Reading23-MacIntyre-SelectionsAfterVirtue2-1

Reading23-MacIntyre-SelectionsAfterVirtue2-1 - 72 Combining...

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Unformatted text preview: 72 Combining Social Science with Moral Theory derives from its possessing some kind of narrative structure. Individual human lives however are only able to have the structures that they do because they are embedded within social traditions. And the third stage in specifying the nature of the virtues is that which explains why they. also have to be understood as qualities required tb sustain ongoing social traditions in good order. (6) It was a failure in the later European Middle'Age's to sustain the ongoing tradition of the virtues, understood in both an Aristotelian and a Christian way, that led to the sixteenth— and seventeenth-century rejec- tions of Aristotelian ethics and politics and so opened up the possibility of the Enlightenment project. During the period in which a traditional, understanding of the virtues was no longer possible, but in which the Enlightenment project had yet to collapse, there was a revival of certain ' originally Stoic notions of virtue (as a singular noun), influential both in social life and in philosophical theory, especially in Kant’s rendering. But We now live in an aftermath where neither the virtues nor virtue can be central to the general moral culture. We live after virtue in a period of unresolvable disputes and dilemmas, both within contemporary moral philosophy and within morality itself. ' (7) I argue at various points in the book that although the rejection of Aristotelian ethics and politics in the historical circumstances engendered in and after the later Middle Ages is intelligible, it has never yet been shown to be warranted. And I conclude that when moral Aristotelianism is rightly understood, it cannot be undermined by the kind of critique that Nietzsche successfully directed against both Kant and the utilitar- ians. I therefore conclude that Aristotle is vindicated against Nietzsche and moreover that only a history of ethical theory and practice written from an Aristotelian rather than a Nietzschean standpoint enables us to comprehend the nature of the moral condition of modernity. After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory (extracts) Chapter 3 Emotivism: Social Content and Social Context ‘ A moral philosophy — and emotivism is no exception — characteristically presupposes a sociology. For every moral philosophy offers explicitly or implicitly at least a partial conceptual analysis of the relationship of an agent to his or her reasons, motives, intentions and actions, and in so doing generally presupposes some claim that these concepts are embod- ied or at least can be in the real social world. Even Kant, who sometimes seems to restrict moral agency to the inner realm of the noumenal, im- plies otherwise in his writings on law, history and politics. Thus it would generally be a decisive refutation of a moral philosophy to show that moral agency on its own account of the matter could never be socially embodied; and it also follows that we have not yet fully understood the claims of any moral philosophy until we have spelled out what its social embodiment would be. Some moral philosophers in the past, perhaps most, have understood this spelling out as itself one part of the task-of moral philosophy. So, it scarcely needs to be said, Plato and Aristotle, so indeed also Hume and Adam Smith; but at least since Moore the domi- nant narrow conception of moral philosophy has ensured that the moral philosophers eculd- ignore this task; as notably do the philosophical pro- ponents of emotivism. We therefore must perform it for them. What is the key to the social content of emotivism? It is the fact that emotivism entails the obliteration of any genuine distinction between manipulative and non-manipulative social relations. Consider the con- trast between, for example, Kantian ethics and emotivism on this point. For Kant — and a parallel point could be made about many earlier moral philosophers —,the difference between a human relationship uninformed by morality and one so informed is precisely the difference between one in which each person treats the other primarily as a means to his or her ends and one in which each treats the other as an end. To treat someone .else as an end is to offer them what I take to be good reasons for acting 74 Combining Social Science with Moral Theory in one way rather than another, but to leave it to them to evaluate those reasons. It is to be unwilling to influence another except by reasons which that other he or she judges to be good. It is to appeal to impersonal criteria of the validity of which each rational agent must be his or her own judge. By contrast, to treat someone else as a means is to seek to make him or her an instrument of my purposes by adducing whatever influences or considerations will in fact be effective on this or that occa- sion. The generalizations of the sociology and psychology of persuasion are what I shall need to guide me, not the standards of a normative rationality. If em‘otivism is true, this distinction is illusory. For evaluative utter- ance can in the end have no point or use but the expression of my own feelings or attitudes and the transformatiOn of the feelings and attitudes of others. I cannot genuinely appeal to impersonal Criteria, for there are no impersonal criteria. I may think that I- so appeal and others may think that I so appeal, but these thoughts will always be mistakes. The sole reality of distinctively moral discourse is the attempt of one will to align the attitudes, feelings, preference and choices of another with its own. Others are always means, never ends. ' [. .1 If we are to understand fully the social context of that obliteration of the distinction between manipulative and non-manipulative social relation~ ships which emotivism entails, we ought to consider some [. . .] social contexts [. . .] One which is obviously important is that provided by the life of , organizations, of those bureaucratic structures which, whether in the form of private corporations or of government agencies, define the work- ing tasks of so many of our contemporaries. [. . . .] The organization is characteristically engaged in a competitive struggle for scarce resources to put to the service of its predetermined ends. It is therefore a central responsibility of managers to direct and redirect their organizations’ avail- able resources, both human and non-human, as effectively as possible toward those ends. Every bureaucratic organization embodies some ex- plicit or implicit definition of costs and benefits from which the criteria of effectiveness are derived. Bureaucratic rationality is the rationality 0f matching means to ends economically and efficiently. This familiar — perhaps by now we may be tempted to think overfamiliar — thought we owe originally of course to Max Weber. And it at once becomes relevant that Weber’s thought embodies just those dichotomies which emotivism embodies, and obliterates just those distinctions to whibh emotivism has to be blind. Questions of ends are questions of values, and on values reason is silent; conflict between rival values cannot E ration- ally settled. Instead one must simply choose ~— between parties, classes, nations, causes, ideals. Entscheidung plays the part in Weber’s thought After Virtue . I 75 that choice of principles plays in that of Hare or Sartre. ‘Values’, says Raymond Aron in his exposition of Weber’s view, ‘are created by human decisions . . .’ and again he ascribes to Weber the view that ‘each man’s conscience is irrefutable’ and that values rest on ‘a choiCe whose justifica- tion is purely subjective’ (Main Currents in Sociological Thought, pp. 211, 216, 198). It is not surprising that Weber’s understanding of values was indebted chiefly to Nietzsche and that Donald G. MacRae in his book on Weber calls him an existentialist; for while he holds that an agent may be more or less rational in acting consistently with his values, the choice of any one particular. evaluative stance or commitment can be no more rational than that of any other. All faiths and all evaluations are equally non-rational; all are subjective directions given to sentiment and feeling. Weber is then, in the broader sense in which I have understood the term, an emotivist and his portrait of a bureaucratic authority is an emotivist ‘ portrait. The consequence of Weber’s emotivism is that in his thought the contrast between power and authority, although paid lip-service to, is effectively obliterated as a special instance of the disappearance of the contrast between manipulative and non-manipulative social relations. Weber of course took himself to be distinguishing power from authority, precisely because authority serves ends, serves faiths. But, as Philip Rieff has acutely noted, ‘Weber’s ends, the causes there to be served, are means of acting; they cannot escape service to power’ (Fellow Teachers, p. 22). For on Weber’s view no type of authority can appeal to rational criteria to vindicate itself except that type of bureaucratic authority which ap— peals precisely to its own efl'ectiveness. And what this appeal reveals is that bureaucratic authority is nothing other than successful power. l-I- - -] Chapter 5 Why the Enlightenment Project of Justifying Morality ' Had to Fail So far I have presented the failure of the project of justifying morality merely as the failure of- a succession of particular arguments; and if that were all that there was to the matter, it might appear that the trouble was merely that Kierkegaard, Kant, Diderot, Hume, Smith and their other contemporaries were not adroit enough in constructing arguments, so that an appropriate strategy would be to wait until some more powerful