Combining Philosophers

All the ideas for Friedrich Schlegel, Simon Critchley and Alasdair MacIntyre

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69 ideas

1. Philosophy / B. History of Ideas / 4. Early European Thought
In the Reformation, morality became unconditional but irrational, individually autonomous, and secular [MacIntyre]
     Full Idea: Three concepts about morality emerge from the Reformation period: that moral rules are unconditional demands that lack rational justification; that moral agents are sovereign in choices; and that secular powers have their own norms and justifications.
     From: Alasdair MacIntyre (A Short History of Ethics [1967], Ch.10)
     A reaction: I get the impression that a rather frank admission of the role of self-interest emerged at that time as well. It is only in the late seventeenth century that the possibility of a secular altruism begins to be investigated. But there's Shakespeare...
1. Philosophy / B. History of Ideas / 5. Later European Thought
The Levellers and the Diggers mark a turning point in the history of morality [MacIntyre]
     Full Idea: The Levellers and the Diggers mark a turning point in the history of morality.
     From: Alasdair MacIntyre (A Short History of Ethics [1967], Ch.11)
     A reaction: John Lilburne, the Leveller, 'Free-Born John', was the most important of them. They mainly fought for rights of religious conscience, but it quickly escalated into a demand for economic and social rights. It spread to France and the United States.
In the 17th-18th centuries morality offered a cure for egoism, through altruism [MacIntyre]
     Full Idea: It was in the seventeenth and eighteenth century that morality came generally to be understood as offering a solution to the problems posed by human egoism and that the content of morality came to be largely equated with altruism.
     From: Alasdair MacIntyre (After Virtue: a Study in Moral Theory [1981], Ch.16)
     A reaction: It was the elevation of altruism that caused Nietzsche's rebellion. The sixteenth century certainly looks striking cynical to modern eyes. The development was an attempt to secularise Jesus. Altruism has a paradox: it needs victims.
1. Philosophy / B. History of Ideas / 6. Twentieth Century Thought
Twentieth century social life is re-enacting eighteenth century philosophy [MacIntyre]
     Full Idea: Twentieth century social life turns out in key part to be the concrete and dramatic re-enactment of eighteenth-century philosophy.
     From: Alasdair MacIntyre (After Virtue: a Study in Moral Theory [1981], Ch. 8)
     A reaction: This suggest a two hundred year lag between the philosophy and its impact on the culture. One might note the Victorian insistence on 'duty' (e.g. in George Eliot), alongside Mill's view that the Kantian account of it didn't work (Idea 3768).
1. Philosophy / C. History of Philosophy / 2. Ancient Philosophy / b. Pre-Socratic philosophy
Philosophy really got started as the rival mode of discourse to tragedy [Critchley]
     Full Idea: The pre-Socratics are interesting, but philosophy really begins in drama; it's a competitive discourse to tragedy. Which is why Plato's 'Republic' excludes the poets: they're the competition; gotta get rid of them.
     From: Simon Critchley (Impossible Objects: interviews [2012], 6)
     A reaction: That's an interesting and novel perspective. So what was the 'discourse' of tragedy saying, and why did that provoke the new rival? Was it too fatalistic?
1. Philosophy / C. History of Philosophy / 4. Later European Philosophy / c. Eighteenth century philosophy
Irony is consciousness of abundant chaos [Schlegel,F]
     Full Idea: Irony is the clear conscousness of eternal agility, of an infinitely abundant chaos.
     From: Friedrich Schlegel (works [1798], Vol 2 p.263), quoted by Ernst Behler - Early German Romanticism p.81
     A reaction: [1800, in Athenaum] The interest here is irony as a reaction to chaos, which has made systematic thought impossible. Do romantics necessarily see reality as beyond our grasp, even if not chaotic? This must be situational, not verbal irony.
1. Philosophy / D. Nature of Philosophy / 5. Aims of Philosophy / d. Philosophy as puzzles
Philosophy begins in disappointment, notably in religion and politics [Critchley]
     Full Idea: I claim that philosophy begins in disappointment, and there are two forms of disappointment that interest me: religious and political disappointment
     From: Simon Critchley (Impossible Objects: interviews [2012], 2)
     A reaction: You are only disappointed by reality if you expected something better. To be disappointed by the failures of religion strikes me as rather old-fashioned, which Critchley sort of admits. Given the size and tumult of modern states, politics isn't promising.
1. Philosophy / D. Nature of Philosophy / 7. Despair over Philosophy
Philosophy has been marginalised by its failure in the Enlightenment to replace religion [MacIntyre]
     Full Idea: The failure, in the Enlightenment, of philosophy to provide what religion could no longer furnish was an important cause of philosophy losing its central cultural role and becoming a marginal, narrowly academic subject.
     From: Alasdair MacIntyre (After Virtue: a Study in Moral Theory [1981], Ch. 4)
     A reaction: A strange way of presenting the situation. Philosophy has never aspired to furnish beliefs for the masses. Plato offered them myths. The refutation of religion was difficult and complex. There is no returning from there to a new folk simplicity.
