History, Evolution, and The Darwin Debate

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After ‘After Virtue’

November 19th, 2006 · No Comments

Rereading After Virtue.
The smug promotion of bad science in the name of Darwinian theories of the evolution of morality deserve a comparison, thence expose, with the current state of moral philosophy as recounted by Alastair MacIntyre in his After Virtue, one of the more cogent studies of the past generation. It might help students of evolution to see the moral nihilism behind Darwinism, and the way this is simply a mirror to the current philosophical derangement, abetted by Darwinism itself.
The interesting part of After Virtue is the comparison of Aristotle and Nietzsche, in the wake of Kant, who is claimed to have been done in. The point MacIntyre comes to is the way in which Nietzsche audaciously takes the presumption that Aristotle’s teleology is outmoded as a starting point. MacIntyre, however, sees what most of the current Nietzsche fan club can’t see, the complete failure of Nietzsche to really overcome Aristotle.
Here I think MacIntyre is misled by the confusion over Kant’s brilliant, arcane, and many times ‘refuted’ moral philosophy, with all its quirks, oddities, and apparent contradictions.
If Nietzsche fails in his anti-Aristotelian initiative, then we are confronted with something like the failure of failure in the desert of contemporary fag end philosophical endeavor (which Darwinists in their inane stupidity think to be triumph of science, in the foundationalism of ethics using kin/group selection??!).
The answer is simple: a dialectic is at work, and Nietzsche is the fall guy for a significant experiment, which is a lot of fireworks, but not much beyond that. So? Go back to Aristotle? No.
MacIntyre misses the point that Kant is really one step ahead of Nietzsche and shows a way to mediate a post-Aristotelian, post-Newtonian methodology of teleology, and is thus able to make a fresh start on the elements of ethical philosophy. This effort may be declared a failure, but so may the first five attempts to launch rockets. All the elements are there in embryo, in much confusion, for a future grounding of ethical philosophy, if the obstacles, e.g. Darwin dummy diehards dominating all discourse, can be cleared away.

blurb from Amazon.com
Morality, according to Alasdair MacIntyre, is not what it used to be. In the Aristotelian tradition of ancient Greece and medieval Europe, morality enabled the transformation from untutored human nature as it happened to be to human nature as it could be if it realized its telos (fundamental goal). Eventually, belief in Aristotelian teleology waned, leaving the idea of imperfect human nature in conflict with the perfectionist aims of morality. The conflict dooms to failure any attempt to justify the claims of morality, whether based on emotion, such as Hume’s was, or on reason, as in the case of Kant. The result is that moral discourse and practice in the contemporary world is hollow: although the language and appearance of morality remains, the substance is no longer there. Disagreements on moral matters appeal to incommensurable values and so are interminable; the only use of moral language is manipulative.
The claims presented in After Virtue are certainly audacious, but the historical erudition and philosophical acuity behind MacIntyre’s powerful critique of modern moral philosophy cannot be disregarded. Moreover, independently of its principal claims, the book, first published in 1981, helped to stimulate philosophical work on the virtues, to reinvigorate traditionalist and communitarian thought, and to provoke valuable discussion in the history of moral philosophy. It was so widely discussed that MacIntyre added another chapter to the second edition in order to reply to his critics. After Virtue continues to deserve attention from philosophers, historians, and anyone interested in moral philosophy and its history. –Glenn Branch

Tags: Booknotes · Evolution · Philosophy

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