On Alasdair MacIntyre
On Facebook, I posted a bit of my musings on the "secular confession," and a FB 'friend" wondered if my Morality of Everyday Life, which he had ordered, was much like Alasdair MacIntyre. I posted the following answer..
MacIntyre did a useful service to intellectual history in emphasizing the significance of particular traditions within which people make moral judgment. When it came out, I reviewed "Whose Justice" for National Review, when there was still an actual magazine that went by that name.
He was a very thoughtful man, and, when I had lunch with him, he took so long to answer questions, I thought perhaps I was boring him or his mind was drifting, but, quite the contrary, he was deeply engaged in formulating a precise answer. His academic caution, I believe, prevented him from going much beyond a critical analysis of the Liberal tradition that flowed into both socialism and libertarianism. When I asked him if he planned to develop a more positive line of argument, he referred me to a lecture he had given, "Is Patriotism a Virtue?"
Now, I had read the lecture or essay and rejoiced that he was turning more sharply in what I saw as the right direction, but a question--however daring--is not really a challenge to centuries of the Liberal/Leftist tradition. MacIntyre was an ex-communist recovering Liberal academic with scruples. I was and am an extremist for moderation, a fugitive from the academy, a classical philologist brought up in a tradition that encourages both intellectual clarity and a certain detachment from the way things happen to be since the lamentable events of 476. As a devotee of every lost cause from the fall of Constantinople to the defeat of the Southern Confederacy, I have never come close to acquiring Professor MacIntyre's caution. Anyone hoping for an academic exercise in intellectual history--though that is how the publisher preferred to bill the book--will be sorely disappointed.