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Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Book Review: After Virtue by Alasdair MacIntyre
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About a month ago, I started to read "After Virtue" by Alasdair MacIntyre.  Even after just the first chapter, I was quite immediately impressed by his imaginary world where science had been previously abandoned and its resurrected form was only a compartmentalized, poor reproduction of that which existed before.  It seemed to me that this is the way that Catholicism is.  The Church was struck down in Vatican II and now we see emerging in a slightly more mainstream way the forms of prior Catholicism, namely the Traditional Mass.  Yet, do you not also see in so called "Traditional Catholics" how they want a return to the Mass of All Times for merely nostalgic or aesthic reasons?  These Catholics are taking the Faith and stripping it of its social and moral implications that must be present in an authentic Catholic culture.

Indeed, I just read from part of the Roman Forum website today the following piece that is along the same line of reasoning: “For forty years, the Mass has been at the heart of the Traditional movement. This is because the Mass is a necessary but not sufficient condition to the restoration of Christendom. Without the Mass, any restoration of politics, education, culture, etc. will not endure. Nothing we do can survive without the Mass. Yet, there is more than the Mass that is necessary for a reestablishment of Christendom…”

I am a strong proponent for Catholics reading philosophical texts from time to time in order to more clearly see the world outside of our modern window.  We must see the world as a whole.  MacIntryre does a brilliant job presenting the world from a philosophical view.

At the very core of MacIntyre's book is the notion that the Enlightenment project of justifying the existence of morality outside of a teleological context (whether that be for the end of justice, for the end of observing God's revealed Law, etc) has failed.  His brilliant examples will allow all readers to see the errors of the Enlightenment.  The manner in which the book was written may even lead to the conversion of current Enlightenment proponents!

Just to share some of his reasoning (and style), here is a section from the text on MacIntyre's attack on the existence of "human rights."  In short, he does not believe any such rights existence for the mere fact that we are "humans" and he attacks that any such rights can truly be "self evident":
[T]he truth is plain: there are no such rights, [i.e., human rights, natural rights, rights of man,] and belief in them is one with belief in witches and in unicorns. The best reason for asserting so bluntly that there are no such rights is indeed of precisely the same type as the best reason which we possess for asserting that there are no witches and the best reason which we possess for asserting that there are no unicorns: every attempt to give good reasons for believing that there are such rights has failed. (p. 69)
I highly recommend this text for those of you wishing to read a work that is a bit more philosophical as opposed to purely theological or devotional.


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