The goal of this paper is to
present an outline of Alasdair Macintyre’s claims and arguments in his book After
Virtue. This should retain the critical arguments that Macintyre proposes.

In the first Chapter of After
Virtue, Macintyre proposes a world where the public turns against science
and destroys all knowledge. In this world, the people do not understand what
they are doing with the sciences and can’t seem to understand it. He then hypothesizes
that “in the actual world which we inhabit the language of morality is in
the same state of grave disorder as the language of natural science in the
imaginary world which I described” (Macintyre, 2). Macintyre states that
the practices that could be taken to recognize this state cannot be used
because they are a product of it and is unable to see past it. Macintyre argues
that the history of these sciences is vital to understanding philosophy but it
is incapable to see past it because even these sciences are a product of the
time, making them insufficient to recognize the state the world is in.

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In Chapter two, Macintyre talks
about Moral Discourse and the nature of it in today’s world. He talks about
common moral arguments that are made today and how we don’t argue well enough
to actually be successful. Macintyre notes three characteristics on these
debates. The first characteristic is that even if an argument can be presented logically,
the concepts are “incommensurable.” Because of this, there is no way to choose
one argument over another. The second characteristic is that despite how
necessary it is that there is some personal and non-rational choice, the
arguments always tend to be impersonal and rational in that they

“presuppose … the existence,
independently of the preferences or attitude of speaker and hearer, of
standards of morality” (9). The third characteristic is a concept that
presents that these arguments derive from larger theories or ideas that they
were a part of originally, or how these concepts have changed over time to have
different meanings. Macintyre also addresses emotivism, which “is the doctrine that all evaluative judgments and more specifically all
moral judgments are nothing but expressions of preference, expressions of
attitude or feeling” (11-12). He talks about the meaning of “this is good”
and how it’s the same as “I approve of this.”

 

In the third chapter of the book, Macintyre talks in depth about
emotivism and its social context. He argues the emotivism gets rid of claims about
objective standards. He describes the importance of the idea of characters, which
in emotivist societies are “those social roles which provide a culture
with its moral definitions” (30.) He says that the modern individual is
able to adopt any role or standpoint that it chooses and doesn’t have to find its
identity from these social roles.

Chapter four displays the history of the Enlightenment and shows
Macintyre’s view of it where moral questions were first considered distinct in
legal and theological viewpoints. He traces the Enlightenment first through
Kierkegaard, then discusses Kant and how his Kierkegaard’s conception of
reality descends from Kant’s views. Kant argues that morality is based not in
choice but in rationality, in that it is the set of rules that “are
binding on all rational beings” (44). In chapter five Macintyre goes on to
talk about why the Enlightenment project of justifying morality had to fail. He
said that each writer in this time attempted to form valid arguments but weren’t
able to be successful because they didn’t fully understand moral rules. Macintyre
uses the rejection of teleology to explain why many modern moral philosophers
have argued the ‘no “ought” from “is” principle’ that
“from a set of factual premises no moral conclusion validly follows as ‘a
truth of logic'” (56).

 

Chapter six talks about the consequences that would be aligned with the
failure of the Enlightenment project. This led to a problem with modern moral
theory and there were various different attempts to restore order. Macintyre talks
about different philosophers like Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill and the
various ways that they attempted to fix the problems with modern moral theory,
and supplies his own input on where they came up short. Macintyre argues that
all claims to managerial expertise are false, and thus that “what we are
oppressed by is not power, but impotence” (75).

 

Chapters seven and eight Macintyre talks about fact and the social
sciences. Macintyre talks about observation and says that it cannot be possible
without theological interpretation, and that they are not common elements of
knowledge. Philosophers thought of the era of the enlightenment because science
had stripped away theory to deal with fact. Macintyre says that the social
sciences provides a “stock of law-like generalizations with strong predictive
power” (88). Macintyre argues that “there are four sources of
systematic unpredictability in human affairs” which preclude social science
from being like natural science (93). The first is radical conceptual
innovation, the second is the fact that “the unpredictability of certain
of his own future actions by each agent individually” implies the
unpredictability of that agent by any other agent, and hence an aggregate
unpredictability to the social world (95). The third source “arises from
the game-theoretic character of social life” (97). The fourth source is
“pure contingency”, the way in which “trivial contingencies can
powerfully influence the outcome of great events”, such as the length of
Cleopatra’s nose, or Napoleon’s cold at Waterloo (99-0).