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Alasdair MacIntyre
1929 -

Scottish-born political philosopher, author of After Virtue (1981), Whose Justice? Which Rationality? (1988) and other works


There is a fundamental contrast between man as he happens to be and man as he could be if he realized his essential nature. ... The precepts which enjoin the various virtues and prohibit the vices instruct us how to move from potentiality to act, how to realize our true nature, and to reach our true end. To defy them will be to be frustrated and incomplete, to fail to achieve that good of rational happiness which it is peculiarly ours as a species to pursue.

1981 - from After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory
It is always dangerous to draw too precise parallels between one historical period and another; and among the more misleading of such parallels are those which have been drawn between our own age ... and the epoch in which the Roman Empire declined into the Dark Ages. Nonetheless certain parallels there are. ... What they set themselves to achieve - often not recognizing fully what they were doing - was the construction of new forms of community within which the moral life could be sustained so that both morality and civility might survive the coming ages of barbarism and darkness. If my account of our moral condition is correct, we ought also to conclude that for some time now we too have reached that turning point. ... This time, however, the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers, they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament. We are not waiting for Godot, but for another - and doubtless very different - St. Benedict.

1981 - from After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory
To be a moral agent is ... to be able to stand back from any and every situation in which one is involved, from any and every characteristic that one may possess, and to pass judgment on it from a purely universal and abstract point of view that is totally detached from all social particularity.

1981 - from After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory
Liberalism is often successful in preempting the debate ... so that [objections to it] appear to have become debates within liberalism. ... So-called conservatism and so-called radicalism in these contemporary guises are in general mere stalking-horses for liberalism: the contemporary debates within modern political systems are almost exclusively between conservative liberals, liberal liberals, and radical liberals. There is little place in such political systems for the criticism of the system itself, that is, for putting liberalism in question.

1988 - from Whose Justice? Which Rationality?, Duckworth, London
What [the Romans] set themselves to achieve - often not recognizing fully what they were doing - was the construction of new forms of community within which the moral life could be sustained so that both morality and civility might survive the coming ages of barbarism and darkness. If my account of our moral condition is correct, we ought also to conclude that for some time now we too have reached that turning point. ... This time, however, the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers, they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament. We are not waiting for Godot, but for another - and doubtless very different - St. Benedict.

1981 - from After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory