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MACINTYRE'S REPUBLIC J. K. SWINDLER Westminster College Fulton, Missouri CONTRARY TO HIS own evident intentions and perceptions , in After Virtue A'lasdair Macinty!l.·e is much more of a Ptlatonist 1than the A1 ristotelian he aims to be. I hase this judgment both on the positive evidence that Macintyre and Plato (in the Republic) m1gue for and against the same crucial theses and on the negative evidence that Plato has read answers to the very issues which Macintyre finds 1 intractable from an AristoteHan point of viiew. My thesis can be made out in terms of a half dozen issues which Maclntyire takes as crucial to his case: (1) Can there he a science of government? (2) Is there an answer to the sophist's chaillenge to morality? (3) How oan the fragmentation of the modern self he theoretically overcome? (4) What are the hi1stocical and social determinants of morality? (5) Is there a unity of virtue in addition to individual virtues? (6) Can we reconcile ourselves to teleofogy, the absence of the polis, and the tragedy of human 1:ife? I will consider each of these in turn. I. Wisdom Plato defines wisdom as knowledge of how to rule, and Aristotle (in the Nichomachean Ethics) distinguishes between theoretical and practical wisdom, 1suggesting thereby an interesting ambiguity in Plato's view, an ambiguity of which Macintyre makes a great deal. One may rule eithecr hy law or by judgment. In his attack on the Enlightenment, MacIntyre showis quite clearly tha;t the idea of a social science that would p11ovide laws of human behavior, which could in 343 344 J. K. SWINDLER turn be used by il"ulers and managers to predict and therefore manipulate !human action, was an invention of the eighteenth century. He offers an extensive 1oritique o.f this conception of socirul science, grounded primarily in the claim that human .behavior is essentially unlawful, at least if we judge it by the standards of the physical sciences. There is in human affairs a farge 1and uneliminwble element of fortiuna which makes it impossrible rto .formulate laws of human nature or behavior that would he exceptionless and therefore underwrite predictions of behavior. For there is nothing to be done about the unpredictability of innovations or, from one's own point of view, of one's own future actions; nor can the uncertainties of gametheoretie decisions and 1 the general contingency of the outcomes of ruction ,be remedied. There is therefore no possibility of a social science in the sense in which Hume tried to imitate Newton. So much for Marx and Weber and the horde of modern .social scientists. This is not to say that life is completely uncertain; on the contrary, there are genuine and general regularities in society, some natural, some social, ·some statistical, some causal, wihich make life bearable. But these provide a ,ground for the Aristotelian idea, endorsed by MacIntyre , that the principles of conduct, such as they might be, hold only for the most part and not universa1ly. There is therefore in Maclntyre's view no justification for 1a mora;l oode in the modern sense, nor ev;en of moral principles of the kind we are used to from Kant ·and Mill, Rawls and Nozick, which purport to istand as a sufficient criterion of right in all cases. But, importantly, we do not find any such rules or codes in Pla.to either. For Plato, too, insists on the mixed reign of chaos and logos in the materia;l world and in our Jives and concludes that judgment is essential to· determining right conduct. He tellrs us that wise rule comes only &om good oharructer and good institutions, that legislating in such detaii1 as to eliminate judgment is "cut:ting off the heads of a hy:dra." One cannot help hut think that tMs (essentially Hemclitean) point is something Aristotle ~earned at his MACINTYRE'S REPUBLIC 345 master's knee. And both aspects of Plato's :point ~e ipresent in Aristotle, viz., that s~nce the:ve is chance in nature, there is luck (good 'and had) in life, and since no rule can capture the particularity of conorete situations right...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2473-3725
Print ISSN
0040-6325
Pages
pp. 343-354
Launched on MUSE
2017-04-05
Open Access
No
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