mind applied itself to the problems. And just this has been the strategy of the academic philosophical world, even though many professional philosophers might be a little embarrassed to admit it. But suppose in fact, what is eminently plausible, that the failure of the eighteenth- and :Wfl!mm“ufiKmbnmwwawmmwfl-flfiwmnml‘{IH6!fl“!"AIM:IAKIWfibvxmnmlmh‘fixuuiI‘lnY‘QAGm-wvumvmmmefumaWlmMuwmwmmW—un-w-vnwnWuwuwm mannawm _ _ C 76 Combining Social Science with Moral Theory nineteenth-century project was of quite another kind. Suppose that the arguments of Kierkegaard, Kant, Diderot, Hume, Smith and the like fail because of certain shared characteristics deriving from their highly spe- cific shared historical background. Suppose that we cannot understand them as contributors to a timeless debate about morality, but only as the inheritors of a very specific and particular scheme of moral beliefs, a scheme whose internal incoherence ensured the failure of the common philosophical project from the outset. Consider certain beliefs shared by all the contributors to the project. All of them [. . .] agree to a surprising degree on the content and character of the precepts which constitute genuine morality. Marriage and the fam— ily are an fond as unquestioned by Diderot’s rationalist philosophe as they are by Kierkegaard’s Judge Wilhelm; promise-keeping and justice are as inviolable for Humeas they are for Kant. Whence did they inherit these shared beliefs? Obviously from their shared Christian past compared with which the divergences between Kant’s and Kierkegaard’s Lutheran, Hume’s Presbyterian and Diderot’s Jansenist—infiuenced Catholic background are relatively unimportant. . At the same time as they agree largely on the character of morality, they agree also upon what a rational justification of morality would have to be. Its key premises would characterize some feature or features of human nature; and the rules of morality would then be explained and - justified as being those rules which a being possessing just such a human nature could be expected to accept. For Diderot and Hume the relevant features of human nature are characteristics of the passions; for Kant-the relevant feature of human nature is the universal and categorical charac— ter of certain rules of reason. (Kant of course denies that morality is ‘based on human nature’, but what he means by ‘human nature’ is merely the physiological non-rational side of man.) Kierkegaard no longer at- tempts to justify morality at all; but his account has precisely the same *structure 'as that which is shared by the accounts of Kant, Hume and Diderot, except that where they appeal to characteristics of the passions or of reason, he invokes what he takes to be characteristics of fundamen- tal decision-making. ' Thus all these writers share in the project of constructing valid argu- ments which will move from premises concerning human nature as they understand it to be to conclusions about the authority of moral rules and precepts. I want to argue that any project of this form was bound to fail, because of an ineradicable discrepancy between their shared conception of moral rules and precepts on the one hand and what was shared — despite much larger divergences — in their conception of human nature on the other. Both conceptions have a history and their relationship can only be made intelligible in the light of that history. Consider first the general form of the moral scheme which was the historical ancestor of both conceptions, the moral scheme which in a variety of diverse forms and with numerous rivals came for long periods Omar»,naemwnmmmwmwsmwmmwnummm“mummmwnwmmW.mmm.m‘wmmwmmm-nut-Wm“um”.mum»...Wm...M—mmt...mm..mmm.m.m~_......._......u.~...... After Virtue ‘ 77 to dominate the European Middle Ages from the twelfth century on- wards, a scheme which included both classical and theistic elements.- Its basic structure is that which Aristotle analyzed in the Nicamachean Eth- ics. Within that teleological scheme there is a fundamental contrast be- tween man-as—he~happens—to-be and man-as~he—could-be-if-he-realized-his— essential-nature. Ethics is the science which is to enable men to under- stand how they make the transition from the former state to the latter. Ethics therefore in this View presupposes some account of potentiality and act, some account of the essence of man as a rational animal and above all some account of the human telos. The precepts which enjoin the various virtues and prohibit the vices which are their counterparts in- struct us how to move from potentiality to act, how to realize our true nature and to reach our true end. To defy them will be to be frustrated and incomplete, to fail to achieve that good of rational happiness which it is peculiarly ours as a species to pursue. The desires and emotions which We possess are to be put in order an_d.educated by the use of such precepts and by the cultivation of those habits of action which the study of ethics prescribes; reason instructs us both as to what our true end is and as to how to reach it. We thushave a threefold scheme in which human-nature-as-it-happens-to-be (human nature in its untutored state) is initially discrepant and discordant with the precepts of ethics and needs to be transformed by the instruction of practical reason and experience into human-nature-as-it-could-be-if-it-realized—its-telos. Each of the three elements of the scheme - the conception of untutored human nature, the conception of the precepts of rational ethics and the conception of hu- man—nature-as-it-could-be-if-it~realized-its-telos — requires reference to the other two if its status and function are to be intelligible. This scheme is complicated and added to, but not essentially altered, when it is placed within a framework of theistic beliefs, whether Chris- tian, as with Aquinas, or Jewish with Maimonides, or Islamic with Ibn- Roschd. The precepts of ethics now have to be understood not only as teleological injunctions, but also as expressions of a divinely ordained . law. The table of virtues and vices has to be amended and added to and a concept of sin is added to the Aristotelian concept of error. The law of God requires a new kind of respect and awe. The true end of man can no longer be completely achieved in this world, but only in another. Yet the threefold structure of untutored human-nature-as—it-happens-to—be, hu- man-nature-as—it-could-be—if~it—realized-its—telos and the precepts of ra- tional ethics as the means for the transition from one to the other remains central to the theistic understanding of evaluative thought and judgment. ‘[....] Although each of the [Enlightenment] writers we have been concerned with attempted in his positive arguments to base morality on human nature, each in his negative arguments [against the others] moved toward 78 Combining Social Science with Moral Theory a more and more unrestricted version of the claim that no valid argument can move from entirely factual premises to any moral or evaluative con— clusion — to a principle, that is, which once it is accepted, constitutes an epitaph to their entire project. Hume still expresses this claim in the form of a doubt rather than of a positive assertion. He remarks that in ‘every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with’ authors make a transition from statements about God or human nature to moral judg- ments: ‘instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I met with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not’ (A Treatise of Human Nature, III.i.1). And he then goes on to de- mand ‘that a reason should be given, for what seems altogether incon- ceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it’. The same general principle, no longer expressed as a question, but as an assertion, appears in Kant’s insistence that the injunctions of the moral law cannot be derived from any set of statements about human happiness or about the will of God and then yet again in Kierkegaard’s account of the ethical. What is the significance of this general claim? Some later moral phiIOSOphers have gone so far as to describe the thesis that from a set of factual premises no- moral conclusion validly follows as ‘a truth of logic’, understanding it as derivable from a more , general principle which some medieval logicians formulated as the claim that in a valid argument nothing can appear in the conclusion which was not already in the premises. And, such philosophers have suggested, in an argument in which any attempt is made to derive a moral or evaluative conclusion from factual premises something which is not in the premises, namely the moral or evaluative element, will appear in the conclusion. Hence any such argument must fail. Yet in fact the alleged unrestrictedly general logical principle on which everything is being made to depend is bogus — and the scholastic tag applies only to Aristotelian syllogisms. There are se eral types of valid argument in which some element may appear in a onclusion which is not present in the premises. A. N. Prior’s counter-example to this alleged principle illustrates its breakdown ad- equately; from the premise ‘He is a sea—captain’, the conclusion may be validly inferred that ‘He ought to do whatever a sea-captain ought to do’. This counter-example not only shows that there is no general principle of the type alleged; but it itself shows what is at least a grammatical truth — an ‘is’ premise can on occasion entail an ‘ought’ conclusion. Adherents of the ‘no “ought” from “is” view’ could however easily meet part of the difficulty raised by Prior’s example by reformulating their owu position. What they intended to claim they might and would presumably say, is that no conclusion with substantial evaluative and moral content — and the conclusion in Prior’s example certainly does lack any such