Start your review of Tras la virtud Write a review Shelves: ethics , non-fiction , philosophy What if our contemporary moral discourse were a cargo cult in which we picked up fragments of a long lost, once-coherent moral philosophy, and ignorantly constructed a bunch of nonsense that didnt work and could not work in principle? After Virtue argues that this indeed is what happened, and this explains why our moral discourse is such a mess. Why when we argue about moral issues do we make our case in a form that resembles rational argument, but the effect seems to be only like imperative statements or exclamations? Why do pro-life folks and pro-choice folks keep arguing when there is no resolution to their argument? MacIntyre believes we are reenacting forms of argument that once made sense, since people once did have a common ground of morality, but that we have since lost this in a Tower of Babel-like catastrophe. Our moral arguments today are interminable because the values they express are incommensurable.
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Start your review of Tras la virtud Write a review Shelves: ethics , non-fiction , philosophy What if our contemporary moral discourse were a cargo cult in which we picked up fragments of a long lost, once-coherent moral philosophy, and ignorantly constructed a bunch of nonsense that didnt work and could not work in principle? After Virtue argues that this indeed is what happened, and this explains why our moral discourse is such a mess. Why when we argue about moral issues do we make our case in a form that resembles rational argument, but the effect seems to be only like imperative statements or exclamations?
Why do pro-life folks and pro-choice folks keep arguing when there is no resolution to their argument? MacIntyre believes we are reenacting forms of argument that once made sense, since people once did have a common ground of morality, but that we have since lost this in a Tower of Babel-like catastrophe. Our moral arguments today are interminable because the values they express are incommensurable. Though the claims of the emotivists are not necessarily true, they happen to be true for contemporary moral philosophy: when people make moral arguments today they really are just making exclamations of dis approval while disguising these as rational arguments about facts.
The emotivist explanation of moral argument makes the most sense, and so people who engage in moral arguments are essentially trying to manipulate others and at the same time to resist being manipulated, knowing on some level that there is no resolution, which leads to the perpetual histrionic impasse that keeps the news networks and political parties in business. Some philosophers suggest that there are no right answers in ethics or that the whole field of inquiry is bogus.
Each was capable of decisively refuting some of these grounds, but each failed to show that their own best guess was right. The morality that these philosophers were trying to justify consisted of surviving remnants of the virtues like those Aristotle discussed in The Nicomachean Ethics , in which ethics is considered to be the science of how we govern our lives so as to best meet the ends of human living: the human telos.
Enlightenment philosophers abandoned the idea of a telos, and in so doing, lost the only way of making ethical statements statements of fact. To Aristotle, an ethical statement was true if the ethical rule it described did in fact help people achieve their telos. Enlightenment thinkers, who were okay with 1 humans are untutored and 3 moral precepts correct human nature stuck themselves with the impossible task of deriving 3 from 1.
Good or bad for watches is embedded in the very concept of watch. Similarly, if a person has a telos, his or her actions will be more or less ethical, to the extent that they assist in achieving it.
What actions are ethical is a factual inquiry: is implies ought. To try to fill in the gap, we resort to fictions. These are just phantasmagorical placeholders designed to fill in the inconvenient gaps in moral theory, but that have no more real existence than things like the luminiferous aether, which once served a similar purpose in physics. But we continue to argue as though one of these gambits had succeeded, though we suspect that our moral discourse is just a machiavellian struggle to manipulate and deceive.
The idea of managerial expertise implies a domain of real knowledge about social structures and their inputs and outputs of which the manager has specialized and true knowledge. This turns out to be a false claim. In the Aristotelian view, explanations of human actions only make sense in reference to a hierarchy of goods and to the telos, but in the mechanistic worldview, human action must be explained independently of any intentions, purposes, or telos.
The social sciences of which managers are presumed to be experts are those in which human subjects are seen this way. Human affairs are systematically unpredictable, for several reasons: It is impossible to predict the effects of radically new conceptual innovations. People cannot confidently predict even their own actions. Chance trivialities can have large effects. Game-theory-like situations map poorly to real-life situations, and even so, they imply a necessary level of deceptiveness and recursive counter-plotting that makes real-world scientific observation and prediction difficult.
For example, during the Vietnam war, war-theorists working for the U. Managerial pretensions to expertise and thereby to the power and money that come with positions like President of the United States or CEO are based on unfounded claims for the precision and accuracy of the social sciences.
