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After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  3,832 ratings  ·  223 reviews
When After Virtue first appeared in 1981, it was recognized as a significant and potentially controversial critique of contemporary moral philosophy. Newsweek called it “a stunning new study of ethics by one of the foremost moral philosophers in the English-speaking world.” Since that time, the book has been translated into more than fifteen foreign languages and has sold ...more
Paperback, Second Edition, 304 pages
Published August 30th 1984 by University of Notre Dame Press (first published 1981)
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4.15  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,832 ratings  ·  223 reviews

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David Gross
Feb 22, 2008 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
Jan Rice
I began this book around September 2015, then reviewed the first half in January of 2016 in advance of a hiatus in reading. I resumed in April, but this time I wasn't alone. It had looked like such fun that Dennis wanted to study with me.

First we backtracked and did some review, and then we forged ahead, reading out loud, mostly me. I read over half the book out loud. And then I took notes on every paragraph, since that's the only way I could digest it. My notes constitute, in effect, a condens
Sep 18, 2015 rated it liked it
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
Sep 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
A big reason that modern debates over moral issues seem completely interminable and unresolvable is that we no longer have a shared idea of what the goal of a society should be, nor, correspondingly, any idea of the ultimate purpose of an individual living in a society. In this book, Alistair Macintyre compellingly argues that our contemporary moral reasoning is nothing more than the detritus of a previous moral order that made clear sense: the Aristotelian tradition. Enlightenment philosophers ...more
Nov 23, 2012 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
Jul 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I was for the longest time seduced by liberal individualism and existentialism into thinking that I can exist by myself while disregarding the world around me, that I can build my own values out of pure reason, and pursue my wholly individualist aims. But I now realize that's just nonsense. Individuals can't exist in a vacuum. We exist with a history attached to us, a culture, a burden. And as much as I'd like to get rid of that burden, I can't, for it's a part of me. Detaching myself won't make ...more
لن أتمه، استسلمت
مع أن الموضوع قيم والمؤلف لديه لفتات ذكية في نقد الواقع الأخلاقي الحالي الذي آلت إليه الأمور في عصرنا، لكن الترجمة رديئة، وبالكاد تريك شيئا من المعنى وكأنك تحاول النظر من وراء حجاب أو تتنفس من ثقب الباب، لا يكاد يصلك نتف منه
هذه ثاني تجربة كارثية مع ترجمة حيدر حاج اسماعيل
الأولى كانت مع كتاب تشارلز تايلر منابع الذات، وحينها تداركت الأمر قليلا بالاطلاع على النسخة الأجنبية في الجمل المشكلة أو المهمة حتى أفهم، لأن الموضوع جدا أعجبني، واستغرقني الأمر وقتا طويلا
وهذه كانت الثانية، ولم أف
Apr 09, 2013 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
Jan 09, 2008 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.
Jonathan Karmel
Mar 19, 2015 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
May 07, 2014 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
Feb 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The poor Enlightenment. Trapped by its inherent contradictions, we in the West find ourselves locked into playing out the game set by it, struggling to make the best of a bad hand until inevitably forced to fold, though the precise manner and consequences of that folding are yet to be determined. The Enlightenment’s defenders, cut-rate Rolands all, including Steven Pinker and many other Pollyanas across the political spectrum, try their hardest, even though it is now pretty obvious that the Enli ...more
Micah Musser
Dec 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Tried to start this book 4 years ago but gave up as it seemed to tedious for me. But after two years of Drumpf I see now that we really are living in a world ""after virtue""—this book is prophetic !!
Mike Horne
Jan 23, 2011 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)
Allegiance to Kin


Aristotle’s (from the Nichomachean Ethics
(Nameless concerned with ambition)
(Nameless concerned with gentleness)

