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After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory

4.12  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,802 Ratings  ·  142 Reviews
Discusses the nature of moral disagreement, Nietzsche, Aristotle, heroic societies, and the virtue of of justice.
Paperback, Second Edition, 304 pages
Published August 30th 1984 by University of Notre Dame Press (first published 1981)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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David Gross
Dec 13, 2009 David Gross rated it really liked it
Shelves: ethics, non-fiction
What if our contemporary moral discourse were a cargo cult in which we picked up fragments of a long lost, once-coherent moral philosophy, and ignorantly constructed a bunch of nonsense that didn’t work and could not work in principle?

After Virtue argues that this indeed is what happened, and this explains why our moral discourse is such a mess.

Why when we argue about moral issues do we make our case in a form that resembles rational argument, but the effect seems to be only like imperative stat
...more
sologdin
Apr 20, 2016 sologdin rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy
Intertextuality Update: fairly obvious, in the course of my current re-read of A Confederacy of Dunces, that author here has simply taken protagonist there and channeled him as non-satirical: MacIntyre is Ignatius Reilly. The worm is the spice!

A fairly conservative endeavor overall. Outworks note, for instance, that “Marxism’s moral defects and failures arise from the extent to which it, like liberal individualism, embodies the ethos of the distinctively modern and modernizing world” (xviii). M
...more
Jan Rice

Thoughts at (Near) the Halfway Point

The Enlightenment Project--that is, the attempt to establish a secular and rational basis for morality--is a failure. All attempts to do that are mere masks for what you want. The society we have is a reflection of that basic fact. So says Alasdair MacIntyre. This is the new dark ages.

Even if the first part were true, that morality as we know it today is a sham, I don't know how he could convince me of the second part about the dark ages or of the seeming imp
...more
Samantha
Oct 07, 2014 Samantha rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2013
Though I didn't necessarily agree with all the author's ultimate conclusions, I found After Virtue to be a cogent and well-argued work on moral theory. One of MacIntyre's claims against "emotivism" that he finds to be pervading societal discourse on morality--that is, morals and "virtues" reduced to mere claims of preference--is that logical reasoning is actually being done in support of those chosen moral standpoints. He roots many of the virtues we now intuitively view as "good" (i.e., courage ...more
Paul
Nov 23, 2012 Paul rated it it was amazing
I've often wondered why I cannot seem to construct a coherent, rational argument with respect to any of the hot-button social issues of our day. MacIntyre says I'm not alone; both liberals and conservatives today are trapped in a radically individualist philosophical liberalism that cannot be defended despite "three centuries of moral philosophy and one of sociology." His counter-proposal is that the "Aristotelian tradition can be restated in a way that restores intelligibility and rationality t ...more
James
Sep 26, 2010 James rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy
If anything MacIntyre does a wonderful job of explaining all the misguided and quirky cul-de-sacs that the study of Ethics has fallen prey to over the last few centuries (culminating in Nietzsche's big philosophical gut-punch and the legacy of his critique of Enlightenment thought). As to his positive theory--and his attempt at revitalizing virtue ethics--I can only say that the case he makes is equally plausible and problematic, plausible because, say what you will about teleological thinking, ...more
David
Jun 30, 2014 David rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy, ethics
In my twenties I read a lot of books. I was in seminary, reading assigned readings, and then I was starting out in ministry reading books on leadership and spiritual formation and the like. Over time I began to notice some authors were referenced in numerous books I was reading. Now in my thirties, it seems as if I am reading the authors who were often being quoted in books I read in my twenties. Alasdair Macintyre is one such author. I’d heard of his books numerous times but it wasn’t until a f ...more
Mike Horne
May 22, 2011 Mike Horne rated it it was amazing
Pick a virtue you would want to have in spades. Pick a virtue you want others around you to have. Are they the same? Why or why not?

From the Iliad (or Njal’s Saga)
Courage
Allegiance to Kin
Hospitality

Cardinal
Temperance
Prudence
Fortitude
Justice

Aristotle’s (from the Nichomachean Ethics
Courage
Self-Control
Generosity
Magnificence
High-mindedness
(Nameless concerned with ambition)
(Nameless concerned with gentleness)
Friendliness
Truthfulness
Wittiness
Justice

