From Hero to Consumer (After Virtue 8, audio)

This video covers ideas in chapters 10-12 in Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue. In pursuit of an alternative to value neutrality and the fragmented responsibility characterized by modern bureaucracy, Alasdair MacIntyre attempts to reconstruct a history of Western moral development. His aim is to help society re-learn Aristotelian teleology and virtue ethics. But to locate what he’s advocating he goes back to the Homeric Greek heroic ideal, then traces the emergence of a new kind of self (one that is self-conscious and aware of the distinction between self and society) in democratic Athens. Out of this society emerged Aristotle, whose thought came closer to what seems to be MacIntyre’s ideal–one that consciously deals with ethics both at the level of the particular society and at the level of universal claims. MacIntyre distances himself from Aristotle’s “metaphysical biology” and therefore from Aristotle’s claims that there are biologically determined natural roles and different virtues for different people, claiming that Aristotle mistook his society’s particular cultural norms for eternal truths. But can MacIntyre have Aristotle’s teleology and virtue ethics without his biological determinism? That is yet to be seen.
More From Hero to Consumer (After Virtue 8, audio)

Revolt Against “Customer Service”: MacIntyre on the Managerial Monster God (After Virtue 7 Audio)

In Chapters 8 and 9 of After Virtue, Alasdair MacIntyre argues that social science cannot approximate the physical sciences in predictability and that the bureaucratic manager, king of “customer service” technique is therefore full of, well, something other than expertise. It turns out that freedom entails a lack of predictability, that Machiavellian “Fortuna” is better than being oppressively managed and that complete efficiency produces the breakdown of efficiency in employee/constituent revolt. In Chapter 9, MacIntyre begins the journey away from Nietzsche, whom he considers at least an honest nihilist, and towards Aristotle. … More Revolt Against “Customer Service”: MacIntyre on the Managerial Monster God (After Virtue 7 Audio)

Our Bureaucratic Rulers: Creatures of Enlightenment’s Failure (Audio)

MacIntyre’s argument in chapters 6 and 7 of After Virtue moves further into the problems caused by the fact/value distinction, the development of social science, and the managerial/bureaucratic approach to dealing with people. The threat to democracy posed by the social engineering mode of thinking begins to take center stage. Along the way, unicorns and witches are unmasked so that we can see that, in MacIntyre’s view, without adequate grounding for moral reasoning, there is no justification for rule other than the will to power. … More Our Bureaucratic Rulers: Creatures of Enlightenment’s Failure (Audio)

Groping for Moral Certitude (After Virtue 5) Audio

In Chapters 4 and 5 MacIntyre begins his critique of modern political thought, going backwards from existentialism to the early modern period, tracing the steps that led to the disconnect with the older Aristotelian/Christian tradition. After finding that no modern political thought has been able to adequately ground its preferences for certain moral principles in anything solid, he argues that most of these philosophers operated with unacknowledged preferences for traditional values but had no good argument for them. He then begins the process of arguing for a teleological perspective–the idea that we can judge things (and people?) good or bad based on whether or not they fulfill their natural function. This is, of course, the most controversial element in MacIntyre’s argument so far, because it may be construed as threatening the freedom of the individual to invent himself. … More Groping for Moral Certitude (After Virtue 5) Audio

Emptiness and Its Consequences: MacIntyre on “Emotivism” (Audio)

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. … More Emptiness and Its Consequences: MacIntyre on “Emotivism” (Audio)

Alasdair MacIntyre’s Third Way (After Virtue 3–Audio)

Alasdair MacIntyre developed a method that promised a third way, avoiding the problems of both moral absolutism and moral relativism. He makes clear in his Prologue to the third edition of After Virtue that he borrows from counter-Enlightenment philosopher Giambattista Vico in developing his methodology of empathetic imagination with the aim of creating a way to gain an understanding of the flaws in the liberal system and the possible cures for those flaws in an older Aristotelian framework. … More Alasdair MacIntyre’s Third Way (After Virtue 3–Audio)

Aristotelian Virtue Ethics: After Virtue 2 (Audio)

We start with the fundamentals. In order to understand where Alisdair MacIntyre is coming from in After Virtue, we have to understand a few ideas inherited from the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle concerning teleology, man as political, and the meaning of virtue from Aristotle’s perspective. I take a first pass at contrasting Aristotelian thinking with the modern thought that MacIntyre thinks exploded the means of moral agreement within communities. … More Aristotelian Virtue Ethics: After Virtue 2 (Audio)