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A Short History Of Ethics: A History Of Moral Philosophy From The Homeric Age To The Twentieth Century

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  185 ratings  ·  14 reviews
In this classic work, Alasdair MacIntyre guides the reader through the history of moral philosophy from the Greeks to contemporary times. He emphasizes the importance of a historical context to moral concepts and ideas. MacIntyre illustrates the relevance of philosophical queries on moral concepts enabling the reader to understand the importance of a historical account of ...more
Published (first published April 1st 1966)
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Jacob Aitken
Review of Alasdair MacIntyre’s A Short History of Ethics

The title of the book is misleading. It gives one the impression that AM will gives us a survey of the history of ethical positions. While he does do this to a degree, that is not the point of the book. AM’s argument is that key terms in ethics change meaning with the change in language and/or social custom (269). Secondly, key moves in philosophy and social theory change ethical foundations.

AM begins with Greek ethics and gives a thorough
...more
Russell Freeman
This book was a helpful survey of moral philosophy beginning with Homer and ending with the prescriptivism of R. M. Hare. MacIntyre's history is never simply summary. He continuously critiques the philosophers whose views he provides. For some, this constant analysis will be grating, but it forced me to engage consistently with MacIntyre. His diagnosis of "modern moral philosophy" was a fitting culmination to the book. In other words, the book truly ends and doesn't simply stop with the most rec ...more
Mark Rossiter
A couple of years ago I stuck “History of Ethics” into Amazon and it came back with a two-volume tome by Vernon J. Bourke. I bought it and read it, to the end, on the principle that, once you’ve started, you have to stick it out. It was excruciating; a laundry list of pretty much what anyone who ever opened their mouth about ethics had ever said, couched in unintelligible technical terms, with no penetration, depth, or real understanding. I learned close to nothing, and it took forever. Hence I ...more
Alexander Frost
Whilst I agree with the reviewers below that this brilliant book can be quite dense at times, Alisdair does not read as if he is trying to be pompous or difficult. Unique amongst philosophical writters, I left with an overwhelming sense that that the subject merely deserves a degree of deferential depth and attention.

Aside from the fascinating insights into ethics through the ages, one of the most interesting aspects of this book is the relationship between changing social structures and the co
...more
Adam
He is truly brilliant, and his understanding of ethics throughout history is unprecedented. BUT, this book is supposed to be a short history of ethics, one a non-specialist should be able to pick up and it doesn't live up to that. It's short, but it's quite cumbersome at moments. That being said, he really includes everything through Western civ on moral theory. From pre-Socrates up to current (late 20th c.) ethical thought. You can read short pieces about Hume, Nietzsche, Aristotle, Aquinas, et ...more
Luke Echo
This really is quite a good summary of the History of Ethics. I know MacIntyre leans towards a certain type of conservatism but it was still rather balanced.
Danny
An alright introduction, though incredibly unbalanced (e.g. 100+ pages on Plato and Aristole vs. 10 pages on Christianity up until the Reformation (~1,500 years). However, as he readily admits in his preface to the 2nd edition, his brief chapter on Christianity was not only woefully brief, it was also woefully false as he relied on what is now considered well-refuted liberal German scholarship concerning the kingdom and the eschaton.
Richard Newton
This is an intelligent and useful overview of the development of ethics, or at least the western approach to ethics. It balances well the needs of a history of ideas and providing some useful explorations philosophy itself. Not too difficult to read without a deep philosophical education, although some familiarity with certain concepts is helpful.
Michael
A very good book as an overview on the evolution of philosophical views about what constitutes ethical behavior.
Randy Hulshizer
This was not so much of a history as a one sided view of the history of ethics.
Eric
A fabulous chronicle of how ethics have evolved over time in the West
Maya
Not a very easy read but an interesting one none the less.
Mort Shahmir
An excellent brief review of philosophy.
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Alasdair Chalmers MacIntyre is a leading philosopher primarily known for his contribution to moral and political philosophy but known also for his work in history of philosophy and theology. He is the O'Brien Senior Research Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame.
More about Alasdair MacIntyre...
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