1. Philosophy / D. Nature of Philosophy / 8. Humour
Humour can give a phenomenological account of existence, and point to change [Critchley]
     Full Idea: Humour provides an oblique phenomenology of ordinary life; it is a way of describing the situation of our existence, and, at its best, it indicates how we might change that situation.
     From: Simon Critchley (Interview with Baggini and Stangroom [2001], p.198)
     A reaction: The trouble is that this leads us to relentlessly political standup comedians who aren't very funny. Critichley may have a problem with remarks which are very funny precisely because they are so politically incorrect. I sympathise, though.
Humour is practically enacted philosophy [Critchley]
     Full Idea: Humour, for me, is practically enacted philosophy.
     From: Simon Critchley (Interview with Baggini and Stangroom [2001], p.198)
     A reaction: This may be overstating it, as the funniest jokes may be the least philosophical, and remarks may be faintly amusing but very profound. Lear and his Fool make up a single worldview together.
1. Philosophy / E. Nature of Metaphysics / 3. Metaphysical Systems
Plato has no system. Philosophy is the progression of a mind and development of thoughts [Schlegel,F]
     Full Idea: Plato had no system, but only a philosophy. The philosophy of a human being is the history, the becoming, the progression of his mind, the gradual formation and development of his thoughts.
     From: Friedrich Schlegel (works [1798], Vol.11 p.118), quoted by Ernst Behler - Early German Romanticism
     A reaction: [1804] Looks like the first sign of rebellion against the idea of having a 'system' in philosophy, making it a key idea of romanticism. Systems are classical? This looks like an early opposition of a historical dimension to static systems. Big idea.
1. Philosophy / G. Scientific Philosophy / 3. Scientism
If infatuation with science leads to bad scientism, its rejection leads to obscurantism [Critchley]
     Full Idea: If what is mistaken in much contemporary philosophy is its infatuation with science, which leads to scientism, then the equally mistaken rejection of science leads to obscurantism.
     From: Simon Critchley (Continental Philosophy - V. Short Intro [2001], Ch.1)
     A reaction: Clearly a balance has to be struck. I take philosophy to be a quite separate discipline from science, but it is crucial that philosophy respects the physical facts, and scientists are the experts there. Scientists are philosophers' most valued servants.
Scientism is the view that everything can be explained causally through scientific method [Critchley]
     Full Idea: Scientism is the belief that all phenomena can be explained through the methodology of the natural sciences, and the belief that, therefore, all phenomena are capable of a causal explanation.
     From: Simon Critchley (Interview with Baggini and Stangroom [2001], p.196)
     A reaction: He links two ideas together, but I tend to subscribe fully to the second idea, but less fully to the first. Scientific method, if there is such a thing (Idea 6804), may not be the best way to lay bare the causal network of reality.
Science gives us an excessively theoretical view of life [Critchley]
     Full Idea: One of the problems with the scientific worldview is that it leads human beings to have an overwhelmingly theoretical relationship to the world.
     From: Simon Critchley (Impossible Objects: interviews [2012], 2)
     A reaction: Critchley is defending phenomenology, but this also supports its cousin, existentialism. I keep meeting bright elderly men who have immersed themselves in the study of science, and they seem very remote from the humanist culture I love.
1. Philosophy / H. Continental Philosophy / 1. Continental Philosophy
To meet the division in our life, try the Subject, Nature, Spirit, Will, Power, Praxis, Unconscious, or Being [Critchley]
     Full Idea: Against the Kantian division of a priori and empirical, Fichte offered activity of the subject, Schelling offered natural force, Hegel offered Spirit, Schopenhauer the Will, Nietzsche power, Marx praxis, Freud the unconscious, and Heidegger offered Being.
     From: Simon Critchley (Continental Philosophy - V. Short Intro [2001])
     A reaction: The whole of Continental Philosophy summarised in a sentence. Fichte and Schopenhauer seem to point to existentialism, Schelling gives evolutionary teleology, Marx abandons philosophy, the others are up the creek.
The French keep returning, to Hegel or Nietzsche or Marx [Critchley]
     Full Idea: French philosophy since the 1930s might be described as a series of returns: to Hegel (in Kojève and early Sartre), to Nietzsche (in Foucault and Deleuze), or to Marx (in Althusser).
     From: Simon Critchley (Continental Philosophy - V. Short Intro [2001], Ch.2)
     A reaction: An interesting map. The question might be why they return to those three, rather than (say) Hume or Leibniz. If the choice of which one you return to a matter of 'taste' (as Nietzsche would have it)?
German idealism aimed to find a unifying principle for Kant's various dualisms [Critchley]
     Full Idea: In his Third Critique Kant established a series of dualisms (pure/practical reason, nature/freedom, epistemology/ethics) but failed to provide a unifying principle; German idealism can be seen as an attempt to provide this principle.
     From: Simon Critchley (Interview with Baggini and Stangroom [2001], p.187)
     A reaction: He cites 'subject', 'spirit', 'art', 'will to power', 'praxis' and 'being' as candidates. This is a helpful overview for someone struggling to get to grips with that tradition.
