#12 – After Virtue by Alasdair Macintyre (My 100 Favorite Books)

“I can only answer the question “What am I to do?’ if I can answer the prior question ‘Of what story or stories do I find myself a part?”

That quote is from Alasdair Macintyre’s brilliant book on moral philosophy, After Virtue.  Macintyre traces the attempts to create a universal moral ethic after the fall of Christendom, and he concludes that all efforts fail.  If I recall correctly, he concludes we are left with two options: Nietzsche’s Will to Power and a virtue ethic from Aristotle.  Importantly, Macintyre places morals and ethics in terms of traditions.  Nothing just drops out of the sky, out of nowhere.  All our ideas are rooted in something, come from somewhere.  Thus, what story do we find ourselves a part of?

I remember that, as I read this book, so much about how we argue in our society became clearer.  Early on, he lays out three arguments people make about whether or not abortion should be legal, and why.  Each argument ended up in a different conclusion.  But the vital point was, each started from a different place.  Because of this, it is impossible for adherents of each position to dialogue with the other since they are, at root, arguing from different presuppositions.

Overall, this is a fantastic book.  Further, for a work of philosophy, it is quite readable for any pastor, Christian leader, or really anyone with a minimal understanding of history.  I often desire to read philosophy but quickly get lost.  I imagine I like history and story more than abstract philosophy.  This book works that way and I love it!


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