Emptiness and Its Consequences: MacIntyre on “Emotivism”

In Chapters 2 and 3 of MacIntyre’s After Virtue, we learn what “emotivism” is and why MacIntyre dislikes it. In particular, he identifies emotivism as the primary way people now think about moral arguments, and he blames emotivism for our inability to reach any moral agreement. Even more interestingly, he sees in the modern bureacratic/managerial organization an expression of emotivism that leads to a lack of agency and responsibility. This is because the emotivist “self” is basically empty–moving from feeling to feeling but with no real grounding–and this emptiness is then filled by stronger forces in society–political and commercial. MacIntyre argues that in a traditional society the self is filled by pre-ordained social roles–but is this any better? The latter is a question we’ll ask as we move on into MacIntyre’s defense of Aristotelian virtue ethics.


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