Since Hegel, continental philosophy has been linked with social and historical enquiry. [Critchley]
     Full Idea: In continental philosophy from Hegel onwards, systematic philosophical questions have to be linked to socio-historical enquiry, and the distinctions between philosophy, history and society begin to fall apart.
     From: Simon Critchley (Interview with Baggini and Stangroom [2001], p.188)
     A reaction: I have a strong sales resistance to this view of philosophy, just as I would if it was said about mathematics. It seems to imply a bogus view that history exhibits direction and purpose (the 'Whig' view). There are pure reasons among the prejudices.
Continental philosophy fights the threatened nihilism in the critique of reason [Critchley]
     Full Idea: If reason must criticise itself (in Kant) how does one avoid total scepticism? In my view, the problem that has animated the continental tradition since Jacobi (early 19th cent) is the threat of nihilism.
     From: Simon Critchley (Interview with Baggini and Stangroom [2001], p.188)
     A reaction: As an outsider to 'continental' philosophy, this is the most illuminating remark I have read about it. It is not only a plausible account of the movement, but also a very worth aim, which should be taken seriously by analytical philosophers.
Continental philosophy is based on critique, praxis and emancipation [Critchley]
     Full Idea: The basic map of the continental tradition can be summarised in three terms: critique, praxis and emancipation.
     From: Simon Critchley (Interview with Baggini and Stangroom [2001], p.189)
     A reaction: I wince at 'emancipation', which seems to take freedom as of unquestionably high value, instead of being one of the principles up for question in social philosophy. There are more presuppositions in Marxist than in analytical philosophy.
Continental philosophy has a bad tendency to offer 'one big thing' to explain everything [Critchley]
     Full Idea: In continental philosophy there is a pernicious tendency to explain everything in terms of 'one big thing', such as the 'death drive' (Freud), 'being' (Heidegger), 'the real' (Lacan), 'power' (Foucault), 'the other' (Levinas), or 'différance' (Derrida).
     From: Simon Critchley (Interview with Baggini and Stangroom [2001], p.197)
     A reaction: From a fan of this type of philosophy, this is a refreshing remark, because if pinpoints a very off-putting feature. Each of these 'big things' should be up for question, not offered as axiomatic assumptions that explain everything else.
1. Philosophy / H. Continental Philosophy / 2. Phenomenology
Phenomenology uncovers and redescribes the pre-theoretical layer of life [Critchley]
     Full Idea: Phenomenology is a philosophical method that tries to uncover the pre-theoretical layer of human experience and redescribe it.
     From: Simon Critchley (Impossible Objects: interviews [2012], 2)
     A reaction: I would be delighted if someone could tell me what this means in practice. I have the impression of lots of talk about phenomenology, but not much doing of it. Clearly I must enquire further.
Phenomenology is a technique of redescription which clarifies our social world [Critchley]
     Full Idea: Phenomenology (as in the later Husserl) is for me a way of assembling reminders which clarify the social world in which we exist; it is a technique of redescription.
     From: Simon Critchley (Interview with Baggini and Stangroom [2001], p.198)
     A reaction: I'm not sure if I can identify with this as a target for philosophy, but it is interesting and sound worthy of effort. Critchley offers this as the best strand in 'continental' philosophy, rather than the big explanatory ideas.
2. Reason / A. Nature of Reason / 9. Limits of Reason
Proof is a barren idea in philosophy, and the best philosophy never involves proof [MacIntyre]
     Full Idea: Arguments in philosophy rarely take the form of proofs; and the most successful arguments on topics central to philosophy never do. (The ideal of proof is a relatively barren one in philosophy).
     From: Alasdair MacIntyre (After Virtue: a Study in Moral Theory [1981], Ch.18)
     A reaction: He seems proud of this, but he must settle for something which is less than proof, which has to be vindicated to the mathematicians and scientists. I agree, though. Plato is the model, and the best philosophy builds a broad persuasive picture.
11. Knowledge Aims / C. Knowing Reality / 3. Idealism / b. Transcendental idealism
Poetry is transcendental when it connects the ideal to the real [Schlegel,F]
     Full Idea: There is a kind of poetry whose essence lies in the relation between the ideal and the real, and which therefore, by analogy with philosophical jargon, should be called transcendental poetry.
     From: Friedrich Schlegel (works [1798], Vol 2 p.204), quoted by Ernst Behler - Early German Romanticism p.78
     A reaction: I think the basic idea is that the imaginative creation of poetry has the power to bridge the gap between the transcendental (presupposed) ideal in Fichte, and nature (which Fichte seems to have excluded from his system).
12. Knowledge Sources / D. Empiricism / 5. Empiricism Critique
To find empiricism and science in the same culture is surprising, as they are really incompatible [MacIntyre]
     Full Idea: There is something extraordinary in the coexistence of empiricism and natural science in the same culture, for they represent radically different and incompatible ways of approaching the world.
     From: Alasdair MacIntyre (After Virtue: a Study in Moral Theory [1981], Ch. 7)
     A reaction: I would say that science is commitment to an ontology, and empiricism is a commitment to epistemology. It is a very nice point, given the usual assumption that science is an empirical activity. See Idea 7621. Strict empiricism distorts science.