Seven Heavenly Virtues
Jan 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
This book got me seriously interested in philosophy. It is everything a book of its kind should be: engaging, convincing, full of urgency.
Jun 04, 2008 marked it as recommended
Shelves: philosophy
Saw this as a favorite on a friend's bookshelf. It is also on mine--now I have a reason to move it up on my priority list...
Gregory Weber
MacIntyre begins with the observation that our modern moral arguments — on issues such as just war and peace, abortion, and economic opportunity — seem interminable and irresolvable, because neither side can accept the assumptions of the other, and so we loudly insist on our own assumptions as though emotivism (or as I would prefer to say, relativism) is true. The best of the emotivists, such as Hare, allowed that we could argue (reason) from a set of moral principles, but they had nothing to sa ...more
Sep 09, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy, history
I wish I could give After Virtue more than one rating. I had high hopes for it, and some of them were fulfilled. For example, MacIntyres analysis of emotivism is flawless. His thoughts on it mirror many of my own, but of course his are more eloquent and sophisticated than what I came up with during debates. Emotivism is the philosophy that moral statements are just cleverly disguised statements of subjective preference, with no universal validity. "Murder is wrong" thus becomes "I do not like mu ...more
Scriptor Ignotus
Jun 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
Never before have I read a work of nonfiction which argues that we are already living in a post-apocalyptic dystopia, but according to MacIntyre, we are indeed living through a new Dark Age - at least as far as morality is concerned.

MacIntyre lays out a famous hypothetical at the beginning of this work which imagines a world in which science has become demonized and banished from the intellectual scene, only to have scholars several generations later uncover fragments of the lost scientific age
Michael Eckhardt
Dec 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely brilliant book, impressive in both breadth and depth. It has already been significant to me in understanding why moral debates are so maddening, how impoverished our modern vocabulary has become for moral and religious concepts, and what a mixed bag the enlightenment has turned out to be.

MacIntyre for me shed light on areas that fit with things I've already learned and believed, but in an arena (moral reasoning) I had not applied much effort to. A very significant book for me.
Dec 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
I read this in spurts over the last few years. Only recently did I decide to pick it up and finish it. Really good, though some sections dragged on.
Jul 27, 2017 added it
Shelves: philosophy
Gregg Wingo
Jul 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Alasdair MacIntyre is a confirmed moralist and his work, “After Virtue”, is an analysis of the defeat of moral and civic virtue by the Enlightenment. MacIntyre exhibits such a grasp of lingual analysis, use of historical techniques, and philosophical critique that one wishes he was working on the present crisis of the Postmodernist condition rather complaining about the failure of Modernism. While a return to classical and Christian virtues is possible, it is also highly improbable that such a h ...more
Sarah (Gutierrez) Myers
Jan 26, 2012 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
Robert Durough, Jr.
Mar 20, 2012 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
Bob Nichols
Aug 09, 2009 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
Joseph Sverker
It is with a certain sense of reverence that one pick up a book like this in order to read. It is such a classic in its field and it is constantly referred to so in the end I simply had to read, and it is so nice when one really do get down to read these books, because it doesn't always happen. I will keep my comment brief though, mostly because I am lazy, and to the same degree because there are so many insightful interpretations of this book out there written by people far more competent and q ...more
Aug 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
On my philosophy shelf After Virtue is singular in its approachability and astute defiance of contemporary philosophical (& critical) norms. Its charms are perhaps deceptively anachronistic: MacIntyre shoos the damn geese off his lawn—the geese of course being marxists, relativists, pluralists, existentialists, Nietzschean free spirits and Sartrean sluggards (basically everything I hold dear)—brandishing a tightly wound copy of The Nicomachean Ethics. Yet passages like the venerated (and ter ...more
Mark Lilla calls this book "catnip for grumpy souls." Read the prologue here, and read a quote from p. 216 (on narrative and mythology; Justin Taylor is writing about N.D. Wilson's fiction) here.

This may be the MacIntyre book where he says that you can't talk about right and wrong without talking about purpose . . . and you can't keep from talking about right and wrong.
Ray A.
Mar 12, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: virtues
A hard read for the layperson, hence the two stars and the 2 1/2 years it took me to plod through it. As concerns recovery, the work is too abstract and theoretical and not sufficiently practical. For the specialist, however, it's considered a seminal work, one that has contributed to the revival of virtue ethics.
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Close Reads - Uno...: After Virtue 1 20 Jan 16, 2019 06:16AM  
Is morality mainly a matter of ideas? 2 16 Sep 19, 2013 09:40PM  
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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.
“At the foundation of moral thinking lie beliefs in statements the truth of which no further reason can be given.” 26 likes
“For Kant one can be both good and stupid; but for Aristotle stupidity of a certain kind precludes goodness.” 17 likes
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