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What Happened in and to Moral Philosophy in the Twentieth Century?

Philosophical Essays in Honor of Alasdair MacIntyre

Fran O'Rourke

Publication Year: 2013

What Happened in and to Moral Philosophy in the Twentieth Century? is a volume of essays originally presented at University College Dublin in 2009 to celebrate the eightieth birthday of Alasdair MacIntyre—a protagonist at the center of that very question. What marks this collection is the unusual range of approaches and perspectives, representing divergent and even contradictory positions. Such variety reflects MacIntyre's own intellectual trajectory, which led him to engage successively with various schools of thought: analytic, Marxist, Christian, atheist, Aristotelian, Augustinian, and Thomist. This collection presents a unique profile of twentieth-century moral philosophy and is itself an original contribution to ongoing debate. The volume begins with Alasdair MacIntyre's fascinating philosophical self-portrait, "On Having Survived the Academic Moral Philosophy of the Twentieth Century," which charts his own intellectual development. The first group of essays considers MacIntyre's revolutionary contribution to twentieth-century moral philosophy: its value in understanding and guiding human action, its latent philosophical anthropology, its impetus in the renewal of the Aristotelian tradition, and its application to contemporary interests. The next group of essays considers the complementary and competing traditions of emotivism, Marxism, Thomism, and phenomenology. A third set of essays presents thematic analyses of such topics as evolutionary ethics, accomplishment and just desert, relativism, evil, and the inescapability of ethics. MacIntyre responds with a final essay, "What Next?," that addresses questions raised by contributors to the volume.

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-viii

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pp. 1-16

In a celebrated phrase Dante praises Aristotle as “master of those who know.” Aristotle would be happier, I believe, described as “master of those who desire to know.” Aside from the fact that those who already know have no need of a master, Aristotle was convinced that as humans we can never master all there is to be known about ourselves ...

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Chapter 1: On Having Survived the Academic Moral Philosophy of the Twentieth Century

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pp. 17-34

I was already fifty-five years old when I discovered that I had become a Thomistic Aristotelian. But I had first encountered Thomism thirty-eight years earlier, as an undergraduate, not in the form of moral philosophy, but in that of a critique of English culture developed by members of the Dominican order. ...

Part I: Reading Alasdair MacIntyre

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Chapter 2: Keeping Philosophy Relevant and Humanistic

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pp. 37-56

It is a privilege to participate in honoring one of our great living philosophers, but it is also somewhat daunting, the more so when the thinker has ranged as widely and proceeded as deeply as has Alasdair MacIntyre. One response to the challenge of discussing his ideas at this stage of his long and highly productive career is to survey his writings: ...

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Chapter 3: Ethics at the Limits: A Reading of Dependent Rational

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pp. 57-82

Some of the different reasons for one’s indebtedness to philosophers whom one has read may be gleaned from Iris Murdoch’s dictum that “to do philosophy is to explore one’s own temperament while at the same time attempting to discover the truth.”1 In some philosophical writings one finds intuitions, and a way of articulating and defending them, ...

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Chapter 4: Alasdair MacIntyre’s Revisionary Aristotelianism: Pragmatism Opposed, Marxism Outmoded, Thomism Transformed

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pp. 83-121

This essay argues for the significance of Alasdair MacIntyre’s revisions to the tradition of Thomistic Aristotelianism. After contextualizing MacIntyre’s philosophical development within Aristotelianism’s recent history, it summarizes his account of the moral importance of a teleological conception of goods, ...

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Chapter 5: Alasdair MacIntyre: Reflections on a Philosophical Identity, Suggestions for a Philosophical Project

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pp. 122-144

While drafting this paper I went through a phase of illusion in which I thought I might tell you how Alasdair MacIntyre’s philosophical achievements had changed the climate of English-speaking academic moral philosophy and were beginning to transform the surrounding culture. ...

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Chapter 6: Against the Self-Images of the Age: MacIntyre and Løgstrup

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pp. 145-162

Alasdair MacIntyre has always insisted on the social and historical situated - ness of even the most abstract forms of thinking, while at the same time trying to avoid the pitfalls of relativistic historicism. His work has involved a serious engagement, not only with the standard figures of the history of philosophy, ...

Part II: Complementary and Competing Traditions

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Chapter 7: MacIntyre and the Emotivists

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pp. 165-199

Emotivism looms large in Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory.1 Chapters 2 and 3—the first two real chapters of the book, after the preliminary disquieting suggestion—are directly concerned with emotivism, as the chapter titles indicate: “The Nature of Moral Disagreement Today and the Claims of Emotivism” and ...

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Chapter 8: Naturalism, Nihilism, and Perfectionism: Stevenson, Williams, and Nietzsche in Twentieth-Century Moral Philosophy

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pp. 200-220

Can any moderately well-worked-out, general philosophical position ever be decisively refuted? Consider emotivism, for example, and more particularly that highly influential variant of it propounded in Charles L. Stevenson’s Ethics and Language1 Perhaps only its equal and opposite partner in crime, G.E. Moore’s intuitionism, ...