13. Knowledge Criteria / E. Relativism / 4. Cultural relativism
Relativism can be seen as about the rationality of different cultural traditions [MacIntyre, by Kusch]
     Full Idea: MacIntyre formulates relativism in terms of rationality rather than truth or objectivity. Things are rational relative to some particular tradition, but not rational as such.
     From: report of Alasdair MacIntyre (Whose Justice? Which Rationality? [1988], p.352) by Martin Kusch - Knowledge by Agreement Ch.19
     A reaction: Personally I had always taken it to be about truth, and I expect any account of rationality to be founded on a notion of truth. There can clearly be cultural traditions of evidence, and possibly even of logic (though I doubt it).
14. Science / A. Basis of Science / 4. Prediction
Unpredictability doesn't entail inexplicability, and predictability doesn't entail explicability [MacIntyre]
     Full Idea: Just as unpredictability does not entail inexplicability, so predictability does not entail explicability.
     From: Alasdair MacIntyre (After Virtue: a Study in Moral Theory [1981], Ch. 8)
     A reaction: The second half is not quite as obvious as the first. The location of lightning strikes is an example of the first. He gives examples of the second, but they all seem to be very complex cases which might be explained, if only we knew enough.
14. Science / B. Scientific Theories / 1. Scientific Theory
Social sciences discover no law-like generalisations, and tend to ignore counterexamples [MacIntyre]
     Full Idea: Social sciences have discovered no law-like generalisations whatsoever, ...and for the most part they adopt a very tolerant attitude to counter-examples.
     From: Alasdair MacIntyre (After Virtue: a Study in Moral Theory [1981], Ch. 8)
     A reaction: I suspect that this is as much to do with a narrow and rigid view of what 'science' is supposed to be, as a failure of the social sciences. Have such sciences explained anything? I suspect that they have explained a lot, often after the facts.
15. Nature of Minds / A. Nature of Mind / 2. Psuche
When Aristotle speaks of soul he means something like personality [MacIntyre]
     Full Idea: When Aristotle speaks of the soul we could very often retain his meaning by speaking of personality.
     From: Alasdair MacIntyre (A Short History of Ethics [1967], Ch. 7)
     A reaction: MacIntyre contrasts this strongly with Plato's dualist view. Famously Aristotle thinks the soul is the 'form' of the body, but this implies that he also includes the higher-level functions of the body. Soul is character?
16. Persons / E. Rejecting the Self / 3. Narrative Self
I can only make decisions if I see myself as part of a story [MacIntyre]
     Full Idea: 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?'.
     From: Alasdair MacIntyre (After Virtue: a Study in Moral Theory [1981], p.201), quoted by Michael J. Sandel - Justice: What's the right thing to do? 09
     A reaction: MacIntyre is a great champion of the narrative view of the Self. Does this mean that if you had total amnesia, but retained other faculties, you could make no decisions? Can you start a new story whenever you like?
18. Thought / B. Mechanics of Thought / 6. Artificial Thought / a. Artificial Intelligence
AI can't predict innovation, or consequences, or external relations, or external events [MacIntyre]
     Full Idea: AI machines have four types of unpredictability: they can't predict radical innovation or future maths proofs; they couldn't predict the outcome of their own decisions; their relations with other computers would be a game-theory tangle; and power failure.
     From: Alasdair MacIntyre (After Virtue: a Study in Moral Theory [1981], Ch. 8)
     A reaction: This isn't an assertion that they lack 'free will', just a very accurate observation of how the super new machines would face exactly the same problems that we ourselves face.
21. Aesthetics / B. Nature of Art / 8. The Arts / b. Literature
For poets free choice is supreme [Schlegel,F]
     Full Idea: Romantic poetry recognises as its first commandment that the free choice [Wilkür] of the poet can tolerate no law above itself.
     From: Friedrich Schlegel (works [1798], Frag 116 p.32), quoted by Terry Pinkard - German Philosophy 1760-1860 06
     A reaction: This leads to Shelley's 'poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the race'. We should also take it as a response to Kant's categorical imperative, which leads to the Gauguin Problem (wickedness justified by the art it leads to).
Wallace Stevens is the greatest philosophical poet of the twentieth century in English [Critchley]
     Full Idea: Wallace Stevens is the greatest philosophical poet of the twentieth century in the English language - full stop - in my humble opinion.
     From: Simon Critchley (Impossible Objects: interviews [2012], 6)
     A reaction: I include this because I tend to agree, and love Stevens. Hear recordings of him reading. I once mentioned Stevens in a conversation with Ted Hughes, and he just shrugged and said Stevens 'wasn't much of a poet'. Wrong.
21. Aesthetics / C. Artistic Issues / 7. Art and Morality
Interesting art is always organised around ethical demands [Critchley]
     Full Idea: I don't think that art can be unethical. I think that interesting art is always ethical. It is organised around ethical demands.
