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God, Philosophy, Universities: A Selective History of the Catholic Philosophical Tradition

4.8 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0742544291
ISBN-10: 074254429X
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Editorial Reviews


While not a work of academic philosophy―MacIntyre intends it for undergraduate seniors and first-year graduate students―this book can profitably be read by any reader of First Things. In fact, it should be so read, as either an introduction or a refresher to the great tradition, and then passed on to a friend. (First Things 2010-07-01)

Without ostentation he displays his great learning, pointing out, almost in passing, that what many an undergraduate thinks is the height of modern philosophy was actually knocked out by Augustine more than a millennium beforehand. (Comment Magazine: Cardus 2011-06-24)

MacIntyre has offered a book that serves its intended non-specialist audience well…. He explains the Catholic philosophical tradition in a way that will be accessible to intelligent readers and shows how the tradition truly is philosophical…. MacIntyre's contributions are welcome and go some distance to showing how theism is ultimately more satisfying from a strictly philosophical standpoint…. A useful starting point for those many students and lay people who have been denied the very sort of education that MacIntyre here espouses, including and especially within our Catholic universities. (American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly)

Fascinating. (Logos: Journal Of Eastern Christian Studies)

MacIntyre incorporates . . . his view that modern university education has become fragmented and absent of any inquiry into the relationship between the disciplines, leaving little place for theology or philosophy. (Publishers Weekly 2009-04-01)

This compact book will be very useful to undergraduates, graduate students, and scholars of the philosophy of religions, and for clergy. Highly recommended. (CHOICE 2009-11-01)

MacIntyre thinks that lay Catholics, especially those engaged in current controversies that make philosophical claims, should know something about the history and tradition of Catholic philosophy. His account pivots on St. Thomas Aquinas, of course. Before him are Augustine, Boethius, Anselm, Islamic and Jewish influences, and other topics. (Research Book News 2009-08-01)

There is a prophetic quality to much of the work of Alasdair MacIntyre, a quality present in his new book, God, Philosophy, Universities. . . . MacIntyre has offered a framework for moral discourse that tries to reconcile the claims of historicism with the need for objectivity. . . . MacIntyre brought us along on an extraordinary intellectual journey. (Commonweal 2010-03-01)

Alasdair MacIntyre, one of the world's leading moral philosophers and author of the classic volume After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory, would give academic theology a central role. In his most recent book, God, Philosophy, Universities, he appeals to John Henry Newman's The Idea of a University (1854) to argue that philosophy, and its close ally, theology, make a university what it should be – a 'universe' of knowledge. Universities today, MacIntyre complains, keep their disciplines separate. Hence students are being trained up for specialised job opportunities rather than for life, while research programmes fail to make connections across the broad span of neighbouring subjects. He advocates that theology should listen to, and be in constant conversation with, every other academic discipline if universities are to fulfil their function as places where students and teachers explore what it means to be human. (Financial Times 2010-04-01)

MacIntyre indicts the university for its lack of integration, the disconnections among the disciplines, and the intellectual disregard of one discipline for another. (The Chronicle Review)

One could not wish for a better statement of either the nature and promise of Catholic philosophy or its perilous position in the contemporary university. (Theology)

MacIntyre is the master craftsman of the guild of the Catholic philosophical tradition; we are his apprentices, and studying his masterful narration of this tradition's history...is our first task. (Modern Age 2011-09-01)

In this work as with his previous ones, MacIntyre is a master of narrating a rich cultural history. (The Living Church)

Beautifully and crisply written, and historically based, this book makes an insightful case for a certain slant on Catholic philosophy. Worth the price of admission, even by itself, is the first-chapter paragraph that ends '... the deepest desire of every such being, whether they acknowledge it or not, is to be at one with God.' (Harry J. Gensler, John Carroll University)

A fascinating narrative of the development of Christian and especially of Catholic philosophy, conveying a powerful argument for the necessity of Catholic philosophy and a forceful statement of the challenges facing Catholic philosophers―and the universities that they inhabit―today. (Arthur Madigan, Boston College)

This is MacIntyre at his best: relating intellectual and cultural history while engaging philosophically with core ideas and arguments. Here the focus is on the interweaving of religious ideas and philosophical enquiry through the development of Catholic Christianity, leading to a challenge to Catholic thinkers to enter more fully into philosophy, and to universities to reacquaint themselves with their ancient vocation. MacIntyre has set a new foundation for discussion and further study. (John Haldane, University of St. Andrews and the Pontifical Council for Culture)

This book clearly explains the fundamental problems and the historical background for the philosophical inquiry about God and how human beings are related to God. This book is essential reading both for seasoned philosophers (teachers) and for relative beginners in the field of philosophy (students). It enables the reader to step back from his or her specialized work, and see how the study of philosophy is first and foremost what its etymology says, a pursuit of wisdom. (Patrick Lee, Franciscan University of Steubenville)

God, philosophy, universities is both a tour de monde and a tour de force. Alasdair MacIntyre provides a swift, personal but not at all tendentious history of where philosophy has come from, where it has been, and what it has become, with special reference to its role in the university. (Ralph McInerny, University of Notre Dame)