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Chapter 9: Marxism and the Ethos of the Twentieth Century

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pp. 221-243

One of the things I have always most admired about Alasdair MacIntyre’s work is the particular kind of intellectual courage it exhibits. This virtue manifests itself in a number of ways, including a willingness to address large philosophical questions head on and to give straightforward answers to them. ...

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Chapter 10: Parallel Projects: Alasdair MacIntyre’s Virtue Ethics, Thirteenth-Century Pastoral Theology (Leonard Boyle, O.P.), and Thomistic Moral Theology (Servais Pinckaers, O.P.)

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pp. 244-270

The advocacy of virtue ethics by Alasdair MacIntyre has given this brand of moral philosophy a distinctive place among the moral theories currently taught in departments of philosophy throughout the English-speaking world; indeed it must be acknowledged that his intellectual efforts have given virtue ethics a prominence in present-day discussion such as it has not enjoyed, ...

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Chapter 11: The Perfect Storm: On the Loss of Nature as a Normative Theonomic Principle in Moral Philosophy

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pp. 271-303

The title of this essay—“The Perfect Storm”—is perhaps rather an off-putting title for a paper that might be expected to celebrate the positive achievements of Thomistic moral thought in the twentieth century. And in fact the twentieth century saw many positive developments within Thomistic moral theology and philosophy. ...

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Chapter 12: Forgiveness at the Limit: Impossible or Possible?

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pp. 304-320

Several contemporary thinkers have responded to the question of the limits of forgiveness. Jankelevitch and Primo Levi have both affirmed the impossibility of forgiving those who do not ask for forgiveness. Arendt talked of the impossibility of forgiving radical evil; and more recently Derrida has written of the impossibility of pure forgiveness tout court. ...

Part III: Thematic Analyses

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Chapter 13: Evolutionary Ethics: A Metaphysical Evaluation

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pp. 323-357

Evolution is the prevailing paradigm for today’s understanding of human nature. It is championed by some not only as a biological explanation for the origin and unity of living beings but as a response to all questions of human life and the universe itself, as well as its purpose—or absence thereof. ...

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Chapter 14: The Social Epistemological Normalization of Contestable Narratives: Stories of Just Deserts

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pp. 358-375

Alasdair MacIntyre’s writings on narrative self-understanding—on “schemata”—and his writings on normativity in the human sciences interpenetrate. Individuals and cultures tell stories that simultaneously express, reveal, and conceal in the “what is normal and expectable,” in the “what is not said,” and in the “what is not expressible” who and what they are, ...

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Chapter 15: History, Fetishism, and Moral Change

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pp. 376-391

One of the most intriguing questions about morality, it seems to me, is what happens when it changes. What happens, for example, when the subordination of women to men, or their exclusion from higher education or the professions, ceases to seem innocuous or natural and starts to be regarded as a grotesque abuse? ...

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Chapter 16: Relativism, Coherence, and the Problems of Philosophy

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pp. 392-422

The eventual topic of this paper is the perhaps grandiose question of whether we have any reason to think that philosophical problems can be solved. Philosophy has been around for quite some time, and its record is cause for pessimism: it is not, exactly, that there are no established results, but that what results there are, are negative ...

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Chapter 17: Ethics and the Evil of Being

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pp. 423-459

What has been achieved in twentieth-century ethics? The diversity of ethical discussions precludes a simple answer. Currents of thought have come and gone, but the presiding god of modernity still sits on its throne— autonomy. The god may take many forms: Kantian, utilitarian, existentialist; ...

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Chapter 18: The Inescapability of Ethics

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pp. 460-473

In the Fawlty Towers episode “Gourmet Night” we find the hapless hotel owner Basil Fawlty treating his chronically malfunctioning car as if it were yet another person conspiring with the rest of the world to make him fail once again. In what must surely be one of the most achingly funny illustrations of the archetypal love/hate relationship between man and machine, ...

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Epilogue: What Next?

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pp. 474-486

This epilogue is an expression of quite unusual gratitude both for the papers in this volume and for the wide-ranging, yet incisive discussions that earlier versions of them generated at a conference at University College Dublin in March 2009. The range of critical perspectives on various aspects of my work was and is impressive. ...

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List of Contributors

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pp. 487-492

Gerard Casey is Associate Professor of Philosophy at University College Dublin, Adjunct Professor at the Maryvale Institute (Birmingham, UK), and Adjunct Scholar at the Ludwig von Mises Institute (Alabama). A graduate of University College Cork, he received his MA and PhD from the University of Notre Dame. ...

Index of Names

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pp. 493-500

E-ISBN-13: 9780268088668
E-ISBN-10: 0268088667
Print-ISBN-13: 9780268037376
Print-ISBN-10: 026803737X

Page Count: 544
Illustrations: NA
Publication Year: 2013