When somebody claims to be doing something because of managerial expertise, you can be sure they are really disguising their own desire or arbitrary preference, just the same as if they claimed to be fulfilling the will of god, maximizing utility, or respecting inalienable human rights.
Nonetheless, the contemporary vision of the world is bureaucratically Weberian — Max Weber mixed with Erving Goffman. MacIntyre says that we are like the Pacific islanders who had taboos they could not explain to the explorers who visited them. Nietzsche thought he was abolishing morality, but in fact, MacIntyre says, he was only pointing out the futility of the enlightenment project of rationally justifying the fragmentary remnants of classical ethics — our taboos.
The virtues became nothing but tendencies to obey the taboos, with the taboos being somehow more fundamental. In these societies, everyone had a purpose just by virtue of being born into a particular station in society with relations to particular people. Morality and social structure are the same thing. Virtue is what enables you to fulfill the role you have and to conduct yourself in your story. This heroic background was refined by the Greeks in several ways: The tragedians Sophocles in particular focus on what happens when the moral system produces contradictions.
A person has two contradictory ethical obligations that cannot be reconciled and the tragedy that results is just that there is no right way to proceed. MacIntyre next recaps The Nicomachean Ethics. Healthy, undecayed accounts of virtue have three things in common: a concept of practice, an idea of the narrative order of human life, and a moral tradition that develops out of these. For example, if you play chess well, the reward you get is the internal good of having played a good chess game.
External goods are more zero-sum, more the objects of competition. Internal goods are more about personal excellence; when we succeed in attaining internal goods, this tends not to detract from the good of those around us but to enhance them.
MacIntyre says that a virtue is that which enables us to achieve internal goods. Nor does it mean that any practice and associated set of virtues is as good as any other for that would lead us back to the same problem as our current catastrophe. When you see that life has a telos and therefore there is a practice of life, you see that life itself has its virtues — you can extrapolate from your idea of the internal rewards of a practice to the idea of The Good in life as a whole. In this way the idea of a practice and the understanding of the narrative nature of human life lead to the development of a coherent moral tradition.
The modern view of life makes this difficult. But human activity is intelligible and our actions are within a narrative context. These narratives are unpredictable what happens next? You justify yourself by accounting for your behavior, that is to say, telling its story, putting it in a narrative context complete with its telos. By doing this you create a context in which the virtues will shine forth as the sort of excellences of character that advance you to your telos. The concept of virtue MacIntyre has described was destroyed, he says, by the cult of bureaucratic individualism that emerged from the enlightenment.
Today, people in our culture are unable to weigh conflicting claims of justice because they are inherently incommensurable. John Rawls and Robert Nozick represent sophisticated philosophical justifications of something akin to popular quasi-socialist liberal and property-rights libertarian perspectives, respectively. MacIntyre notes that even if you accept either or both of their arguments as valid, this resolves nothing, since it is their premises that are incompatible.
Interestingly, neither Rawls nor Nozick relies on the concept of desert, which is central in the popular versions of justice they are trying to provide philosophical support for. MacIntyre says that this is because desert requires a social context in order to make sense, and the thought experiments that Rawls and Nozick rely on assume atomistic individuals without preexisting communities or cultures.
The popular notion of desert, MacIntyre says, is yet another remnant of premodern justice that shines through the cracks left after the catastrophe. But this is not because Nietzsche disproved morality. He successfully defeated the various enlightenment projects of justifying morality, but he left the Aristotelian ethical framework unscathed.
What to do about it? And if the tradition of the virtues was able to survive the horrors of the last dark ages, we are not entirely without grounds for hope. This time however the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time.
TRAS LA VIRTUD
El autor comienza su libro afirmando que nuestra cultura se encuentra en una grave de crisis respecto de lo moral. La sustancia de la moral ha sido destruida en nuestras sociedades. Poseemos —dice— simulacros de moral. Una moral de las virtudes requiere como contrapartida un concepto de ley moral. Se falla no siendo lo bastante bueno que puede uno llegar a ser. Ambos tipos de fallos impiden a la comunidad alcanzar su bien, sin el cual la misma comunidad no tiene objeto de existir.
Una lectura interpretativa de Tras la virtud de Alasdair MacIntyre
Alasdair MacIntyre, Tras la virtud