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Alasdair Chalmers MacIntyre
Full name Alasdair Chalmers MacIntyre
Born 12 January 1929 (1929-01-12) (age 81)
Glasgow, Scotland
Region Western Philosophy
School Analytic Philosophy, Communitarianism
Main interests Ethics, Metaethics, History of Ethics, Political Philosophy
Notable ideas Revival of Virtue ethics

Alasdair Chalmers MacIntyre (born 12 January 1929 in Glasgow, Scotland) is a leading philosopher primarily known for his contribution to moral and political philosophy but known also for his work in history of philosophy and theology. He is the O'Brien Senior Research Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame.



MacIntyre was educated at the institution now known as Queen Mary, University of London, and has a Master of Arts from the University of Manchester and the University of Oxford. He began his lecturing career in 1951 at Manchester University. He taught at the University of Leeds, the University of Essex and the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, before moving to the USA in around 1969. MacIntyre has been something of an intellectual nomad, having taught at many universities in the US. He has held the following positions:

He has also been a visiting professor at Princeton University, and is a former president of the American Philosophical Association.

From 2000 to the present, he has been the Rev. John A. O'Brien Senior Research Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Permanent Senior Research Fellow in the Center for Ethics and Culture at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana USA. He is also Professor Emerit and Emeritus at Duke University. In April 2005 he was elected to the American Philosophical Society.

He has been married 3 times. From 1953 to 1963 he was married to Ann Peri, with whom he had two daughters. From 1963 to 1977 he was married to Susan Willans, with whom he had a son and daughter. Since 1977 he has been married to philosopher Lynn Joy, who is also on the Philosophy faculty at Notre Dame.

Philosophical method

Whereas many contemporary philosophers advance philosophical positions by focusing on the logical basis, MacIntyre presents a historical narration of the development of ethics in order to illuminate the modern problem of "incommensurable" moral notions—i.e., moral arguments that proceed from incompatible premises. He does not attempt to resolve the resulting conceptual conflicts. Instead, he argues for one moral tradition against its rivals. This tradition, he proposes, presents 'the best theory so far', both of how things are and of how we ought to act. It is the tradition of Thomistic Aristotelianism. MacIntyre is often quoted by Duke Divinity Professor Stanley Hauerwas whose work deals largely with the intersection of ethics, politics, and other such concerns as they flow naturally out of the discipline of theology.

Virtue ethics

MacIntyre is a key figure in the recent surge of interest in virtue ethics, which identifies the central question of morality as having to do with the habits and knowledge concerning how to live a good life. His approach seeks to demonstrate that good judgment emanates from good character. Being a good person is not about seeking to follow formal rules. In elaborating this approach, MacIntyre understands himself to be reworking the Aristotelian idea of an ethical teleology.

MacIntyre emphasizes the importance of moral goods defined in respect to a community engaged in a 'practice' - which he calls 'internal goods' or 'goods of excellence' - rather than focusing on practice-independent obligation of a moral agent (deontological ethics) or the consequences of a particular act (utilitarianism). Virtue ethics in European/American academia is associated with pre-modern philosophers (e.g. Plato, Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas), but also fully engaged with other forms of modern ethical systems (e.g. Kantian deontology). MacIntyre has argued that Aquinas' synthesis of Augustinianism with Aristotelianism is more insightful than modern moral theories by focusing upon the telos ('end', or completion) of a social practice and of a human life, within the context of which the morality of acts may be evaluated. His seminal work in the area of virtue ethics can be found in his 1981 book, After Virtue.