content — can be derived from factual premises. Yet the problem would remain for them. as to why now anyone would accept their claim. For they have conceded that it cannot be derived from any unrestrictedly After Virtue 79 general logical principle. Yet their claim may still have substance, but a substance that derives from a particular, and in the eighteenth century new, conception of moral rules and judgments. It may, that is, assert a principle whose validity derives not from some general logical principle, but from the meaning of the key terms employed. Suppose that during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the meaning and implications of the key terms used in moral utterance had changed their character; it could then turnout to be the case that what had once been valid infer- ences from or to some particular moral premise or conclusion would no longer be valid inferences from or to what seemed to be the same factual premise or moral conclusion. For what in some sense were the same expressions, the same sentences, would now bear a different meaning. But do we in fact have any evidence for such a change of meaning? To answer this question it is helpful to consider another type of counter- example to the ‘No “ought” conclusions from “is” premises’ thesis. From such factual premises as ‘This watch is grossly inaccurate and irregular in time-keeping’ and ‘This watch is too heavy to carry about comfortably’, the evaluative conclusion validly follows that ‘This is a bad watch’. From such factual premises as ‘He gets a better yield for this crop per acre than any farmer in the district’, ‘He has the most effective programme of soil renewal yet known’ and ‘His dairy herd wins all the first prizes at the agricultural shows’, the evaluative conclusion validly follows that ‘He is a good farmer’. Both of these arguments are valid because of the special character of the concepts of a watch and of a farmer. Such concepts are functional concepts; that isto say, we define both ‘watch’ and ‘farmer’ in terms of the purpose or function which a watch or a farmer are characteristically expected to serve. It follows that the concept of a watch cannot be de- fined independently of the concept of a good watch nor the concept of a farmer independently of that of a good farmer; and that the criterion of . something’s being a watch and the criterion of something’s being a good watch — and so also for ‘farrner’ and for all other functional concepts m are not independent of each other. Now clearly beth sets of criteria — as 'is evidenced by the examples given in the last paragraph -— are factual. Hence any argument which moves from premises which assert that the apprOpriate criteria are satisfied to a conclusion which asserts that ‘That is a good suchwand-such’, where ‘such-and-such’ picks out an item speci- fied by a functional concept, will be a valid argument which moves from factual premises to an evaluative conclusion. Thus we may safely assert that, if some amended version of the ‘No “ought” conclusion from “is” premises’ principle is to hold good, it must exclude arguments involving functional concepts from its scope. But this suggests strongly that those who have insisted that all moral arguments fall within the scope of such a principle may have been doing so because they took it for granted that no moral arguments involve functional concepts. Yet moral arguments ' within the classical, Aristotelian tradition — whether in its Greek or its 80 Combining Social Science with Moral Theory medieval versions — involve at least one central functional concept, the concept of man understood as having an essential nature and an essential purpose or function; and it is when and only when the classical tradition in its integrity has been substantially rejected that moral arguments change their character so that they fall within the scope of some version of the ‘No “ought” conclusion from “is” premises’ principle. That is to say, ‘man’ stands to ‘good man’ as ‘watch’ stands to ‘good watch’ or ‘faimer’ to ‘good farmer’ within the classical tradition. Aristotle takes it as a ' starting-point for ethical enquiry that the relationship of ‘man’ to ‘living well’ is analogous to that of ‘harpist’ to ‘playing the harp well’ (Nicomachean Ethics, 1095a16). But the use of ‘man’ as a functional concept is far older than Aristotle and it does not initially derive from Aristotle’s metaphysical biology. It is rooted in the forms of social life to which the theorists of the classical tradition give expression. For accord- ing to that tradition to be a man is to fill a set of roles each of which has its own point and purpose: member of a family, citizen, soldier, philoso- pher, servant of God. 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. .I For this to be so, other key moral terms must also have partially at least changed their meaning. The entailment relations between certain types of sentence must have changed. Thus it is not just that moral con-' clusions cannot be justified in the way that they once were; but the loss of ‘ the possibility of such justification signals a correlative change in the meaning of moral idioms. So the ‘No “ought” conclusion from “is” premises’ principle becomes an inescapable truth for philosophers whose culture possesses only the impoverished moral vocabulary which results from the episodes I have recounted. That it was taken to be a timeless logical truth was a sign of a deep lack of historical consciousness which then informed and even now infects too much of moral philosophy. For its initial prdciamation was itself a crucial historical event. It signals both a final break with the classical tradition and the decisive breakdown of the eighteenth-century project of justifying morality in the context of the inherited, but already incoherent, fragments left behind from tradition. But it is not only that moral concepts and arguments at this point in history radically change their character so that they become recognizany the immediate ancestors of the unsettlable, interminable arguments of our own culture. It is also the case that moral judgments change their import and meaning. Within the Aristotelian tradition to call x good (where x may be among other things a person or an animal or a policy or a state of affairs) is to say that it is the kind of x which someone would choose who wanted an x for the purpose for which x’s are characteristi- cally wanted. To call a watch good is to say that it is the kind of watch which someone would choose who wanted a watch to keep time accu- rately (rather than, say, to throw at the cat). The presupposition of this use of ‘good’ is that every type of item which it is appropriate to call After Virtue 81 good or bad «- including persons and actions — has, as a matter of fact, some given specific purpose or function. To call something good there— fore is also to make a factual statement. To calla particular action just or right is to say that it is what a good man would do in such a situation; hence this type of statement too is factual. Within this tradition moral and evaluative statements can be called true or false in precisely the way in which all other factual statements can be so called. But once the notion of essential human purposes or functions disappears from morality, it begins to appear implausible to treat moral judgments as factual state- ments. Moreover the secularization of morality by the Enlightenment had put in question the status of moral judgments as ostensible reports of divine law. Even Kant, who still understands moral judgments as expressions of a universal law, even if it be a law which each rational agent utters to himself, does not treat moral judgments as reports of what the law re— quires or commands, but as themselves imperatives. And imperatives are not susceptible of truth or falsity. Up to the present in everyday discourse the habit'of - speaking of moral judgments as true or false persists; but the question of what it is in virtue of which a particular moral judgment is true or false has come to lack any clear answer. That this should be so is perfectly intelligible if the historical hypothesis which I have sketched is true: that moral judgments are linguistic survivals from the practices of classical theism which have lost the context provided by these practices. In that context moral judg- ments were at once hypothetical and categorical in form. They were hy- pothetical insofar as they expressed a judgment as to what conduct would be teleologically apprOpriate for a human being: ‘You ought to do so- and-so, if and since your telas is such-and-such’ or perhaps ‘You ought to do so-and—so, if you do not want your essential desires to be'frus- trated’. They-were categorical insofar as they reporte the contents of the ‘ universal law commanded by God: ‘You ought to o so-and-so: that is what God’s law enjoins.’ But take away from them that in virtue of which they were hypothetical and that in virtue of which they were cat- egorical and what are they? Moral judgments lose any clear status and the sentences which express them in a parallel way lose any undebatable meaning. Such sentences become available as forms of expression for an emotivist self which lacking the guidance of the context in which they wore originally at home has lost its linguistic as well as its practical way in the world. 