     From: Simon Critchley (Impossible Objects: interviews [2012], 8)
     A reaction: It is a struggle to make this fit instrumental music. Critchley likes punk rock, so he might not see the problem. How to compare Bachian, Mozart, Beethovenian and Debussyian ethics? Not impossible.
22. Metaethics / A. Value / 1. Nature of Value / b. Fact and value
The value/fact logical gulf is misleading, because social facts involve values [MacIntyre]
     Full Idea: One reason why it is highly misleading to talk of a logical gulf between value and fact....is that we cannot characterize the social life of a tribe in their factual terms and escape their evaluations.
     From: Alasdair MacIntyre (A Short History of Ethics [1967], Ch.10)
     A reaction: Personally I like the objection that facts about functions cannot avoid the value of good functions, but this is very good. It is much better than simply trying to find a specific counterexample, such as facts about promises. Values just are facts.
22. Metaethics / A. Value / 2. Values / e. Love
True love is ironic, in the contrast between finite limitations and the infinity of love [Schlegel,F]
     Full Idea: True irony is the irony of love. It arises from the feeling of finitude and one's own limitation, and the apparent contradiction of these feelings with the concept of infinity inherent in all true love.
     From: Friedrich Schlegel (works [1798], Vol.10 p.357), quoted by Ernst Behler - Early German Romanticism
     A reaction: [c.1827] This is more about idealist philosophy and its yearning for the Absolute than it is about the actual nature of love. Love is the door to the Absolute. The irony is our inability to pass through it.
22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 2. Happiness / b. Eudaimonia
'Happiness' is a bad translation of 'eudaimonia', which includes both behaving and faring well [MacIntyre]
     Full Idea: The name 'eudaimonia' is badly but inevitably translated by 'happiness', badly because it includes both the notion of behaving well and the notion of faring well.
     From: Alasdair MacIntyre (A Short History of Ethics [1967], Ch. 7)
     A reaction: This seems to imply that it does not include the notion of feeling good. Aristotle, however, concludes that pleasure is part of eudaimonia. I take our 'happiness' to be an internal notion, while the Greek word is an external notion.
22. Metaethics / C. Ethics Foundations / 1. Nature of Ethics / c. Purpose of ethics
The good life for man is the life spent seeking the good life for man [MacIntyre]
     Full Idea: The good life for man is the life spent in seeking for the good life for man.
     From: Alasdair MacIntyre (After Virtue: a Study in Moral Theory [1981], Ch.15)
     A reaction: This contains a self-evident paradox - that success would be failure. The proposal suits philosophers more than it would suit the folk. Less seeking and more getting on with it seems good, if the activity is a 'flourishing' one.
22. Metaethics / C. Ethics Foundations / 1. Nature of Ethics / d. Ethical theory
We still have the appearance and language of morality, but we no longer understand it [MacIntyre]
     Full Idea: We possess simulacra of morality, we continue to use many of the key expressions. But we have - very largely, if not entirely - lost our comprehension, both theoretical and practical, of morality.
     From: Alasdair MacIntyre (After Virtue: a Study in Moral Theory [1981], Ch. 1)
     A reaction: MacIntyre's famous (or notorious) assault on modern ethics. We obviously can't prove him wrong by spouting moral talk. Are we actually more wicked than our ancestors? There is, I think, a relativism problem in the 20th centurty, but that is different.
Unlike expressions of personal preference, evaluative expressions do not depend on context [MacIntyre]
     Full Idea: There are good reasons for distinguishing between expressions of personal preference and evaluative expressions, as the first depend on who utters them to whom, while the second are not dependent for reason-giving force on the context of utterance.
     From: Alasdair MacIntyre (After Virtue: a Study in Moral Theory [1981], Ch. 2)
     A reaction: The sceptics will simply say that in the second type of expression the speaker tries to adopt a tone of impersonal authority, but it is merely an unjustified attempt to elevate personal preferences. "Blue just IS the best colour".
Moral judgements now are anachronisms from a theistic age [MacIntyre]
     Full Idea: Moral judgements are linguistic survivals from the practices of classical theism which have lost the context provided by these practices.
     From: Alasdair MacIntyre (After Virtue: a Study in Moral Theory [1981], Ch. 5)
     A reaction: He is sort of right. Richard Taylor is less dramatic and more plausible on this (Ideas 5065, 5066, 5077). Big claims about 'duty' have become rather hollow, but the rights and wrongs of (e.g.) mistreating children don't seem to need theism.
The problems is not justifying ethics, but motivating it. Why should a self seek its good? [Critchley]
     Full Idea: The issue is not so much justification as motivation, that in virtue of which the self can be motivated to act on some conception of the good. ...How does a self bind itself to whatever it determines as its good?
     From: Simon Critchley (Impossible Objects: interviews [2012], 2)
     A reaction: That is a bold and interesting idea about the starting point for ethics. It is always a problem for Aristotle, that he can offer no motivation for the quest for virtue. Contractarians start from existing motivations, but that isn't impressive.
