After Virtue


George Scialabba found After Virtue to be a strong critique of modernity, but claimed that MacIntyre "faltered" at the conclusion of the argument, when he sketched the features of what virtuous life should be like in the conditions of modernity.[3] In particular, Scialabba objected to MacIntyre's claim that the good life for human beings consists in contemplating the good life for human beings; Scialabba found this insufficient and anticlimactic. Scialabba also argued that, although he appreciated MacIntyre's insistence on participation in community life as the best defense against the perils of modernity, this insistence was not justified with any discussion of how community life can be reconciled with the critical spirit that Scialabba finds to be one of the great achievements of modernity and of the philosophical enterprise.

In a review for Political Theory, William E. Connolly argues that MacIntyre sees Nietzsche as "the adversary to be defeated, but Nietzsche's voice is not heard clearly". Connolly objects that MacIntyre's defense of virtue does not take into account Nietzsche's critique; MacIntyre also fails to build an account of telos that does not draw on biology in the way MacIntyre wanted to avoid—such a theory doesn't account for the fact that we are embodied.[4]

Anthony Ellis, in the journal Philosophy, argued that MacIntyre's positive philosophical project is not explained as well as it could have been: it is "of daunting opacity, though tantalizingly interesting" but not given enough space in the book. Ellis also states that the discussion of Rawls and Nozick in After Virtue "is slight and assertive".[5]

In the Review of Metaphysics, Christos Evangeliou said that if the reader "had expected to find in this book concretely how a revived Aristotelian tradition is supposed to work in order to shape ethically and rationally the irrational and disorderly modern world", they "may be a little disappointed in their expectations".[6]

Francis Wheen included a brief critique of After Virtue in his own book How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World. The thrust of Wheen's book was a defense of the principles of the Enlightenment against various strands of irrationalism, and Wheen identified After Virtue and MacIntyre as constituting one such strand. In general, critics identified Wheen's disparagement of MacIntyre as one of Mumbo-Jumbo 's few missteps. While MacIntyre certainly is a fierce critic of the Enlightenment, Wheen refused to engage MacIntyre's case but dismissed his work on the grounds that any objection to the Enlightenment qualified as "mumbo-jumbo" ex hypothesi.[7]

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