82 Combining Social Science with Moral Theory. Chapter 14 The Nature of the Virtues {....] The question can therefore now be posed directly: are we or are we not able to disentangle from these rival and various claims a unitary core concept of the virtues of which we can give a more compelling account than any of the other accounts so far? I am going to argue that we can in fact discover such a core concept and that it turns out to' provide the tradition of which I have written the history with its conceptual unity. It will indeed enable us to distinguish in a clear way those beliefs about the virtues which genuinely belong to the tradition from those which do not. Unsurprisingly perhaps it is a complex concept, different parts of which derive from different stages in the development of the tradition. Thus the concept itself in some sense embodies the histoi‘y of which it is the out- come. - ‘ One of the features of the concept of a virtue which has emerged with some clarity from the argument so far is that it always requires for its application the acceptance for some prior account of certain features of social and moral life in terms of which it has to be defined and explained. So in the Homeric account the concept of a virtue is secondary to that of a social role, in Aristotle’s account it is secondary to that of the good life for man conceived as the telos of human action and in Franklin’s much later account it is secondary to that of utility. What is it in the account which I am about to give which prevides in a similar way the necessary background against which the concept of a virtue has to be made intelli- gible? It is in answering this question that the complex, historical, multi- layered character of'the core concept of virtue becomes clear. For there are no less than three stages in the logical development of the concept which have to be identified in order, if the core conception of a virtue is to be understood, and each of these stages has its own conceptual back- ground. The first stage requires a background account of what I shall call a practice, the second an account of what I have already characterized as the narrative order of a single human life and the third an account a good deal fuller than I have given up to now of what constitutes a moral tradition. Each later stage-presupposes the earlier, but not vice versa. Each earlier stage is both modified by and reinterpreted in the light of, but also provides an essential constituent of each later stage. The progress in the development of the concept is closely related to, although it does not recapitulate in any straightforward way, the history of the tradition of which it forms the core. In the Homeric account of the virtues a and in heroic societies more After Virtue 83 generally —- the exercise of a virtue exhibits qualities which are required for sustaining a social role and for exhibiting excellence in some well- marked area of social practice: to excel is to excel at war or in the games, as Achilles does, in sustaining a household, as Penelope does, in giving counsel in the assembly, as Nestor does, in the telling of a tale, as Homer himself does. When Aristotle speaks of excellence in human activity he sometimes, though not always, refers to some well-defined type of human practice: flutesplaying, or war, or geometry. I am going to suggest that this notion of a particular type of practice as providing the arena in which the virtues are exhibited and in terms of which they are to receive their primary, if incomplete, definition is crucial to the whole enterprise of identifying a core concept of the virtues. I hasten to add two caveats however. The first is to point out that my argument will not in any way imply that virtues are only exercised in the course of what I am calling practices. The second is to warn that I shall be using the word ‘practice’ in a specially defined way which does not completely agree with current ordi- nary usage, including my own previous use of that word. What am I going to mean by it? By a ‘practice’ I am going to mean any coherent and complex form of socially established cooperative human activity through which goods in- ternal to that form of activity are realized in the course of trying to achieve those standards of excellence which are appropriate to, and par- tially definitive of, that form of activity, with the result that human pow— ers to achieve excellence, and human conceptions of the ends and goods involved, are systematically extended. Tic-tac—toe is not an example of a practice in this sense, nor is throwing a football with skill; but the game of football is, and so is chess. Bricklaying is not a practice; architecture is. - Planting turnips is not a practice; farming is. So are the enquiries of physics, chemistry and biology, and so is the work of the historian, and so are painting and music. In the ancient and medieval worlds the creation and sustaining of human communities — of households, cities, nations — is generally taken to be a practice in the sense in which I have defined it. Thus the range of practices is wide: arts, sciences, games, politics in the Aristotelian sense, the making and sustaining of family life, all fall under the concept. But the question of the precise range of prac» tices is not at this stage of the first importance. Instead let me explain some of the key terms involved in my definition, beginning with the notion of goods internal to a practice. Consider the example of a highly intelligent seven-year-old child whom I wish to teach to play chess, although the child has no particular desire to learn the game. The child does however have a very strong desire for candy and little chance of obtaining it. I therefore tell the child that if the child will play chess with me once a week I will give the child 50 cents worth of candy; moreover I tell the child that I will always play in such a way that it will be difficult, but not impossible, for the child to win and 84 Combining Social Science with Moral Theory that, if the child wins, the child will receive an extra 50 cents worth of candy. Thus motivated the child plays and plays to win. Notice however that, so long as it is the candy alone which provides the child with a good reason for playing chess, the child has no reason not to cheat and every reason to cheat, provided he or she can do so successfully. But, so-we may hope, there will come a time when the child will find in those goods specific to chess, in the achievement of a certain highly particular kind of analytical skill, strategic imagination and competitive intensity, a new set of reasons, reasons now not just for winning on a particular occasiOn, but for trying to excel in whatever way the game of chess demands. NOW if the child cheats, he or she will be defeating not me, but himself or herself. _ There are thus two kinds of good possibly to be gained by playing chess. On the one hand there are those goods externally and contingently attached to chess-playing and to other practices by the accidents of social circumstance ~ in the case of the imaginary child candy, in the case of real adults such goods as prestige, status and money. There are always alternative ways for achieving such goods, and their achievement is never to be had only by engaging in some particular kind of practice. 0n the other hand there are the goods internal to the practice of chess which cannot be had in any way but by playing chess or some other game of that specific kind. We call them internal for two reasons: first, as I have ‘ already suggested, because we can only specify them in terms of chess or some other game of that specific kind and by means of examples from such games (otherwise the meagerness of our vocabulary for speaking of such goods forces us into such devices as my own resort to writing of ‘a ' certain highly particular kind of); and secondly because they can only be identified and recognized by the experience of participating in the prac- tice in question. Those who lack the relevant experience are incompetent thereby as judges of internal goods. This is clearly the case with all the major examples of practices: con- sider for example — even if briefly and inadequately — the practice of portrait painting as it developed in Western Europe from the late Middle Ages to the eighteenth century. The successful portrait painter is able to achieve many goods which are in the sense just defined external to the practice of portrait painting um fame, wealth, social status, even a measure of power and influence at courts upon occasion. But those external goods are not to be confused with the goods which are internal to the practice. The internal goods are those which result from an extended attempt to show how Wittgenstein’s dictum ‘The human body is the best picture of the human soul’ (Philosophical Investigations, p. l78e) might be made to become true by teaching us to ‘regard . . . the picture on our wall as the object itself (the man, landscape, and so on) depicted there’ (p. 205e) in a quite new way. What is misleading about Wittgenstein’s dictum as it stands is its neglect of the truth in George Orwell’s thesis ‘At fifty every- one has the face he deserves’. What painters from Giotto to Rembrandt “way-Atmeiwe.“"um..muwammiwmmswam“;rumyiwusimmwmmmummwn..m-mmumusmeam‘m..mwu mW-‘Wn.w..m.m-“.mmm....msmu.._.w_..mm.mm.m.mwm_m“_.mm______.