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Whose Justice? Which Rationality? 1st Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0268019440
ISBN-10: 0268019444
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Is there any cause or war worth risking one's life for? How can we determine which actions are vices and which virtues? MacIntyre, professor of philosophy at Vanderbilt University, unravels these and other such questions by linking the concept of justice to what he calls practical rationality. He rejects the grab-what-you-can, utilitarian yardstick adopted by moral relativists. Instead, he argues that four wholly different, incompatible ideas of justiceput forth by Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas and Humehave helped shape our modern individualistic world. In his unorthodox view, each person seeks the good through an ongoing dialogue with one of these traditions or within Jewish, non-Western or other historical traditions. This weighty sequel to After Virtue (1981) is certain to stir debate.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In this sequel to After Virtue ( LJ 9/15/81), MacIntyre contends that any rational justification of moral judgments must presuppose some particular tradition's conception of rationality. He illustrates his contention by examining four philosophersAristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, and Humeto show how their different views about justice and practical rationality derive from different sources. MacIntyre asserts that although a tradition may fail by its own standards, the answer to any question about justice depends upon the historical, social, and cultural situation of the respondent and upon how he sees himself. The book's historical analyses are clear and stimulating, but the arguments for its own thesis are cloudy and ineffectual.Robert Hoffman, York Coll., CUNY
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 410 pages
  • Publisher: University of Notre Dame Press; 1st edition (December 31, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0268019444
  • ISBN-13: 978-0268019440
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #113,420 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is a review of _Whose Justice? Which Rationality?_ by Alasdair MacIntyre.
This is a very challenging book to read, but also one that will deepen your thinking about the world, whether you agree with it or not.
We largely take it for granted that (1) people disagree significantly about a wide range of issues related to ethics, and that (2) people do not agree about enough standards of rationality to resolve these ethical disagreements. MacIntyre puts this by saying that "logical incompatibility and incommensurability" both obtain (p. 351). What conclusion should we draw from these facts? One common response is relativism, which is roughly the view that the truth or falsity of a claim depends on the perspective from which it is evaluated. However, MacIntyre argues against relativism based on a brilliant reinterpretation of several major Western philosophical traditions.
The Western Englightenment (of which Descartes is paradigmatic), rejected appeals to tradition, canonical texts and authority, and attempted to put in their place the "appeal to principles undeniable by any rational person," and hence independent of culture, history, etc. "Yet both the thinkers of the Enlightenment and their successors proved unable to agree as to what precisely those principles were which could be found undeniable by all rational persons" (p. 6).
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Format: Paperback
Why in the world did MacIntyre feel that he needed to provide a sequel to After Virtue, his magnum opus? Well, as he states in his introduction, his moral system demands a fuller account of rationality and justice. He gives a detailed historical exposition of justice and rationality in Homeric Greece, Plato, and Aristotle then moving on to Augustine, Aquinas, and the Scottish Enlightenment. The retelling of each of these viewpoints' ideas on justice and rationality are lucid and breathtaking at times if you can stand MacIntyre's rather wordy writing style.
So how, in his mind, does his account of rationality and justice 'win?' It seems automatic to seek some purely objective standard by which to weigh the arguments of each of these specific systems, but as MacIntyre points out, the mere idea of a purely objective standard is deeply embedded in the Enlightenment tradition: a tradition which MacIntyre showed in "After Virtue" to be seriously flawed. Instead, the system first must be internally coherent but second, and more importantly, must overcome epistimological crises that it faces. A certain system gets into trouble if a rival system can better resolve the epistimological crises facing it. MacIntyre thinks that the Aristotelian tradition, especially as embedded in Thomism, 'wins' by this account. While the sense of victory is not as obvious as in After Virtue, I think that MacIntyre has a coherent and reasonably compelling argument in his favor.
This book can be read in isolation, but is best read after reading After Virtue, giving you a clearer idea of the problem that MacIntyre is addressing.
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Format: Paperback
This so-called sequel to After Virtue is heavier in both its abstruse argumentation, erudition and physical mass. In many ways, it lacks the excitement and provocative character of After Virtue, and its contents are much more specialized. One can feel this particularly in the heavy treatment of Homer, Aristotle and Plato, which is neck-deep in linguistic hairsplitting over the precise meanings of Greek words. For those readers with scant interest in the classics, the first part of the book, despite its many gems, tries one's patience.
The overarching thesis of the book is sound nonetheless. To give a very basic outline, MacIntyre traces several traditions, broadly being the predominant Hellenist and Christian ones, before moving on to establish liberalism as its own tradition. Not every philosopher is give exhaustive or detailed treatment. Aristotle, Plato, Augustine, Aquinas, and Hume are the real stars here. The Scottish Enlightenment is dwelt upon in much detail to explain Hume, so other important philosophical movements such as British Empiricism, German Idealism, etc. are marginalized. Despite these omissions [the book is long enough as it is], the central thesis coheres nicely and arrives at its conclusion in a most decisive manner.
Though MacIntyre's thesis that liberalism itself constitutes a tradition may seem tame, taken into proper perspective, it is actually quite revolutionary. Considering that modernity [à la Descartes] rejected all appeal to tradition and sought to construct a purely rational account of the human and his society and to, thereby, construct a utopian future applicable to all times and places, to claim that it is itself a traditional is a smack on the face that effectively historicizes the Enlightenment tradition.
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