Making Sense of Morality: Alasdair MacIntyre’s Ethics

R Scott Smith, PhD
Nov 9, 2020 · 3 min read
Various ethics terms
Various ethics terms
Image by Mary Pahlke from Pixabay

MacIntyre’s Diagnosis

MacIntyre (b. 1929) observes people seem to speak from different moral standpoints, or languages. Some talk as though they are emotivists, while others are Kantians, utilitarians, relativists, Aristotelians, etc. But, it seems we no longer have a way to dialogue morally and come to agreements. These different ways of morally talking seem to presuppose objective standards to evaluate them. However, he claims that fails because they presuppose different evaluative concepts and frameworks.

MacIntyre’s Proposal

To recover Aristotle’s ethics, MacIntyre recommends several changes. First, while Aristotle depended upon the soul to ground a person’s identity through change (including growth in virtue), MacIntyre says we must reject the soul. In its place, he argues for the narrative unity to a person. One’s narrative is drawn from the narrative context of that person’s form of life (community), with its formative story and language.

MacIntyre and Language

MacIntyre draws heavily upon the later Wittgenstein’s (d. 1951) views of language. Each language is nominal and tied to a given form of life. Language does not have universal meaning. Instead, meaning is a matter of language use (verbal and nonverbal behavior) in that context, according to its grammatical rules and formative story.

For Further Reading

Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue, 3rd ed., and Whose Justice? Which Rationality?

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R Scott Smith, PhD

Written by

Professor of ethics, philosophy of religion @ Biola's MA Christian Apologetics. Interests: ethics, knowledge, nominalism, & how Christians have been naturalized

Curious

Curious

A community of people who are curious to find out what others have already figured out // Curious is a new personal growth publication by The Startup (https://medium.com/swlh).

R Scott Smith, PhD

Written by

Professor of ethics, philosophy of religion @ Biola's MA Christian Apologetics. Interests: ethics, knowledge, nominalism, & how Christians have been naturalized

Curious

Curious

A community of people who are curious to find out what others have already figured out // Curious is a new personal growth publication by The Startup (https://medium.com/swlh).

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