____.m After Virtue , 85 learnt to show was how the face at any age may be revealed as the face that the subject of a portrait deserves. Originally in medieval paintings of the saints the face was an icon; the question of a resemblance between the depicted face of Christ or St Peter and the fach that Jesus or Peter actually possessed at some particular age did not even arise. The antithesis to this iconography was the relative naturalism of certain fifteenth-century Flemish and German painting. The heavy eyelids, the coifed hair, the lines around the mouth undeniably represent some particular woman, either actual or envisaged. Resem— blance has usurped the iconic relationship. But with Rembrandt there is, so to speak, synthesis: the naturalistic portrait is now rendered as an icon, but an icon of a new and hitherto inconceivable kind. Similarly in a very different kind of sequence mythological faces in a certain kind of seventeenth-century French painting become aristocratic faces in the eight— eenth century. Within each of these sequences at least two different kinds of good internal to the painting of human faces and bodies are achieved. There is first of all the excellence of the products, both the excellence in performance by the painters and that of each portrait itself. This excel- lence — the very verb ‘excel’ suggests it — has to be understood histori- cally. The sequences of development find their point and purpose in a progress towards and beyond a variety of types and modes of excellence. There are of course sequences of decline as well as of progress, and progress is rarely to be understood as straightforwardly linear. But it is in participation in the attempts to sustain progress and to respond creatively to problems that the second kind of good internal to the practices of portrait painting is to be found. For what the artist discovers within the pursuit of excellence in portrait painting -— and what is true of portrait painting is true of the practice of the, fine arts in general —- is the good of a certain kind of life. That life may not ccnstitute the whole of life for someone who is a painter by a very long way or it may at least for a period, Gauguin-like, absorb him or her at the expense of almost every- thing else. But it is the painter’s living out of a greater or lesser part of his or her life as a painter that is the second kind of good internal to paint- ing. And judgment upon these goods requires at the very least the kind of competence that is only to be acquired either as a painter or as someone willing to learn systematically what the portrait painter has to teach. A practice involves standards of excellence and obedience to rules as well as the achievement of goods. To enter into a practice is to accept the authority of those standards and the inadequacy of my own performance as judged by them. It is to subject my own attitudes, choices, preferences and tastes to the standards which currently and partially define the prac— tice. Practices of course, as I have just noticed, have a history: games, sciences and arts all have histories. Thus the standards are not themselves immune from criticism, but nonetheless we cannot be initiated into a practice without accepting the authority of the best standards realized so far. If, on starting to listen to music, I do not accept my own incapacity 86 Combining Social Science with Moral Theory to judge correctly, I will never learn to hear, let alone to appreciate, Bartok’s last quartets. If, on starting to play baseball, I do not accept that others know better than I when to throw a fast ball and when not, I will never learn to appreciate good pitching let alone to pitch. In the realm of practices the authority of both goods and standards operates in such a way as to rule out all subjectivist and emotivist analyses of judg- ment. De gustibus est disputandum. We are now in a position to notice an important difference between - what I have called internal and what I have called external goods. It is characteristic of what I have called external goods that when achieved they are always some individual’s property and possession. Moreover characteristically they are such that the more someone has of them, the less there is for other people. This is sometimes necessarily the case, as with power and fame, and sometimes the case by reason of contingent circumstance as with money. External goods are therefore characteristi- , cally objects of competition in which there must be losers as well as winners. Internal goods are indeed the outcome of competition to excel, but it is characteristic of them that their achievement is a good for the whole community who participate in the practice. So when Turner trans- formed the seascape in painting or W. G. Grace advanced the art of batting in cricket in a quite new way their achievement enriched the whole relevant community. . But what does all or any of this have to do with the concept of the virtues? It turns out that we are now in a position to formulate a first, even if partial and tentative definition of a virtue: A virtue is an acquired human quality the possession and exercise of which tends to enable us to achieve those goods which are internal to practices and the lock of which eflectively prevents us from achieving any such goods. [....] To situate the virtues any further within ractices it is necessary now to clarify a little further the nature of a practice by drawing two important contrasts. The discussion so far I hope makes it clear that a practice, in the sense intended, is never just a set of technical skills, even when di- rected towards some unified purpose and even if the exercise of those skills can on occasion be valued or enjoyed for their own sake. What is distinctive in a practice is in part the way in which conceptions of the relevant goods and ends which the technical skills serve — and every practice does require the exercise of technical skills — are transformed and enriched by these extensions of human powers and by that regard for its own internal goods which are partially definitive of each particular prac- tice or type of practice. Practices never have a goal or goals fixed for all time w painting has no such goal nor has physics m but the goals them— selves are transmuted by the history of the activity. It therefore turns out not to be accidental that every practice has its own history and a history' After Virtue ‘ ' 87 which is more and other than that of the improvement of the relevant technical skills. This historical dimension is crucial in relation to the virtues. . To enter into a practice is to enter into a relationship not only with its contemporary practitioners, but also with those who have preceded us in the practice, particularly those whose achievements extended the reach of the practice to its present point. It is thus the achievement, and a fortiori the authority, of a tradition which I then confront and from which I have to learn. And for this learning and the relationship to the past which it embodies the virtues of justice, courage and truthfulness are prerequisite in precisely the same way and for precisely the same reasons as they are in sustaining present relationships within practices. ' It is not only of course with sets of technical skills that practices ought to be contrasted. Practices must not be confused with institutions. Chess, physics and medicine are practices; chess clubs, laboratories, universities and hospitals are institutions. Institutions are characteristically and neo- essariiy concerned with what I have called external goods. They are inu volved in acquiring money and other material goods; they are structured in terms of power and status, and they distribute money, power and status as rewards. Nor could they do otherwise if they are to sustain not only themselves, but also the practices of which they are the bearers. For ' no practices can survive for any length of time unsustained by institu- tions. Indeed so intimate is the relationship of practices to institutions — and consequently of the goods external to the goods internal to the prac— tices in question — that institutions and practices characteristically form a single causal order in which the ideals and the creativity of the practice are always vulnerable to the acquisitiveness of the institution, in which the cooperative care for common goods of the practice is always vulner- able to the competitiveness of the institution. In this context the essential function of the virtues is clear. Without them, without justice, courage and truthfulness, practices could not resist the corrupting power of insti- tutions. Yet if institutions do have corrupting power, the making and sustain- ing of forms of human community — and therefore of institutions — itself i has all the characteristics of a practice, and moreover of a practice which stands in a peculiarly close relationship to the exercise of the virtues in two important ways. The exercise of the virtues is itself apt to require a highly determinate attitude to social and political issues; and it is always within some particular community with its own specific institutional forms that we learn or fail to learn to exercise the virtues. There is of course a crucial difference between the way in which the relationship between moral character and political community is envisaged from the stand- point of liberal individualist modernity and the way in which that rela— tionship was envisaged from the standpoint of the type of ancient and medieval tradition of the virtues which I have sketched. For liberal indi- vidualism a community is simply an arena in which individuals each 88 Combining Social Science with Moral Theory pursue their own self-chosen conception of the good life, and political institutions exist to provide that degree of order which makes such self— determined activity possible. Government and law are, or ought to be, neutral between rival conceptions of the good life for man, and hence, although it is the task of government to promote law-abidingness, it is on the liberal view no' part of the legitimate function of government to incul- cate any one moral outlook. By contrast, on the particular ancient and medieval view which I have sketched, political community not only requires the exercise of the virtues for its own sustenance, but it is one of the tasks of parental authority to make children grow up so as to be virtuous adults. The classical state- ment of this analogy is by Socrates in the Crito. It does not of course follow from an acceptance of the Socratic view of political community and political authority that we ought to assign to the modern state the moral function which Socrates assigned to the city and its laws. Indeed the power of the liberal individualist standpoint partly derives