Analysis Of After Virtue By Alasdair Macintyre

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In this essay I aim to justify how Alasdair MacIntyre is not a relativist. To do this I will start by describing his ethical theory, which includes his account of virtue ethics, derived from his criticism of modern ethical thought. I will then explain how he is regarded by some people as a relativist due to his stress on tradition for rationality and finish by demonstrating how he is not a relativist because of the justification that some traditions are better than others.

MacIntyre deeply criticises modern ethical thought and provides an account of what he thinks has gone wrong. For MacIntyre, it fails due to the concepts and language used being deeply incoherent and irrational. Expressions of this failure in ethics can be seen in emotivism
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As well as history, MacIntyre stresses the importance of one’s tradition in the formation of one’s rationality in ‘After Virtue.’ He claims that tradition grants the standards of rationality determined for a good human life. There is no way to pursue this without tradition. The high status given to tradition in forming one’s rationality can be demonstrated by MacIntyre when he argues, ‘within a tradition the pursuit of goods extends through generations, sometimes through many generations.’ (MacIntyre, 2007, p.222) Since the goal of human nature is to be rational, the pursuit of this from tradition can only be valued. Yet still, this is identified by Robert P. George as a criticism against MacIntyre as being a relativist. He claims the concept of tradition and tradition constituted rationality leads to relativism. George questions under what grounds an individual should choose a particular tradition over …show more content…
A tradition cannot always justify itself in times of epistemological crisis and so the relativist is wrong if he claims otherwise. MacIntyre demonstrates this when he argues
The relativist challenge rests upon a denial that rational debate between and rational choice among rival traditions is possible; the prespectivist challenge puts in question the possibility of making truth claims from within any one tradition.’ (MacIntyre, 1988, p.352)
Here, MacIntyre directly identifies the relativist challenge and puts it to an end. Accepting another culture may be better than your own allows for future progress and development. Cultures and traditions go through three stages of development. This includes authority, systematic and revisionary. Relativism would mean we are stuck. Yet MacIntyre gives us an account of how traditions can progress and reflect upon themselves. Relativism held that a tradition or way of life could only justify its conception of justification internally, but a framing of new theories shows that relativism is mistaken in this belief, since scope, coherence and continuity are external to a tradition. Furthermore, if a theory only meets scope and coherence, but not continuity, then we have grounds for declaring it superior to a previous one, but inferior to a one that has all three.

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