In his accessible new book, the influential philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre shows how a distinctively Catholic understanding of the university might restore even to the secular university, a sense of purpose, of the nature of academic inquiry as ordered to a unified conception of truth, a conception that gives due credit both to the diversity of the parts of the curriculum and to the ways in which those parts complement one another. (Thomas Hibbs, Baylor University)

About the Author

Alasdair MacIntyre is professor emeritus of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame. He has written 16 books, including After Virtue, Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry, A Short History of Ethics, and, more recently, Edith Stein: A Philosophical Prologue, 1913-1922.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (May 16, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 074254429X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0742544291
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.7 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,454,621 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Joseph M. Hennessey on July 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful book, it makes you wonder, almost a spiritual, religious experience. It is notable for its clarity, brevity, and fairness to those philosophers with whom MacIntyre disagrees (in that, he is like Aquinas.)

The book presents itself as the summary of a "History of Catholic Philosophy' course given at Notre Dame, and those who took that course were blessed. Although it would serve as a fine introduction to Catholic philosophy, it is also a good, compact reminder for those who have already studied that material. I found myself not only enjoying the thread of Catholic philosophy, compared with secular philosophy and Catholic theology, but I obtained new insights on several individual thinkers.

For instance, I was not aware (or forgot) the extent to which Descartes had borrowed the 'cogito ergo sum' from Augustine. I never knew how much John Henry Newman depended on Joseph Butler. MacIntyre underscores the sad fact that just as the Enlightenment philosophers flourished, Catholics philosophy became moribund, which explains why we are still trying to 'catch up' with critiquing the modern philosophy which underscored the Enlightenment and modernity.

In conclusion, MacIntyre focuses on (St.) Edith Stein and Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II), especially his encyclical letter "Fides et Ratio," Faith and Reason. For true, and even orthodox, Catholic thinking, one must not choose between a rationalistic philosophy, or a fideistic, fundamentalistic faith, but it must be a both/and.
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This book is largely a written version of MacIntyre's Notre Dame course on the topic. As such, it increases the reach of his reading public considerably. It is superbly written for this wider audience. Although everyone who is able should still go on to read his standards, e.g. After Virtue, Whose Justice? Which Rationality?, Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry, and Dependent Rational Animals, this new book encapsulates essential MacIntyrean insights into the nature of virtue, its connection with the pursuit of the meaning of life, the essential connectedness of various academic disciplines, the centrality of intellectual tradition, the relationship between our moral condition and our philosophical outlook, and the relationship of philosophy to theology, among many others. That is, it demonstrates the profundity, yes and the wisdom, of MacIntyre's mature philosophical perspective. Another excellent book by the most important social and ethical philosopher of our time.
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When Alasdair MacIntyre was twenty-three years old, he wrote this remarkable passage:

When the sacred and the secular are divided, then religion becomes one more department of human life, one activity among others. . . . Only a religion which is a way of living in every sphere either deserves to or can hope to survive. For the task of religion is to help us to see the secular as sacred, the world as under God. When the sacred and the secular are separated, then ritual becomes an end not to the hallowing of the world, but in itself. Likewise if our religion is fundamentally irrelevant to our politics, then we are recognising the political as a realm outside the reign of God. To divide the sacred from the secular is to recognise God's action only within the narrowest limits.

What is particularly remarkable about this passage is its robust theological claims, for not only was MacIntyre much less open to things theistic at this time--this passage comes from his first book written as an atheist Marxist--but also his later work as a Catholic Thomist evinced a strong commitment to strictly philosophical discourse: "I am by trade a moral philosopher, not at all a theologian, and certainly not an exponent of Christian ethics."

MacIntyre's life work has been that of a philosophical doctor, diagnosing the intellectual maladies of modernity and prescribing medicine for their deepest root causes, causes detectable and treatable by the philosopher's instruments, hence MacIntyre's philosophical diagnosis of modern culture in 1979: "There is largely lacking any conception of political life as being the pursuit of a common good which transcends all partial interests and which can be realized by the individual only through his participation in political life.
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I have read 4 of Mr. MacIntyre's books and found them clear and insightful. They were a pleasure to read. He avoids the jargon of professional philosophers. I admire his dedication to truth. His search has lead him far afield from current modern thinking, yet he is deeply respected for his useful contributions to the study of wisdom.

This book is no exception. For believers it clarifies the problems of God and Faith while showing why God and Faith are rejected by so many. The reflection of our society in the university systems of the west, beginning with Descartes to today squares with my experience. I was instructed in a midieval system. On day one of High School I knew in order what subjects I would take and my date of graduation. Same for college. Everything was connected. When I went to a modern university I found that connections between disciplines were few and even the philosophy department was pretty disjointed and chaotic.

This book ends with a powerfully compelling challenge. "Catholic Philosophy will only return to its rightful place as a mainstream contenter in modern philosphy when it engagages, incorporates, and transcends all philosopical views. Catholic Philosophy is called, in his mind, to present a compelling and dynamic picture of Truth.
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