from the evident fact that the modern state is indeed totally unfitted to act as moral educator of any community. But the history of how the modern state emerged is of course itself a moral history. If my account of the complex relationship of virtues to practices and to institutions is correct, it follows that we shall be unable to write a true history of practices and institutions unless that history is also one of the virtues and vices. For the ability of a practice to retain its integrity will depend on the way in which the virtues can be and are exercised in sustaining the institutional forms which are the social bearers of the practice. The integrity of a practice causally requires the exercise of the virtues by at least some of the indi- viduals who embody it in their activities; and conversely the corruption of institutions is always in part at least an effect of the vices. The virtues are of course themselves in turn fostered by certain types of social institution and endangered by others. Thomas Jefferson thought that only in a society of small farmers could the virtues flourish; and Adam Ferguson with a good deal more sophistication saw the in- stitutions of modern commercial society as endangering at least some traditional virtues. It is Ferguson’s type of sociology which is the empir- ical counterpart of the conceptual account of the virtues which I have given, a sociology which aspires to lay bare the empirical, causal connection between virtues, practices and institutions. For this kind of conceptual account has strong empirical implications; it provides an explanatory scheme which can be tested in particular cases; Moreover my thesis has empirical content in another way; it does entail that without the virtues there could be a recognition only of what I have called external goods and not at all of internal goods in the context of practices. And in any society which recognized only external goods, competitiveness would be the dominant and even exclusive feature. We have a brilliant portrait of such a society in Hobbes’s account of the state of nature; and Professor Turnbuil’s report of the fate of the Ik \ After Virtue 89 suggests that social reality does in the most horrifying way confirm both my thesis and Hobbes’s. I Virtues then stand in a different relationship to external and to internal goods. The possession of the iiirtues — and not only of their semblance and simulacra _ is necessary to achieve the latter; yet the possession of the virtues may perfectly well hinder us in achieving external goods. I need to emphasize at this point that external goods genuinely are goods. Not only are they characteristic objects of human deSire, whose alloca- tion is what gives point to the virtues of justice and of generoSity, but no one can despise them altogether without a certain hypocrisy: Yet notori- ously the cultivation of truthfulness, justice and courage Will often, the world being what it contingently is, bar us from being rich or famous or powerful. Thus although we may hope that we can not only achieve the standards of excellence and the internal goods of certain practices by possessing the virtues and become rich, famous and powerful, the Virtues are always a potential stumbling block to this comfortable ambition. We should therefore expect that, if in a particular society the pursuit of exter- nal goods were to become dominant, the concept of the Virtues might suffer first attrition and then perhaps something near total effacement, although simulacra might abound. ' The time has come to ask the question of how far this partial account of a core conception of the virtues — and I need to emphasize that all that 'I have offered so far is the first stage of such an account — is faithful to the tradition which I delineated. How far, for example; and in what ways is it Aristotelian? It is w happily » not Aristotelian in two ways in which a good deal of the rest of the tradition also dissents from Aristotle: First, although this account of the virtues is teleological, it does not'require any allegiance to Aristotle’s metaphysical biology. And secondly, Just because of the multiplicity of human practices and the consequent mult1p11c1ty. of goods in the pursuit of which the virtues may be exercised — goods which will often be contingently incompatible and which w111‘therefore make rival claims upon our allegiance — conflict will not spring solely from flaws in individual character. But it was just on these two matters that Aristotle’s account of the virtues seemed most vulnerable; hence if it turns out to be the case that this socially teleological account can support Aristotle’s general account of the virtues as well as does his own biologi- cally teleological account, these differences from Aristotle himself may well be regarded as strengthening rather than weakening the case for a generally Aristotelian standpoint. [....} 90 Combining Social Science with Moral Theory Chapter 15 The Virtues, the Unity of a Human Life and the Concept of a Tradition [....] I It is now possible to return to the question from which this enquiry into the nature of human action and identity started: In what does the unity of an individual life consist? The answer is that its unity is the unity of a narrative embodied in a single life. To ask ‘What is the good for me?’ is to ask how best I might live out that unity and bring it to completion. To ask ‘What is the good for man?’ is to ask what all answers to the former question must have in common. But now it is important to em- phasme that it is the systematic asking of these two questions and the attempt to answer them in deed as well as in word which provide the moral life with its unity. The unity of a human life is the unity of a - narrative quest. Quests sometimes fail, are frustrated, abandoned or dis— sipated into distractions; and human lives may in all these ways also fail. But the only criteria for success or failure in a human life as a whole are the criteria of success or failure in a narrated or to-be-narrated quest. A quest for what? Two key features of the medieval conception of a quest need to be recalled. The first is that without some at least partly determinate con- ception of the final reins there could not be any beginning to a quest. Some conception of the good for man is required. Whence is such a conception to be drawn? Precisely from those questions which led us to attempt to transcend that limited conception of the virtues which is available in and through practices. It is in looking for a conception of the good which will enable us to order other goods, for a conception of the good which will enable us to extend our unde‘i'standing of the purpose and content of the virtues, for a conception of the good which will enable us to understand the place of integrity and constancy in life, that we initially define the kind of life which is a quest for the good. But secondly it is clear the medieval conception of a quest is not at all that of a search for something already adequately characterized, as miners search for gold or geologists for oil. It is in the course of the quest and only through encountering and coping with the various particular harms, dangers, temptations and distractions which provide any quest with its episodes and incidents that the goal of the quest is finally to be under- stood. A quest is always an education both as to the character of that which is sought and in self-knowledge. 'The virtues therefore are to be understood as those dispositions which Will not only sustain practices and enable us to achieve the goods internal 1w:mmmmangmmm‘mwmmwnmmum»... ‘ After Virtue 91 to practices, but which will also sustain us in the relevant kind of quest for the good, by enabling us to overcome the harms, dangers, tempta- tions and distractions which we encounter, and which will furnish us with increasing self-knowledge and increasing knowledge of the good. The catalogue of the virtues will therefore include the virtues required to sustain the kind of households and the kind of political communities in which men and women can seek for the good together and the virtues necessary for philosophical enquiry about the character of the good. We have then arrived at a provisional conclusion about the good life for man: the good life for man is the life spent in seeking for the good life for man, and the virtues necessary for the seeking are those which will enable us to understand what more and what else the good life for man is. We have also completed the second stage in our account of the virtues, by situating them in relation to the good life for man and not only in rela- tion to practices. But our enquiry requires a third stage. For I am never able to seek for the good or exercise the virtues only qua individual. This is partly because what it is to live the good life concretely varies from circumstance to circumstance even when it is one and the same conception of the good life and one and the same set of virtues which are being embodied in a human life. What the good life is for a fifth-century Athenian general will not be the same as what it was for a medieval nun or a seventeenth—century farmer. But it is not just that different individuals live in different social circumstances; it is also that we all approach our own circumstances as bearers of 'a particular social identity. I am someone”s son or daughter, someone else’s cousin or uncle; I am a citizen of this or that city, a member of this or that guild or profession; I belong to this plan, that tribe, this nation. Hence what is good for me has to be the good for one who inhabits these roles. As such, I inherit from the past of my family, my city, my tribe, my nation, a variety of debts, inheritances, rightful expectations and obligations. These constitute the given of my life, my moral starting point. This