Seven Heavenly Virtues
Chastity
Temperance
Charity
Dilige
...more
Bob Nichols
May 17, 2011 Bob Nichols rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
MacIntyre provides a strong critique of contemporary moral theory, dominated as it is by varieties of emotivism: There are no objective standards; moral values are subjective and relative. This is the first half of his book. As much as MacIntyre admires Aristotle, he cannot go back to Aristotle's "metaphysical biology." Aristotle's "classical" perspective was replaced with a variety of rationalistic moral theories (e.g., Kant) that Nietzsche accurately and powerfully in MacIntyre's view said wer ...more
John Doe
Mar 02, 2013 John Doe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
You want to play chess, but the kid could care less. How do you get him to play? Give him a piece of his favorite candy if he plays. He doesn't play well because he has no incentive to play well, so you give him a piece of candy only when he wins. Now, what if he cheats? What if you leave the room and the kid, wanting sweets, moves some of your pieces around to gain advantage? An incentive to win is an incentive to cheat. So, you watch the kid carefully so he cannot have an opportunity to cheat. ...more
Miles
Feb 19, 2016 Miles rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Several chapters from Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue were instrumental in my undergraduate thesis, but I never got around to reading the whole book until now. This is a grand and fascinating journey through the history of ethics, fueled by MacIntyre’s argument for a modern renaissance of Aristotelian thought.

He begins with this assertion:

"The language of morality is in…[a] state of grave disorder…What we possess, if this view is true, are fragments of a conceptual scheme, parts which now lack
...more
Fouz Aljameel
Jan 27, 2015 Fouz Aljameel rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
ماكنتاير ناقد عنيف لكل المدارس الليبرالية في الثقافة الغربية بشكل غريب ولافت للنظر .. وما يدعو إليه باختصار شديد في هذا الكتاب الثريّ فلسفيا هو إعادة الاعتبار لمفهوم الفضيلة (وفقا لأرسطو) لذا يندرج في مدرسة المجموعاتية التي تتبنى ذلك ..
Jennifer
Oct 28, 2008 Jennifer rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
wrong, and in many ways absurd, but absolutely delightful. This book made me want to do ethics, when I was just a wee lass studying Medieval metaphysics and logic.
Seth
Dec 16, 2015 Seth rated it it was amazing
This is a fascinating book written in clear and muscular prose and stuffed full of big ideas that will surprise, intrigue, challenge, and delight the reader. I especially appreciated MacIntyre's arguments about 1) how the cultural turn that began in the Enlightenment rendered modern discourse about ethics incoherent, 2) how the concept of "telos" allows one to derive "ought" statements from "is" statements, 2) how "character" embodies and enacts key aspects of a cultural and era, 3) how societie ...more
Robert Durough, Jr.
Sep 10, 2015 Robert Durough, Jr. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: ethicists, lawyers, philosophers, politicians, theologians
Recommended to Robert by: Lee C. Camp
This is one of those books that I’ve had for several years, really wanted to read, but kept putting off to get through some easier reads. It took me a few days to get through this dense work of philosophy, but I am blessed to have finally completed Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue (3rd ed.). I’ve had concerns and suspicions for years as to the foundations of moral arguments, particularly those of political establishments, but did not have the philosophical and historical background with which t ...more
Jonathan Karmel
Mar 19, 2015 Jonathan Karmel rated it really liked it
According to this book, after the Enlightenment, moral philosophers rejected Aristotle’s teleological philosophy of ethics in search of a rational basis for morality. But the effort to find a universal rationality for morality failed. Therefore, we are just left with Emotivism, the belief that moral arguments are ultimately just based on the subjective, personal feelings of individuals. The author believes that we should return to the teleological morality of Aristotle.

What is teleological moral
...more
Devon Sawyer
Nov 23, 2014 Devon Sawyer rated it it was amazing
Alasdair MacIntyre claims that the moral structure that grew out of the Enlightenment project was divested of its meaning and purpose because it abandoned Aristotelian teleology. While the implications for the state modern moral discourse is ostensibly bleak, it was personally exciting to revisit After Virtue after having read it in college because of it's emphasis on seeing the universe as meaningful and beautiful as "a work of art," rather than through the lens of man himself as a "work of art ...more
W. Littlejohn
Feb 01, 2012 W. Littlejohn rated it it was amazing
After Virtue is a ubiquitous presence within the field of ethics, as indeed within many discussions of political theory and the predicament of late modernity. Scarcely a week has gone by, it feels, in which I do not hear it referred to in some context or other. And yet, I sheepishly admitted to no one that I had never actually read it. Since I had to read the first ten pages for a Christian Ethics tutorial I was leading this semester, I decided to go ahead and take the opportunity to read the wh ...more
Sarah Gutierrez
Jun 15, 2012 Sarah Gutierrez rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
Great book. It feels slightly Justin Bieber fangirl-ish to love this book and author as much as I do, but it was that good. Even though I had heard references to MacIntyre's work many times before, reading After Virtue straight through cleared up so much confusion, it almost felt like a paradigm realignment. If you've ever been involved in an argument involving moral questions, and you suddenly realized the debate was pointless because you were both arguing from disagreeing and rationally un-dem ...more
Mairaj
Apr 27, 2007 Mairaj rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent book on ethics and cause quite a stir when it came out.