22. Metaethics / C. Ethics Foundations / 2. Source of Ethics / b. Rational ethics
The failure of Enlightenment attempts to justify morality will explain our own culture [MacIntyre]
     Full Idea: A central thesis of this book is that the breakdown of the project (of 1630 to 1850) of an independent rational justification of morality provided the historical background against which the predicaments of our own culture can become intelligible.
     From: Alasdair MacIntyre (After Virtue: a Study in Moral Theory [1981], Ch. 4)
     A reaction: Possibly the most important question of our times is whether the Enlightenment failed. MacIntyre's claim is followed by an appeal for a return to Aristotelian/Thomist virtues. Continentals seem to have responded by sliding into relativism.
22. Metaethics / C. Ethics Foundations / 2. Source of Ethics / c. Ethical intuitionism
Mention of 'intuition' in morality means something has gone wrong with the argument [MacIntyre]
     Full Idea: The introduction of the word 'intuition' by a moral philosopher is always a signal that something has gone badly wrong with an argument.
     From: Alasdair MacIntyre (After Virtue: a Study in Moral Theory [1981], Ch. 6)
     A reaction: For the alternative view, see Kripke (Idea 4948). If Kripke is right about logic, I don't see why the same view should have some force in morality. At the bottom of all morality is an intuition that life is worth the struggle. How do you prove that?
22. Metaethics / C. Ethics Foundations / 2. Source of Ethics / e. Human nature
When 'man' is thought of individually, apart from all roles, it ceases to be a functional concept [MacIntyre]
     Full Idea: It is only when man is thought of as an individual prior to and apart from all roles that 'man' ceases to be a functional concept.
     From: Alasdair MacIntyre (After Virtue: a Study in Moral Theory [1981], Ch. 5)
     A reaction: This is the one key idea at the heart of the revival of virtue ethics in modern times. It pinpoints what may be the single biggest disaster in intellectual history - the isolation of the individual. Yet it led to freedom, rights, and lots of good things.
22. Metaethics / C. Ethics Foundations / 2. Source of Ethics / h. Expressivism
Nowadays most people are emotivists, and it is embodied in our culture [MacIntyre]
     Full Idea: To a large degree people now think, talk and act as if emotivism was true, no matter what their avowed theoretical standpoint may be. Emotivism has become embodied in our culture.
     From: Alasdair MacIntyre (After Virtue: a Study in Moral Theory [1981], Ch. 2)
     A reaction: I suspect that it is moderately educated people who have swallowed emotivism, in the same way that they have swallowed relativism; it provides an excuse for neglectly the pursuit of beauty, goodness and truth, in favour of pleasure.
In trying to explain the type of approval involved, emotivists are either silent, or viciously circular [MacIntyre]
     Full Idea: In reply to the question of what kinds of approval are expressed by the feelings or attitudes of moral judgments, every version of emotivism either remains silent, or becomes viciously circular by identifying it as moral approval.
     From: Alasdair MacIntyre (After Virtue: a Study in Moral Theory [1981], Ch. 2)
     A reaction: There seems to be an underlying assumption that moral judgements are sharply separated from other judgements, of which I am not convinced. I approve of creating a beautiful mural for an old folks home free of charge, but it must be beautiful.
The expression of feeling in a sentence is in its use, not in its meaning [MacIntyre]
     Full Idea: Expression of feeling is not a function of the meaning of sentences, but of their use, as when a teacher shouts at a pupil "7 x 7 = 49!", where the expression of feeling or attitude has nothing whatsoever to do with its meaning.
     From: Alasdair MacIntyre (After Virtue: a Study in Moral Theory [1981], Ch. 2)
     A reaction: This point is what underlies the Frege-Geach problem for emotivism, and is a very telling point. Apart from in metaethics, no one has ever put forward a theory of meaning that says it is just emotion. ...Unless it concerns speakers' intentions?
Emotivism cannot explain the logical terms in moral discourse ('therefore', 'if..then') [MacIntyre]
     Full Idea: Analytical moral philosophers resist emotivism because moral reasoning does occur, but there can be logical linkages between various moral judgements of a kind that emotivism could not allow for ('therefore' and 'if...then' express no moral feelings).
     From: Alasdair MacIntyre (After Virtue: a Study in Moral Theory [1981], Ch. 2)
     A reaction: This is the 'Frege-Geach Problem', nicely expressed, and is the key reason why emotivism seems unacceptable - it is a theory about language, but it just doesn't explain moral discourse sufficiently.
22. Metaethics / C. Ethics Foundations / 2. Source of Ethics / j. Ethics by convention
Sophists don't distinguish a person outside one social order from someone outside all order [MacIntyre]
     Full Idea: The sophist tradition failed to distinguish the difference between the concept of a man who stands outside and is able to question the conventions of some one given social order, and the concept of a man who stands outside social life as such.
     From: Alasdair MacIntyre (A Short History of Ethics [1967], Ch. 3)
     A reaction: A very nice distinction. Compare foreigners in Athens with Diogenes of Sinope, who renounced all cities. This is the germ of MacIntyre's view that morality is essentially dependent on some sort of social order. He is a reviver of virtue theory.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 1. Virtue Theory / a. Nature of virtue
Maybe we can only understand rules if we first understand the virtues [MacIntyre]
     Full Idea: Maybe we need to attend to the virtues first in the first place in order to understand the function and authority of rules.