MacIntyre converted to Roman Catholicism in the early 1980s, and "now does his work against the background of what he calls an Augustinian Thomist approach to moral philosophy." [1] In his book Whose Justice, Which Rationality? there is a section towards the end that is perhaps autobiographical when he explains how one is chosen by a tradition and may reflect his own conversion to Roman Catholicism.[2]


  • 1953. Marxism: An Interpretation. London: SCM Press, 1953.
  • 1955 (edited with Antony Flew). New Essays in Philosophical Theology. London: SCM Press.
  • 2004 (1958). The Unconscious: A Conceptual Analysis, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
  • 1959. Difficulties in Christian Belief. London: SCM Press.
  • 1965. Hume's Ethical Writings. (ed.) New York: Collier.
  • 1998 (1966). A short history of ethics :a history of moral philosophy from the Homeric age to the twentieth century, 2nd ed. New York: Macmillan / London: Routledge.
  • 1967. Secularization and Moral Change. The Riddell Memorial Lectures. Oxford University Press.
  • 1969 (with Paul Ricoeur). The Religious Significance of Atheism. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • 1970. Herbert Marcuse: An Exposition and a Polemic. New York: The Viking Press.
  • 1971. Against the Self-Images of the Age: Essays on Ideology and Philosophy. London: Duckworth.
  • 2007 (1981). After Virtue, 3rd ed. University of Notre Dame Press.
  • 1988. Whose Justice? Which Rationality?. University of Notre Dame Press.
  • 1990. Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry. The Gifford Lectures. University of Notre Dame Press.
  • 1995. Marxism and Christianity, London: Duckworth, 2nd ed.
  • 1998. The MacIntyre Reader Knight, Kelvin, ed. University of Notre Dame Press.
  • 1999. Dependent Rational Animals: Why Human Beings Need the Virtues. Chicago: Open Court.
  • 2005. Edith Stein: A Philosophical Prologue, 1913-1922. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
  • 2006. The Tasks of Philosophy: Selected Essays, Volume 1. Cambridge University Press.
  • 2006. Ethics and Politics: Selected Essays, Volume 2. Cambridge University Press.
  • 2008 (Blackledge, P. & Davidson, N., eds.), Alasdair MacIntyre's Early Marxist Writings: Essays and Articles 1953-1974, Leiden: Brill.
  • 2009. God, philosophy, universities: A Selective History of the Catholic Philosophical Tradition . Rowman & Littlefield.
  • 2009. Living Ethics. Excerpt, "The Nature of The Virtues". Minch & Weigel.
  • "The End of Education: The Fragmentation of the American University," Commonweal, October 20, 2006 / Volume CXXXIII, Number 18.

See also


  1. ^ Solomon, David. "Lecture 9: After Virtue", International Catholic University: Twentieth-century ethics [1]
  2. ^ See pages 393-395 of "Whose Justice, Which Rationality?" 1988.

Further reading

  • D'Andrea, Thomas D., Tradition, Rationality and Virtue: The Thought of Alasdair Macintyre, Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2006.
  • Horton, John, and Susan Mendus (eds.), After MacIntyre: Critical Perspectives on the Work of Alasdair MacIntyre, Cambridge: Polity Press, 1994.
  • Knight, Kelvin, Aristotelian Philosophy: Ethics and Politics from Aristotle to MacIntyre, Cambridge: Polity Press, 2007.
  • Knight, Kelvin, and Paul Blackledge (eds.), Revolutionary Aristotelianism: Ethics, Resistance and Utopia, Stuttgart: Lucius & Lucius, 2008.
  • Lutz, Christopher Stephen, Tradition in the Ethics of Alasdair MacIntyre: Relativism, Thomism, and Philosophy, Lanham, MA: Rowman and Littlefield, 2004.
  • Murphy, Mark C. (ed.), Alasdair MacIntyre, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.
  • Myers, Jesse, "Towards Virtue: Alasdair MacIntyre and the Recovery of the Virtues", 2009
  • Perreau-Saussine, Emile [2]: Alasdair MacIntyre: une biographie intellectuelle, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2005.
  • Seung, T. K., Intuition and Construction: The Foundation of Normative Theory, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993. See chapter six: "Aristotelian Revival".
  • Bielskis, Andrius, Towards a Post-Modern Understanding of the Political: From Genealogy to Hermeneutics, Basingstoke, New York: Palgrame-Macmillan, 2005.

Interviews with MacIntyre

2009. 'The Illusion of Self-Sufficiency' in A. Voorhoeve Conversations on Ethics Oxford University Press.

External links

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