is in part what gives my life its own moral particularity. This thought is likely to appear alien and even suprising from the I standpoint of modern individualism. From the standpoint of individual'- ism I am what I myself choose to be. I can always, if 1' wish to, put in question what are taken to be the merely contingent social features of my existence. I may biologically be my father’s son; but I cannot be held responsible for what he did unless I choose implicitly or explicitly to assume such responsibility. I may legally be a citizen of a certain country; but I cannot be held responsible for what my country does or has done unless I choose implicitly or explicitly to assume such responsibility. Such individualism is expressed by those modern Americans who deny any responsibility for the effects of slavery upon black Americans, saying ‘I never owned any slaves’. It is more subtly the standpoint of those other modern Americans who accept a nicely calculated responsibility for such effects measured precisely by the benefits they themselves as individuals 92 Combining Social Science with Moral Theory have indirectly received from slavery. In both cases ‘being an American’ is not in itself taken to be part of the moral identity of the individual. And of course there is nothing peculiar to modern Americans in this attitude: the Englishman who says, ‘I never did any wrong to Ireland; why bring up that old history as though it had something to do with me?’ or the young German who believes that being born after 1945 means that what Nazis did to Jews has no moral relevance to his relationship to his Jewish contemporaries, exhibit the same attitude, that according to which the self is detachable from its social and historical roles and statuses. And the self so detached is of course a self very much at home in either Sartre’s or Goffman’s perspective, a self that can have no history. The contrast with the narrative view of the self is clear. For the story of my life is always embedded in the story of those communities from which I derive my identity. I am born with a past; and to try to cut myself off from that past, in the individualist mode, is to deform my present rela- tionships. The possession of an historical identity and the possession of a social identity coincide. Notice that rebellion against my identity is al- ways one possible mode of ex ressing it. Notice also that the fact thgt the self has to find its moral identity in and through its membership in communities such as those of the family, the neighborhood, the city and the tribe does not entail that the self has to accept the moral limitations of the particularity of those forms of community. Without those moral particularities to begin from there would never be anywhere to begin; but it is in moving forward from such par- ticularity that the search for the good, for the universal, consists. Yet particularity can never be simply left behind or obliterated. The notion of escaping from it into a realm of entirely universal maxims which belong to man as such, whether in its eighteenth-century Kantian form or in the presentation of some modern analytical moral philosophies, is an illusion and an illusion with painful consequences. When men and wofnen iden- tify what are in fact their partial and particular causes too easily and too completely with the cause of some universal principle, they usually be— have worse than they would otherwise do. What I am, therefore, is in key part what I inherit, a specific past that is present to some degree in my present. I find myself part of a history and that is generally to say, whether I like it or not, whether I recognize it or not, one of the bearers of a tradition. It was important when 1 characterized the concept of a practice to notice that practices always have histories and that at any given'moment what a practice is depends On a mode of understanding it which has been transmitted often through many generations. And thus, insofar as the virtues sustain the relation- ships required for practices, they have to sustain relationships to the past ~ and to the future — as well 'as in the present. But the traditions through which particular practices are transmitted and reshaped never exist in isolation from larger social traditions. What constitutes such traditions? We are apt to be misled here by the ideological uses to which the —.w—.»mmm.. .. .. .. .., After Virtue I 93 concept of a tradition has been put by conservative political theorists. Characteristically such theorists have followed Burke in contrasting tra- dition with reason and the stability of tradition with conflict. Both con- trasts obfuscate. For all reasoning takes place within the context of some traditional mode of thought, transcending through criticrsrn and Inven- tion the limitations of what had hitherto been reasoned in that tradition; this is as true of modern physics as of medieval logic.'Moreover when a tradition is in good order it is always partially constituted by an argu- ment about the goods the pursuit of which gives to that tradition its particular point and purpose. . . So when an institution — a university, say, or a farm, or ahospital - IS the bearer of a tradition of practice or practices, its common life will be partly, but in a centrally important way, constituted by a contmuous argument as to what a university is and ought to be or what good farm- ing is or what good medicine is. Traditions, when Vital, embody continui- ties of conflict. Indeed when a tradition becomes Burkean, it is always ' or dead. dygllfe individualism of modernity could of course find no use for the notion of tradition within its own conceptual scheme except as an adver- sary notion; it therefore all too willingly abandoned it to the Burkeans, who, faithful to Burke’s own allegiance, tried to combine adherence In politics to a conception of tradition which would vindicate the oligarchi- cal revolution of property of 1688 and adherence in economics to the doctrine and institutions of the free market. The theoretlcal 1ncoherence of this mismatch did not deprive it of ideological usefulness. But the outcome has been that modern conservatives are for the most part en— gaged in conserving only older rather than later versionsof liberalmdi- vidualism. Their own core doctrine is as liberal and as indiwdualist as that of self-avowed liberals. - I . A living tradition then is an historically extended, socrally embodied argument, and an argument precisely in part about the goods wh1ch constitute that tradition. Within a'tradition the pursuit of goods extends . through generations, sometimes through many generations. Hence the individual’s search for his or her good is generally and characteristically conducted within a context defined by those traditions of which the indi- vidual’s life is a part, and this is true both of those goods which are internal to practices and of the goods of a'smgle life. Once again the narrative phenomenon of embedding is crucral: the history _of a practice in our time is generally and characteristically embedded in and made intelligible in terms of the larger and longer history of the tradItionlthrough which the practice in its present form was conveyed to us; the history of each of our own lives is generally and characteristically embedded in and made intelligible in terms of the larger and longer histones of a number of traditions. I have to say ‘generally and characterisucally’ rather than ‘always’, for traditions decay, disintegrate and disappear. What then sus- tains and strengthens traditions? What weakens and destroys them? 94 Combining Social Science with Moral Theory The anSWer in key part is: the exercise or the lack of exercise of the relevant virtues. The virtues find their point and purpose not only in sustaining those relationships necessary if the variety of goods internal to practices are to be achieved and not only in sustaining the form of an individual life in which that individual may seek out his or her good as the good of his or her whole life, but also in sustaining those traditions which provide beth practices and individual lives with their necessary historical context. Lack of justice, lack of truthfulness, lack of courage, lack of the relevant intellectual virtues — these corrupt traditions, just as they do those institutions and practices which derive their life from the traditions of which they are the contemporary embodiments. To recog- nize this is of course also to recognize the existence of an additional Virtue, one whose importance is perhaps most obvious when it is least present, the virtue of having an adequate sense of the traditions to which one belongs or which confront one. This virtue is not to be confused with any form of conservative antiquarianism; I am not praising those who choose the conventional conservative role of Iaudaror temparis acti. It is rather the case that an adequate sense of tradition manifests itself in a grasp of those future possibilities which the past has made available to the present. Living traditions, just because they continue a not-yet-completed narrative, confront a future whose determinate and determinable charac— ter. so far as it possesses any, derives from the past. [....1 I argued earlier that every moral philosophy has some particular soci- ology as its counterpart. What I have tried to spell out in this chapter is the kind-of understanding of social life which the tradition of the virtues requires, a kind of understanding very different from those dominant in the culture of bureaucratic individualism. Within that culture concep- tions of the virtues become marginal and the tradition of the virtues remains central only in the lives of social groups whose existence is on the margins of the central culture. Chapter 18 After Virtue: Nietzsche or Aristotle, Trotsky and St Benedict In