It was a very fast read for a philosophy book. Interestingly, while most authors are great at criticism/deconstruction and not so good at building their own constructive arguments, the opposite is the case for MacIntyre in this book.

I tend to agree more with his constructive picture of what virtue ethics is all about and disagree with his characterization of moral discourse in the modern west.

On the constructive side, hi
...more
Giao Nguyen
May 28, 2015 Giao Nguyen rated it it was amazing
I'm not convinced about his conclusions, but I did find the discourse on the failures of enlightenment morality intriguing. The analysis of a life versus an act seemed cogent. Enjoyed it immensely. Will have to think about it some more.
Jasmine Star
Feb 19, 2008 Jasmine Star rated it really liked it
Josh and I have different opinions on this book. He thinks its gospel and i take it less seriously-indicative of personality differences and majors…the book frowns on social science and glorifies philosophy as the only way to get things done, lol. I find it to be a great conversation piece, because many of the theories are controversial. I felt like the book began ranting at times, because the scope of the argument was so large that the author kept remembering more and more things he wanted to " ...more
Eric
4.5. Loved the historicist narrative approach that MacIntyre took here and now that I have an initial orientation to what he is trying to do the book demands a rereading. I'm glad that I have gone back to the source, so to speak, in light of the so-called Benedict Option that has been floated in some conservative circles in the last while. After Virtue certainly poses challenges for those people as well as other contemporary approaches to morality, primarily because of his challenge to rule-base ...more
Brian Boyce
Jul 20, 2013 Brian Boyce rated it liked it
Bit disappointing the old Alasdair. Sure we need a tradition form which to speak and communicate to have a shared language. Sorry that Marxism didn't work out for you and you retreated to Thomism and communitarianism. It does seem as though you are collapsing into a bit of a post modern stance of there being a number of worlds happening at once, but there are some of here still trying to make progress beyond the political ideologies into something that can be said to be directional, rather than ...more
William Ramsay
May 04, 2014 William Ramsay rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Explanation by a major modern philosopher of how we became a nation (and world) or such divergent views of what is right and true. Not an easy book, but one well worth the effort.
Shane
Jan 23, 2016 Shane rated it liked it
Shelves: philosphy
In After Virtue, Alasdair MacIntyre claims that modern societies have lost the ability to discuss morality in rational terms. MacInyre blames the Enlightenment, which in seeking to ground morality in wholly objective foundations ended up severing the connection to historical practice which made moral reasoning possible. As a result, modern moral language consists of little more than disconnected fragments from past traditions, bereft of an actual cohesive order, consigning us to a state of barba ...more
A. J. McMahon
Aug 23, 2015 A. J. McMahon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Some books are so important that they constitute a threshold between Before I Read This Book and After I Read This Book times of your life. There was my life before I read After Virtue and my life since. This book really made me think about things I had never before thought about.

The fundamental premise of the book is that the Enlightenment was a cataclysm beyond reckoning that impacted our civilization in a manner comparable to the asteroid impact that finished off the dinosaurs. This has left
...more
Caleb Roberts
Aug 01, 2015 Caleb Roberts rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
I definitely understand now why this book is such a big deal. Truly impressive work of moral philosophy which has provided me with a much needed vocabulary. Loved it. That said, it's unclear how, under the terms of the book alone, MacIntyre's hope for another St. Benedict should fare any better than the only alternative which he considers before dismissing entirely: Marxism. It seems that if there is any hope to be had in modern culture, there has to be some truth to at least the optimism of the ...more
Seth Benzell
Mar 28, 2014 Seth Benzell rated it it was amazing
After Virtue starts with a premise right out of science fiction (perhaps it was directly inspired by "A Canticle for Liebowitz?"). What if, after some social collapse, science - the practice of quantitative discovery - were to disappear, but some of its results - some formulas for example, were preserved? MacIntyre says we'd have a confusing, occasionally useful mess, and it is hard to disagree. Then comes his move - he claims that this catastrophe has already occurred - In Ethics!

So much of eth
...more
Michael
Nov 21, 2015 Michael rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
The author argues that moral debates are interminable because there is no consensus about community goals nor is there a moral framework or priority list. It is necessary to restore teleology to the moral discussion and advocates a return to Aristotle's telos. He argues that the emotivists are incorrect, that our values can be based upon human needs. He considers five moral traditions which are personified by Homer, Aristotle, the New Testament, Jane Austen and Benjamin Franklin. Homer's values ...more
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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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“At the foundation of moral thinking lie beliefs in statements the truth of which no further reason can be given.” 11 likes
“we are never more (and sometimes less) than the co-authors of our own narratives.” 8 likes
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