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After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory, Third Edition Paperback – March 1, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-0268035044 ISBN-10: 0268035040 Edition: 3rd

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: University of Notre Dame Press; 3rd edition (March 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0268035040
  • ISBN-13: 978-0268035044
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #25,875 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


After Virtue is a striking work. It is clearly written and readable. The nonprofessional will find MacIntyre perspicuous and lively. He stands within the best modern traditions of writing on such matters.” —New York Review of Books

“MacIntyre’s arguments deserve to be taken seriously by anybody who thinks that the mere acceptance of pluralism is not the same thing as democracy, who worries about politicians wishing to give opinions about everything under the sun, and who stops to think of how important Aristotelian ethics have been for centuries.” —The Economist

After Virtue is a rigorous, ambitious, and original book. It is a reinterpretation of the entire history of Western moral philosophy, as decline, fall, and—possibly—rebirth.” —The Village Voice

About the Author

Alasdair MacIntyre is research professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame. He is the author of numerous books, including Whose Justice? Which Rationality? (Notre Dame Press, 1988) and Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry: Encyclopaedia, Genealogy, and Tradition (Notre Dame Press, 1990).

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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See all 23 customer reviews
This philosophy book is unique and very interesting.
Patricia Davis
MacIntyre's discussion of the fact/value distinction is very good indeed.
Daniel G. Schaeffer
The good life is one spent seeking for the good life.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

233 of 236 people found the following review helpful By Peter Russo on July 25, 2007
Format: Paperback
I am rather flabbergasted that the only review on this page thus far is one comparing Alisdair MacIntyre to radical islamists. That is rather disconcerting as the author's roots, as others have already noted, come from the 1960-70's British Labour movement and from a very deep, very thought-out Marxism in the context Marxism demands to be judged on, namely, not only as a socio-economic theory, but as a robust and encompassing worldview. When MacIntyre finally decided to officially leave the Communist party, he noticed that his moral critique of Marxism seemed to lack any force, as the only two seemingly possible moral outlooks were that of a rather brass individualism ( an odd modern mixture of Kantian and Sartrean thought where each person chooses the moral law for himself ) and the tradition he was leaving, i.e. Marxism, which seemed incapable of serious self-critique. (SeeThe Macintyre Reader). The shrillness of his own protest sent him on a philosophical journey which he continues to go on to this day but we are lucky enough to have collection of his thoughts along the way. After Virtue was a tour de force when it hit the shelves roughly 20 years ago. It laid bare the utter incoherence of the use of moral language in societies of "advanced modernity", i.e., modern Europe, the former USSR, and the US. His critique of the various descendents of the Enlightenment, from utilitarians and Nietzscheans, blasted moral philosophy out of its slumber into a field that continues to grow to this day.Read more ›
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52 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Jacob on March 28, 2009
Format: Paperback
MacIntyre's book is a sustained critique of "the modern project." The modern project came about in the 17th and 18th centuries. Thinkers tried to rework ethics and philosophy but in a new way: abandoning the Aristotelian and judeo-Christian ethic, they ended with a schizophrenic autonomy. Man is now seen as an autonomous agent who should further his autonomy but must live in the contradiction with other autonomous agents who also want to protect their autonomy. The modern project is a violent one at its core.

The strength of MacIntyre's work is his sustained critique of modernity and the "natural rights" tradition. He reintroduces the concept of "narrative" as an ethical tool. I will highlight the main ideas:

The Ghost of "Human Rights"
Rights have a highly specific character and are resistant to the idea of universality. The language of rights talk differs from century to century and place to place, at each moment reflecting more the demands of th community rather than the story of humanity. And when rights are attempted to be universal in scope, they reflect, not the needs of humanity, but the agenda of the powered elite. Rights talk can be rehabilitated, but only in terms of local community's narrative.

Deconstructing Aristotle
Contrary to his critics, MacIntyre is not arguing for a naive return to Aristotle. Rather, he points out the resilience of the Aristotelian tradition and then critiques its shortcomings. He uses Aristotle as a foil against Nietzsche. The importance of virtue at this point is not simply to demonstrate that Aristotle is the last word in ethics, but to show that it is impossible for consistent moderns to be virtuous. A virtue can only be understood in light of its telos (184). "The" good orders "our" goods.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By David on January 2, 2012
Format: Paperback
After Virtue is a landmark. Although some parts can be rather dry, MacIntyre is always carefully building towards his persuasive and often devastating conclusions (for example, that belief in human rights "is one with belief in witches and in unicorns" (69)). Although by no means an easy read, he writes in a personable, sometimes even conversational, way. He also often has a funny grumpy-old-man tone, grumpy about social scientists, managers, therapists and liberals.

He writes with seeming mastery of the western tradition. However, he rarely makes citations. For example, in his discussions of Kant he usually does not even mention a text by name, let alone provide citations. When discussing other writers he will sometimes mention a particular book but then supply no or very few citations. Rather, he tends to discuss thinkers in general: the problems they were trying to address, how they failed and how they are historically situated.

In outline, his argument is that in the period between 1630 and 1850, morality came to signify a distinct cultural space of rules of conduct which are neither theological nor legal nor aesthetic. Once that understanding of morality became a received doctrine, Northern European Enlightenment thinkers attempted to provide a rational justification for morality (39). However, by freeing morality from teleology (whether Aristotelian or Christian), theism and hierarchy, they in effect undermined any rational foundation or criterion for morality.
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More About the Author

Alasdair MacIntyre is Senior Research Professor of Philosophy, University of Notre Dame. He is the author of several bestselling books, including After Virtue, Whose Justice? Which Rationality?, and A Short History of Ethics (a Routledge Classic).

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