I think this is the third or fourth time that I’ve read Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue (1981). What surprises me–each time–is just how good the book is. How insightful. How spot on. How prescient even in 2020.
Here’s a brief summary of the first half of the book (since I haven’t finished it yet):
- First, MacIntyre posits that modern culture is mired in moral incoherence owing to the loss of Aristotelian teleological virtue ethics. This moral incoherence, the result of fragments of different traditions, issues forth in interminable moral disagreements and in shrill voices yelling above the din.
- Next, he seeks to establish what actual social life is like in the light of this moral incoherence. In brief, the loss of a shared conception of the good entails the preeminence of power. Our time is theatrical, performative, rhetorical, mask-like.
- At this point in time, we are faced with a choice: either the Nietzschean will to power baldly endorsed or the reconstitution of Aristotelian teleological virtue ethics for our time.
In the second half of the book, he will make his case for the latter.