Alasdair MacIntyre: A Primer

I wanted to share an overview of Alasdair MacIntyre’s work and why he is important. I’m not going to even pretend to write something original, as many, many people more competent than I have already done this.  The two resources below serve as a great introduction to MacIntyre’s work.  I mean it literally as a primer, to, hopefully “prime your pump” for more reading!

The best place to start is with a fantastic 2007 piece from First Things by Duke Divinity School theologian Stanley Hauerwas.  I discovered Hauerwas in graduate school at the suggestion of Dr. Bill Cahoy Dean of St. John’s University’s School of Theology, who likened Hauerwas’ temperament to that of Yosemite Sam.  How do you not follow-up on a suggestion like that?!

Hauerwas’ conclusion is worth quoting in full:

“MacIntyre has sought, within the world we necessarily inhabit, to help us recover resources to enable us to act intelligibly. From beginning to end, he has attempted to help us locate those forms of life that can sustain lives well lived. In Tradition, Rationality, and Virtue, Thomas D. D’Andrea quotes the preface MacIntyre wrote to the Polish edition of After Virtue:

The flourishing of the virtues requires and in turn sustains a certain kind of community, necessarily a small-scale community, within which the goods of various practices are ordered, so that, as far as possible, regard for each finds its due place with the lives of each individual, or each household, and in the life of the community at large. Because, implicitly or explicitly, it is always by reference to some conception of the overall and final human good that other goods are ordered, the life of every individual, household or community by its orderings gives expression, wittingly or unwittingly, to some conception of the human good. And it is when goods are ordered in terms of an adequate conception of human good that the virtues genuinely flourish. “Politics” is the Aristotelian name for the set of activities through which goods are ordered in the life of the ­community.

Where such communities exist—and they cannot help but exist—it may be possible for some to live lives they understand.”

So now that you’re caught up on MacIntyre and his work.  Let’s hear from the man himself.  In looking for MacIntyre’s more recent thought, I came across a talk he gave at Notre Dame back in the fall of 2012.

His talk itself, minus the response, is fairly short at just a little over 40 minutes, but it represents a wonderful summary of MacIntyre’s past and more recent thinking. I attended his 1999 talk at Harvard Divinity School titled “The Recovery of Moral Agency” and it was great to hear his voice again, instead of just reading him.

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