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Alasdair MacIntyre’s Modernity

Alasdair MacIntyre’s Modernity

(p.235) 11 Alasdair MacIntyre’s Modernity
Robert B. Pippin
University of Chicago Press

The subject of this chapter is Alisdair MacIntyre’s sweeping declensionist account of the dire implications of our having rejected or lost the possibility of life with the notion of virtue at its core. In his account, we are to imagine that, in making moral claims on others, judging them, appealing to them for the sake of a moral cause, we have in fact “lost our comprehension” of what we are talking about and we don’t know that we have. MacIntyre’s view is that all the basic options in evaluative appraisal come down, finally, to “Aristotle or Nietzsche,” either some sort of acceptable-to modernity practical teleology that can ground an assessment of whether a life or a collective life is lived well or poorly, or the pursuit of self-interest or personal preference (mere will to power), constrained, if at all, only by some collective maximizing formula. I argue that this is too exclusive a disjunction (it neglects Hegel’s option), and is an inadequate understanding of Nietzsche, who is himself a kind of virtue theorist.

Keywords:   Phronimos, Philippa Foot, Henry James, Kant, Declensionist, enlightenment, teleology, ideology critique, Vico, Phenomenology of Spirit

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