failure. Each human life will then embody a story whose shape and form will depend upon what is counted as a harm and danger and upon how success and failure, progress and its opposite, are understood and evaluated. To answer these questions will also explicitly and implicitly be to answer the question as to what the virtues and vices are. (Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue, p.144)
But is such transcendence possible? We are, whether we acknowledge it or not, what the past has made us and we cannot eradicate from ourselves, even in America, those parts ot our selves which are formed by our relationship to each formative stage in our history. If this is so, then even heroic society is still inescapably a part of us all, and we are narrating a history that is peculiarly our own history when we recount its past in the formation of our moral culture. (Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue, p.107)
The most effective bureaucrat is the best actor. (Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue, p.107)
Among us, science serves two needs: for hope and censorship. Today, only science supports the myth of progress. If people cling to the hope of progress, it is not so much from genuine belief as from fear of what may come if they give it up. The political projects of the twentieth century have failed, or achieved much less than they promised. At the same time, progress in science is a daily experience, confirmed whenever we buy a new electronic gadget, or take a new drug. Science gives us a sense of progress that ethical and political life cannot. (John Gray, Straw Dogs, p.18-19)
The project of providing a rational vindication of morality had decisively failed; and from henceforward the morality of our predecessor culture – and subsequently of our own – lacked any public, shared rationale or justification. In a world of secular rationality religion could no longer provide such a shared background and foundation for moral discourse and action; and the failure of philosophy to provide what religion could no longer furnish was an important cause of philosophy losing its central cultural role and becoming a marginal, narrowly academic subject. (Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue, p.50)
Thus the society in which we live is one in which bureaucracy and individualism are partners as well as antagonists. And it is in the cultural climate of this bureaucratic individualIsm that the emotivist self is naturally at home. (Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue, p.35)
One of the strengths of such a universal Panopticon is that the perils against which it protects are not all imaginary. The atrocity exhibitions that are on display in the media are not just fantasies. The most savage wars rage unabated; random violence can happen anywhere at any time. With the rapid evolution of techniques of cyber-attack, every modern amenity is vulnerable to sudden disruption. To assume that the inmates yearn to escape the universal Panopticon would be rash. Their worst fear may be of being forced to leave. (John N. Gray, The Soul of the Marionette, 126)
For one way of re-envisaging the emotivist self is as having suffered a deprivation, a stripping away of qualities that were once believed to belong to the self. The self is now thought of as lacking any necessary social identity, because the kind of social identity that it once enjoyed is no longer available; the self is now thought of as criterionless, because the kind of telos in terms of which it once judged and acted is no longer thought to be credible. (Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue, p.33)
My own critique of liberalism derives from a judgment that the best type of human life, that in which the tradition of the virtues is most adequately embodied, is lived by those engaged in constructing and sustaining forms of community directed towards the shared achievement of those common goods without which the ultimate human good cannot be achieved. Liberal political societies are characteristically committed to denying any place for a determinate conception of the human good in their public discourse, let alone allowing that their common life should be grounded in such a conception. On the dominant liberal view, government is to be neutral as between rival conceptions of the human good, yet in fact what liberalism promotes is a kind of institutional order that is inimical to the construction and sustaining of the types of communal relationship required for the best kind of human life. (Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue, p.xiv-xv)
The next book will be Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue – A Study in Moral Theory. Few books has made a more important impact on modern moral academic debate than this book. In it MacIntyre argues that the modern world has lost touch with the virtues and therefore has reduced morality to personal preference. This has led to the regrettable consequence that there are no longer any common criteria to value morally important issues. Therefore he argues for an Aristotelian virtue-ethics which relate virtues to praxis, narrative and tradition.
Se all my posts for After Virtue here.
“Can a feminist call God Father”, then? One might more truly sist that she, above all, must, for it lies with her alone to do the kneeling work that ultimately slays patriarchy at its root. (Sarah Coakley, God, Sexuality, and the Self, p.84)
Ultimately there are no short cuts in the battle against repressive patriarchy: the demons have to be slain one by one, and indeed over and over; and it is the task of us all to slay our own demons. (Sarah Coakley, God, Sexuality, and the Self, p.323)
All in all, theologie totale is hard work. But it is not the hard work of a Pelagian ‘works righteousness’. It is the graced work of contemplation and theology and ethics and politics – without division, without confusion. The greatest of these, the essential work of love, is fostered in contemplation. (Sarah Coakley, God, Sexuality, and the Self, p.92)