     From: Alasdair MacIntyre (After Virtue: a Study in Moral Theory [1981], Ch. 9)
     A reaction: I think MacIntyre's project is exactly right. Morality is about how humans should live their lives. A bunch of robots could implement a set of moral rules, or make contracts, or maximise one another's benefits. The idea of a human community comes first.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 1. Virtue Theory / d. Virtue theory critique
Virtue is secondary to a role-figure, defined within a culture [MacIntyre, by Statman]
     Full Idea: MacIntyre argues that the concept of virtue is secondary to that of a role-figure, where the latter is always defined by some particular tradition and culture.
     From: report of Alasdair MacIntyre (After Virtue: a Study in Moral Theory [1981]) by Daniel Statman - Introduction to Virtue Ethics §3
     A reaction: MacIntyre is much more of a relativist than Aristotle. There must be some attempt to deal with the problem of a rotten culture which throws up a corrupt role-model. We need a concept of a good culture and of individual flourishing.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 2. Elements of Virtue Theory / e. Character
Characters are the masks worn by moral philosophies [MacIntyre]
     Full Idea: Characters are the masks worn by moral philosophies.
     From: Alasdair MacIntyre (After Virtue: a Study in Moral Theory [1981], Ch. 3)
     A reaction: This may be presenting character in an excessively moral way. Being lively, for example, is a very distinctive trait of character, but hardly moral. This tells us why philosophers are interested in character, but not why other people are.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 2. Elements of Virtue Theory / h. Right feelings
If morality just is emotion, there are no external criteria for judging emotions [MacIntyre]
     Full Idea: If there is nothing to judgements of virtue and vice except the expression of feelings of approval and disapproval, there can be no criteria external to those feelings by appeal to which we may pass judgement upon them.
     From: Alasdair MacIntyre (After Virtue: a Study in Moral Theory [1981], Ch.16)
     A reaction: The idea that there can be right and wrong feelings may be the key idea in virtue theory. See Idea 5217. A good person would be ashamed to have a bad feeling. Some emotional responses are intrinsically wicked, apart from actions.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 3. Virtues / c. Justice
'Dikaiosune' is justice, but also fairness and personal integrity [MacIntyre]
     Full Idea: The Greek 'dikaiosune' is inadequately translated as 'justice', but also as any other word; it combines the notion of fairness in externals with that of personal integrity in a way that no English word does.
     From: Alasdair MacIntyre (A Short History of Ethics [1967], Ch. 1)
     A reaction: 'Dikaiosune' is said to be the main topic of Plato's 'Republic'. Plato seems to have meant it to cover whatever makes a good character. Justice in behaviour presumably flows from internal justice of character (which is, roughly, inner harmony).
23. Ethics / D. Deontological Ethics / 2. Duty
My duties depend on my identity, which depends on my social relations [MacIntyre]
     Full Idea: I cannot answer the question 'What ought I to do?' until I have answered the question 'Who am I?', and any answer to this question will specify my place in a nexus of social relationships.
     From: Alasdair MacIntyre (A Short History of Ethics [1967], Ch.13)
     A reaction: This is the beginning of the modern critique of deontological ethics coming from revived virtue theory. As it stands, MacIntyre's idea sounds contractual, but I think he intends it in a more organic way. I am a fan.
23. Ethics / E. Utilitarianism / 1. Utilitarianism
Since Moore thinks the right action produces the most good, he is a utilitarian [MacIntyre]
     Full Idea: Moore takes it that to call an action right is simply to say that of the available alternative actions it is the one which does or did as a matter of fact produce the most good. Moore is thus a utilitarian.
     From: Alasdair MacIntyre (After Virtue: a Study in Moral Theory [1981], Ch. 2)
     A reaction: Far be it from me to disagree with MacIntyre on this, but I would have thought that this made him a consequentialist, rather than a utilitarian. Moore doesn't remotely think that pure pleasure or happiness is the good. He's closer to Rashdall (Idea 6673).
23. Ethics / F. Existentialism / 2. Nihilism
Perceiving meaninglessness is an achievement, which can transform daily life [Critchley]
     Full Idea: If nihilism is the threat of the collapse of meaning, then my position is that one has to accept meaninglessness as an achievement, as an accomplishment that permits a transformed relation to everyday life.
     From: Simon Critchley (Interview with Baggini and Stangroom [2001], p.193)
     A reaction: This sounds cheerfully upbeat and life-enhancing, but I don't quite see how it works. One could easily end up laughing at the most appalling tragedies, and that seems to me to be an inappropriate (Aristotelian word) way to respond to tragedy.
23. Ethics / F. Existentialism / 3. Angst
Irony is the response to conflicts of involvement and attachment [Schlegel,F, by Pinkard]
     Full Idea: Irony is thus the appropriate stance to feeling that is both inescapably committed and inescapably detached at the same time.
