Brett Williams's Reviews > After Virtue
Brett Williams's review
Nov 17, 2019
MacIntyre’s landmark book has been so often referenced and complained about in so many other books I’ve read, I had to try it. After Virtue is galactic in its span of big ideas, with such complex sentences I had to rewrite them myself, hence the complaints. Prefiguring Deneen’s Why Liberalism Failed by almost 40 years, MacIntyre plies some of the same waters underlying our Culture Wars. But MacIntyre’s more interested in the philosophical roots and branches of Western morality and how it got cut down, from Aristotle, to Aquinas, by Enlightenment philosophers who tried to replace the Greco-Judeo-Christian authority with rational arguments that justified moral behavior. What Enlightenment did instead was come up with competing reasons, from Kantian notions of means and ends, to social contractarians, to utilitarians, to Kierkegaard’s free choice option. All competing for the correct reasoning left none as an authority, when once that authority would have been an unquestionable God or a universally agreed upon Good, both based on individual-constraining virtues. Our culture is one of unresolvable moral disagreements, says MacIntyre. Disagreements that presuppose a shared impersonal standard of virtue that no longer exists. Our arguments harbor precepts that were at home in a context of thought, belief, feeling, habits and actions with shared concepts of the Good, long lost. Separated from a shared understanding of the Good, morality had to be rationalized (and ultimately politicized). Modern morality is stuck, unable to advance in its own moral enquiries, or extricate us from our moral dilemmas. While too expansive for a review, MacIntyre gets a greenlight for a miniseries in my blog. I treasure this book and the brain that wrote, but it didn’t come without a fistfight. Ultimately MacIntyre won, and I’m better off for the whipping.
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