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     From Answers to Questions A Response to the Responses Alasdair MacIntyre In my opening essay I did not invite agreement, but hoped to elicit from others who share the philosophical and theological concerns and commitments of Catholic Christianity both criticism of the theses that I defend and the articulation of alternative perspectives. In these respects I succeeded and have reason to be extraordinarily grateful to all the contributors. They have provided a remarkable range of criticisms and distinctive approaches, adding dimensions to the discussion, deepening our understanding of the issues, and arguing for alternative standpoints. What we are left with, I am going to suggest, is not so much a set of agreements and disagreements as a better defined and more searching set of questions.We have reached a point at which we can say more clearly and sharply just what it is that we and others must do to carry this project forward.  10 Cunningham Ch10 1/27/09 11:23 AM Page 313  | Alasdair MacIntyre The two essays that advance the most direct and searching criticisms of my own positions are those by Jean Porter and Gerald McKenny. I shall delay my response to McKenny, since in evaluating his criticisms I need to appeal to considerations advanced by some other essayists. So I proceed first to examine Jean Porter’s arguments and next to consider how important dimensions are added to the discussion by David A. Clairmont, M. Cathleen Kaveny, and Daniel Philpott . Only then will I address McKenny’s powerful case and evaluate it, partly in the light of the essays by Father Kevin L. Flannery, S.J., and by Father John J. Coughlin, O.F.M. The final essay, by Thomas Hibbs, throws badly needed light on how we should proceed further, if we are to move on from the reformulations that result from my engagement with the arguments and insights of the other essayists. Every one of them has insightful points to make on which I will be unable to comment simply for reasons of space. So I hope that I will be forgiven for being selective. I Jean Porter begins from the question “Does the natural law provide a universally valid morality?” The answer that she gives is “No.” If all that she means by her answer is that the natural law does not provide a morality that all rational agents, whatever their cultural or social background , are able to acknowledge as authoritative, she and I would not be in disagreement. But she means significantly more. For to the contention that adherence to the precepts of the natural law, as characterized by Aquinas, is compatible with a recognition of diversity with respect to“the normative substance of the natural law”(p. ) she adds the thesis that “even on the most optimistic showing, any attempt to specify the general precepts of the natural law will remain indeterminate and incomplete, apart from the traditions and practices of some specific community.” And she adds that “the natural law as we Chris10 Cunningham Ch10 1/27/09 11:23 AM Page 314 tians understand and formulate it will inevitably involve some degree of theological specification”(p. ). In her impressive book Nature as Reason: A Thomistic Theory of the Natural Law (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, ), she made it clear that underlying her view of the indeterminacy of the precepts of the natural law is a thesis about the limitations of practical rationality, no matter how understood. She remarks at one point that “it begins to look as if practical reason alone is not sufficient to generate a moral theory” (p. )—or, I take it, the moral judgments that guide our everyday actions—and the tentative character of this remark disappears, as Porter examines and rejects the various claims about the sufficiency of practical rationality advanced by Kantians and utilitarians. So it seems to be her view that the central theses of all the major philosophical standpoints concerning morality and the judgments made in accordance with them, Thomistic, Humean, Kantian, utilitarian, whatever, are either insufficiently supported or underdetermined or both, and that the issues dividing them therefore cannot be settled by rational argument. For Porter therefore there is no problem about the explanation of moral disagreement. Not all moral disagreement may be explicable by the insufficiency of reason, but the insufficiency of reason makes the occurrence of moral disagreement unsurprising. By contrast on my view—and on the view that, rightly or wrongly, I ascribe to Aquinas—the...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780268076849
Related ISBN
9780268022990
MARC Record
OCLC
776187333
Pages
392
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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