     From: report of Friedrich Schlegel (works [1798]) by Terry Pinkard - German Philosophy 1760-1860 06
     A reaction: This is the epitome of romanticism, which carries over into the dilemmas of existentialism. Striking the right balance between caring and not caring seems to me to be the main focus of modern British people.
24. Applied Ethics / A. Decision Conflicts / 1. Applied Ethics
Food first, then ethics [Critchley]
     Full Idea: Food first, then ethics.
     From: Simon Critchley (Continental Philosophy - V. Short Intro [2001], 8857)
     A reaction: This is not a dismissal of philosophy, but a key fact which ethical philosophers must face up to. See Mr Doolittle's speech in Shaw's 'Pygmalion. It connects to the debate c.1610 about whether one is entitled to grab someone's plank to avoid drowning.
25. Society / A. State of Nature / 2. Natural Values / a. Natural freedom
I am naturally free if I am not tied to anyone by a contract [MacIntyre]
     Full Idea: The essence of the claim to natural rights is that no one has a right against me unless he can cite some contract, my consent to it, and his performance of his obligations under it.
     From: Alasdair MacIntyre (A Short History of Ethics [1967], Ch.11)
     A reaction: This has become the foundation of western democracy, and the rebellious teenager's charter. Children have not consented to a contract with their parents. Close and loving relationships cease to be contractual.
25. Society / A. State of Nature / 2. Natural Values / c. Natural rights
There are no natural or human rights, and belief in them is nonsense [MacIntyre]
     Full Idea: There are no natural or human rights, and belief in them is one with belief in witches and in unicorns.
     From: Alasdair MacIntyre (After Virtue: a Study in Moral Theory [1981], Ch. 6)
     A reaction: His point is that the notion of 'rights' only arises out of a community. However, while you might criticise an individual for absurdly asserting all sorts of dubious rights, no one could criticise them if they asserted the right to defend their own life.
25. Society / C. Social Justice / 5. Legal Rights / a. Basis of rights
Fans of natural rights or laws can't agree on what the actual rights or laws are [MacIntyre]
     Full Idea: It is notorious that adherents of theories about natural rights or natural laws offer lists of rights or laws which differ in substance from each other.
     From: Alasdair MacIntyre (A Short History of Ethics [1967], Ch.17)
     A reaction: There seems to have been a consensus early on that self-defence was a natural right, but divergence presumably occurs when you get bolder and more complex. There is a lot of divergence over which is Shakespeare's best play.
25. Society / D. Political Doctrines / 3. Anarchism
The state, law, bureaucracy and capital are limitations on life, so I prefer federalist anarchism [Critchley]
     Full Idea: I begin with the ontological premise that the state is a limitation on human existence. I am against the state, law, bureaucracy, and capital. I seen anarchism as the only desirable way of organising, politically. ...Its political form is federalist.
     From: Simon Critchley (Impossible Objects: interviews [2012], 3)
     A reaction: Hm. Some sympathy, but caution. All systems, even federalist anarchism are limitations on our lives, so which limitations do we prefer. The law aspires to a calm egalitarian neutrality, which seems promising to me.
Anarchism used to be libertarian (especially for sexuality), but now concerns responsibility [Critchley]
     Full Idea: Anarchism in the 1960s was libertarian and organised around issues of sexual liberation. That moment has passed. People are and should be organising around responsibility.
     From: Simon Critchley (Impossible Objects: interviews [2012], 3)
     A reaction: So there are two types of anarchism, focused on freedom or on responsibility. An organisation like Greenpeace might represent the latter.
25. Society / D. Political Doctrines / 4. Conservatism
Belief that humans are wicked leads to authoritarian politics [Critchley]
     Full Idea: If you think human beings are wicked, you turn to an authoritarian conception of politics, the Hobbesian-Machiavellian-Straussian lie.
     From: Simon Critchley (Impossible Objects: interviews [2012], 3)
     A reaction: Right-wingers also tend to believe in free will, so they can blame and punish. Good people are more inspired by a great leader than bad people are? (Later, Critchley says authoritarians usually believe in original sin).
28. God / A. Divine Nature / 4. Divine Contradictions
If God is omniscient, he confronts no as yet unmade decisions, so decisions are impossible [MacIntyre]
     Full Idea: Omniscience excludes the making of decisions. If God knows everything that will occur, he confronts no as yet unmade decisions.
     From: Alasdair MacIntyre (After Virtue: a Study in Moral Theory [1981], Ch. 8)
     A reaction: [He cites Aquinas on this] I find it very difficult to see how anyone could read the Bible (see Idea 8008) while keeping this point continually in mind, without seeing the whole book as a piece of blatant anthropomorphism.
29. Religion / B. Monotheistic Religion / 5. Bible
The Bible is a story about God in which humans are incidental characters [MacIntyre]
     Full Idea: The Bible is a story about God in which human beings appear as incidental characters.
     From: Alasdair MacIntyre (A Short History of Ethics [1967], Ch. 9)
     A reaction: Very illuminating. He creates man, is betrayed by man, drowns him and starts again, sends a redeemer who gets murdered, and finally enlightens a small band who continue the uphill struggle to promote God's way. What next?