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Dependent Rational Animals: Why Human Beings Need the Virtues (The Paul Carus Lectures) Paperback – May 18, 2001

4.6 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

This book represents a "revised and expanded version" of the 20th installment of the prestigious Paul Carus Lectures. -- International Studies in Philosophy, 2005

About the Author

Alasdair MacIntyre is Research Professor of Philosophy at Notre Dame University, USA. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: The Paul Carus Lectures
  • Paperback: 180 pages
  • Publisher: Open Court (May 18, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 081269452X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812694529
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #75,845 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
For years the knock on MacIntyre was that his devastating critique of modernity left nothing standing, with the unintended result that the central question of _After Virtue_ ("Nietzsche or Aristotle?") ultimately cut against Aristotle.
_Dependent Rational Animals_ presents a positive account of practical rationality against the background of an understanding of human nature on which we are first of all animals -- and thus always vulnerable -- and often (some of us always) disabled. This leads MacIntyre to distinguish what he calls the "virtues of acknowledged dependence" from the more widely recognized "virtues of independent practical reasoners".
This book, an expanded series of lectures, is quite easy to read, especially when it focuses on such lively questions as whether dolphins and chimpanzees have beliefs and intentions, or why we have obligations to those thoroughly dependent human beings who will never develop into autonomous agents.
I've long thought _After Virtue_ was the best introduction to MacIntyre, but I now suspect _Dependent Rational Animals_ may be the way to go. That way, one can begin with his positive account, and locate the critique in relation to it.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Many virtue theorists seem to think it enough to say that "qua humans" we should flourish, and that figuring out how to flourish "just is" what practical reasoning is, and hence that virtue is intrinsic to being human in about the same way that having roots is intrinsic to being a tree, and that those of us who fail to "see" that are somehow irrational in wanting some further argument. They skip blithely over the obvious fact that much reasoning that seems quite practical and wildly successful seems rather less than virtuous. MacIntyre indulges in no such self-satisfied question-begging. Whatever else is to be said for MacIntyre's "Dependent Rational Animals," he displays the virtue of engaging directly and forthrightly the hard questions that unsympathetic or unconvinced souls would pose for his position.
The way he argues that we need the virtues is quite startling in originality. Generally, ethicists take as their standard the autonomous, self-sufficient reasoner--where "reason" means something like "able to give a logically defensible verbal justification," usually in terms of some sort of universal rule. MacIntyre sees this as a mistake. The question, he thinks, is how any of us ever come to be independent practical reasoners and what it means to be such. We must, he thinks, understand that "reasons to act" have little to do with our linguistic ability or capacity to display verbally a syllogism that concludes with the action in question. Rather, "reasons to act" are more concrete, pragmatic, and instrumental.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Anyone who likes good philosophical writing will enjoy "Dependent Rational Animals." In it, Alasdair MacIntyre argues for a concept of human flourishing that acknowledges the virtues of acknowledged social dependence as well as those of independent practical reasoning (the normal focus of virtue theory). Parts of the book are underargued -- particularly the section on politics -- but the writing is lucid, and the philosophy is wise and compassionate. Best of all, the book opens our eyes to the obvious but often overlooked truth that any account of human good is seriously partial and deficient if it neglects the reality of dependence -- a state occupied by everyone at some point in his or her life, and by some persons for their entire lives. Mind opening. Highly recommended.
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By A Customer on February 19, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I take back my previous review, in which I speculated that MacIntyre had "gone soft." On second and third reading, this is just a wonderful book - a welcome return to ambitious Aristotelian naturalism in ethics. So much better than "After Virtue".
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Read "After Virtue" first. I have a classical liberal background but with tension with a more communal Thomistic approach which MacIntyre provides. What I particularly like about "Dependent Rational Animals" is how he incorporates an innovative analysis of children and disability as a justification for this communal approach, inspired by what we know from studying "intelligent" animals.
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Format: Paperback
An interesting and generally accessible work by the well known philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre. MacIntyre is known well for his denunciation of the moral bankruptcy of the modern world and his embrace of an Aristotleian/Thomistic account of virtue ethics. This book is an effort to provide a positive account of a desirable life and sketch out a form of political philosophy. MacIntyre begins this book with a fairly straightforward discussion of how at least some non-human animals and humans are not qualitatively different in cognitive capacity but rather on a continuum. If anything, I'd state the case even more strongly than MacIntyre; recent clever experiments establish that rodents, for example, can generalize causal inferences. While MacIntyre is not completely explicit, the discussion of animal-human intelligence is an effort to ground a teleological account of human 'flourishing' in which the purpose of humans is to be, well, human. In MacIntyre's account and by analogy with his discussion of animal behavior, the distinctive telos of humans is to become independent practical reasoners embedded deeply and meaningfully in a web of necessary social interactions. MacIntyre emphasizes our interdependence, both in becoming independent practical reasoners and at other times when we are inevitably impaired. MacIntyre argues as well that this account is distinctly different from most modern moral philosophy, which he views as having a destructively individualistic orientation.

There are several problems with MacIntyre's analysis. I doubt that his method really establishes a convincing human telos. No one would argue about the importance of human rational capacities and sociability, but does his analysis lead to his version of the telos?
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