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Epilogue What Next? A L A S D A I R M A C I N T Y R E 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. Were I to live long enough to learn what I need to learn from those criticisms and to revise and develop my work accordingly, I would surely win an unprecedented place in the Guinness Book of Records for longevity. Yet to think in those terms would be to miss the point: my work has become part of a number of remarkable conversations and inquiries that now have a life of their own. The question therefore is: How to carry some of them at least further forward? What was happily evident in Dublin was that participants in those conversations often include protagonists of standpoints whose adherents have in the past largely ignored each other or felt able to be cursorily dismissive of each other’s views. Consider the large lack of conversation for many decades between Marxists and Thomists. There are no papers by Marxists in this volume, but there were insightful Marxist contributors to the discussions in Dublin. And Raymond Geuss’s paper, with its thesis that “the story of the twentieth century is the story of the failure of Marx474 ism,” makes it clear—perhaps unintentionally—why a dialogue about issues in moral philosophy in which contemporary Marxists were not participating would be a defective and inadequate conversation. So too would be a conversation from which contemporary Thomists were absent. And the contributions that Thomists made to the discussions in Dublin were notable. What then is the relevance of Marxist claims to Thomist claims? I begin from Geuss’s discussion of Marxism. Geuss argues that in the twentieth century Marxism “presented the only genuine and potentially viable attempt at reconstituting some notion of objective moral authority.” The conception of human development through history that provided Marxists with their grounds for claiming such authority was summarized by Marx in a passage from the Grundrisse that Geuss quotes. Marx remarks that in the ancient Greco-Roman world the question about the point and purpose of prosperity “is always which form of prosperity creates the best citizens,” whereas in the modern world “production appears as the end of human beings and wealth as the end of production.” But, so Marx argues, if we understand the notion of wealth rightly, “what is wealth other than the universality of the needs, abilities, forms of enjoyment, productive powers, etc., generated through universal exchange?” And he goes on here and elsewhere to speak of the development of human creative capabilities becoming an end in itself, an end to be achieved by communism, an end by appeal to which communism is to exhibit its moral superiority. That is, Marxist claims to political and moral authority, whether advanced in theoretical debate or in debased form in the politics of that murderous parody of Marxism, the Soviet state, presuppose both an account of human nature as directed toward the end of a full development of human powers and a corresponding account of human history in which the movement from the ancient to the modern world is one toward a more adequate understanding of what that end is. Geuss notes that Marx’s thesis raises the question of how his reference to the universality of human needs and the like is to be construed, and Geuss alludes to the distinction drawn by Marxists of the Frankfurt School between “true” and “false” human needs, noting approvingly that they hoped to establish this distinction “without a return to an Aristotelian conception of a substantively fixed human nature that could be used as a criterion .” Geuss explains his own approval of this attempt to avoid returning Epilogue 475 to Aristotle by arguing for a rejection of Aristotle’s conception of “a single overarching goal” for human activity, a goal in the light of which our various human actions and projects could be evaluated. Yet Geuss allows that, lacking the standard that such a goal might have provided, the selfproclaimed and self-deceived Marxists of the Soviet bloc and their theoretical allies were condemned to understand the human future in terms of progress in production and consumption, crudely conceived...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780268088668
Related ISBN
9780268037376
MARC Record
OCLC
849947046
Pages
544
Launched on MUSE
2013-08-13
Language
English
Open Access
No
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