Sunday, July 20, 2014

Dependent Rational Animals

I wanted to briefly comment on Alisdair MacIntyre's lectures collected as "Dependent Rational Animals", but let me precede that with a couple of comments for context: first, as I alluded in my last post referencing Levinas, it is my view that the the ethics demands a certain primacy in any healthy conception of life and society; second, in the area of ethics, Macintyre's After Virtue is the book that has had perhaps the biggest impact on my own thinking.

One of the criticisms of MacIntyre is that his critique of rational ethics is, on the one hand, devastating; on the other hand, his positive case for working out a defense of his own position - a revivification of social ethics in the Aristotelian-Thomist tradition(s) was somewhat pro forma. I think this is legitimate in so far as it relates to After Virtue itself (I believe I have read the latest edition - 3 - most recently), though I am not enough of a MacIntyre expert to offer a defensible critique of his work overall.

I do, however, want to draw attention to Dependent Rational Animals specifically in this light. Here MacIntyre begins with is the position of human as animal - as a kind of naturalist starting point for developing another pass at the importance of the tradition of the virtues. What is most remarkable is that in the process of exploring the implications of our "animality" MacIntyre manages to subvert yet another trajectory of twentieth century philosophy, this time as it relates to the primacy of linguistics. The net effect is to restore philosophical discourse back toward the reality of the human condition in the context of the broader evolutionary context of life on earth without - and this I must say is the most amazing part of this book - resorting to fables-masked-as-science (evolutionary psychology).

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