Chapter 9 l posed a stark question: Nietzsche or Aristotle? The argu- ment which led to the posing of that question had two central premises. The first was that the language — and therefore also to some large degree After Virtue ‘ 95 the practice — of morality today is in a state of grave disorder. That disorder arises from the prevailing cultural power of an idiom in which ill-assorted conceptual fragments from various parts of our past are de- ployed together in private and public debates which are notable chiefly for the unsettlable character of the controversies thus carried on and the apparent arbitrariness of each of the contending parties. The second was that ever since belief in Aristotelian teleology was discredited moral philosophers have attempted to provide some alterna- tive rational secular account of the nature and status of morality, but that all these attempts, various and variously impressive as they have been, have in fact failed, a failure perceived most clearlyby Nietzsche. Consequently Nietzsche’s negative proposal to raze to the ground the structures of inherited moral belief and argument had, whether we have regard to everyday moral belief and argument or look instead to the constructions of moral philosophers, and in spite of its desperate and grandiose quality, a certain plausibility — unless of course the initial rejec- tion of the moral tradition to which Aristotle’s teaching about the virtues is central turned out to have been misconceived and mistaken. Unless that tradition could be rationally vindicated, Nietzsche’s stance would have a terrible plausibility. Not that, even so, it would be easy in the contemporary world to be an intelligent Nietzschean. The stock characters acknowledged in the dra- mas of modern social life embody all too well the concepts and the modes of the moral beliefs and arguments which an Aristotelian and a Nietzschean would have to agree in rejecting. The bureaucratic manager, the consum- ing aesthete. the therapist, the protester and their numerous kindred oc- cupy almost all the available culturally recognizable roles; the notions of the expertise of the few and of the moral agency of everyone are the presuppositions of the dramas which those characters enact. To cry out that the emperor had no clothes on was at least to pick on one man only to the amusement of everyone .else; to declare that almost everyone is dressed in rags is much less likely to be popular. But the Nietzschean would at least have the consolation of being unpopularly in the right — unless, that is, the rejection of the Aristotelian tradition turned out to have been mistaken. The Aristotelian tradition has occupied two distinct places in my argu- ment: first, because I have suggested that a great part of modern morality is intelligible only as a set of fragmented surv-ivals from that tradition, and indeed that the inability of modern moral philosphers to carry through their projects of analysis and justification is closely connected with the fact that the concepts with which they work are a combination of frag— mented survivals and implausible modern inventions; but in addition to this the rejection of the Aristotelian tradition was a rejection of a- quite distinctive kind of morality in which rules, so predominant in modern conceptions of morality, find their place in a larger scheme in which the virtues have the central place; hence the cogency of the Nietzschean rejec— 96 Combining Social Science with Moral Theory tion and refutation of modern moralities of rules, whether of a utilitarian or of a Kantian kind, did not necessarily extend to the earlier Aristotelian tradition. It is one of my most important contentions that against that tradition the Nietzschean polemic is completely unsuccessful. The grounds for say- ing this can be set out in two different ways. The first I already suggested in Chapter 9; NietZSche succeeds if all those whom he takes on as antago- nists fail. Others may have to succeed by virtue of the rational power of their positive arguments; but if Nietzsche wins, he wins by default. He does not win. I have sketched in Chapters 14 and 15 the rational case that can be made for a tradition in which the Aristotelian moral and political texts are canonical. For Nietzsche or the Nietzscheans to suc- ceed, that case would have to be rebutted. Why it cannot be so rebutted is best brought out by considering a second way in Which the rejection of Nietzsche’s claims can be argued. Nietzschean man, the Ubermensch, the man who transcends, finds his good nowhere in the social world to date, but only in that in himself which dictates his own new law and his own new table of the virtues. Why does he never find any objective good with authority over him in the social world to date? The answer is not difficult: Nietzsche’s portrait makes it clear that he who transcends is wanting in ’ respect of both relationships and activities. Consider part of just one note (962) from The Will to Power. ‘A great man — a man whom nature has constructed and invented in the grand style — what is he? . . . If he cannot lead, he goes alone; then it can happen that he may snarl at some things he meets on the way . . . he wants no ‘sympathetic’ heart, but servants, tools; in his intercourse with men he is always intent on making some- thing out of them. He knows he is incommunicable: he finds it tasteless to be familiar; and when one thinks he is, he usually is not. When not speaking to himself, he wears a mask. He rather lies than tells the truth: it requires more spirit and will. There is a solitude within him that is inaccessible to praise or blame, his own justice that is beyond appeal.’ This characterization of ‘the great man’ is deeply rooted in Nietzsche’s contention that the morality of European society since the archaic age in Greece has been nothing but a series of disguises for the will to power and that the claim to objectivity for such morality cannot be rationally sustained. It is because this is so that the great man cannot enter into relationships mediated by appeal to shared standards or virtues or goods; he is his own only authority and his relationships to others have to be exercises of that authority. But we can now see clearly that, if the account of the virtues which I have defended can be sustained, it is the isolation and self-absorption of ‘the great man’ which thrust upon him the burden of being his own self-sufficient moral authority. For if the conception of a good has to be expounded in terms of such notions as those of a practice, of the narrative unity of a human life and of a moral tradition, then goods, and with them the only grounds for the authority of laws and virtues, can only be discovered by entering into those relationships which After Virtue ’ 97 constitute communities whose central bond is a shared vision of and understanding of goods. To cut oneself off from shared activity in .which one has initially to learn obediently as 'an apprentice learns, to isolate oneself from the communities which find their point and purpose in such activities, will be to debar oneself from finding any good outside of one- self. It will be to condemn oneself to that moral solipsism which consti- tutes Nietzschean greatness. Hence we have to conclude not only that Nietzsche does not win the argument by default against the Aristotelian tradition, but also, and perhaps more importantly, thatit is “from the perspective of that tradition that we can best understand the rrnstakes at the heart of the Nietzschean position. _ The attractiveness of Nietzsche’s position lay in its apparent honesty. When I was setting out the case in favor of an amended and restated emotivism, it appeared to be a consequence of accepting the truth. of emotivism that an honest man would no longer want to go on using most, at least, of the language of past morality because of its misleading character. And Nietzsche was the only major philosopher who had not fiinched from this conclusion. Since moreover the language of modern morality is burdened with pseudo-concepts such as those of utility and of natural rights, it appeared that Nietzsche’s resoluteness alone would res- cue us from entanglement by such concepts; but it is now clear that the price to be paid for this liberation is entanglement in another set of mistakes. The concept of the Nietzschean ‘great man’ is also a. pseudo— concept, although not always perhaps - unhappin «a what I earlier called a fiction. It represents individualism’s final attempt to escape from its own consequences. And the Nietzschean stance turns out not to_ be a mode of escape from or an alternative to the conceptual scheme of liberal . individualist modernity, but rather one more representative moment in its internal unfolding. And we may therefore expect liberal individualist societies to breed ‘great men’ from time to time. Alas! _ So it was right to see Nietzsche as in some sense the ultnnate antago- nist of the Aristotelian tradition. But it now turns out to be the case that _ in the end the Nietzschean stance is only one more facet of that very moral culture of which Nietzsche took himself to be an implacable critic. It is therefore after all the case that the crucial moral opposition is be— tween liberal individualism in some version or other and the Aristotelian tradition in some version or other. The differences between the two run very deep. They extend beyond ethics and morality to the understanding of human action, so that rival conceptions of the social sciences, of their limits and their pOSSIbllltleS, are intimately bound up with the antagonistic confrontation of these two alternative ways of viewing the human world. This is why my argument has had to extend to such topics as those of the concept of fact, the limits to predictability in human affairs and the nature of ideology. And it Will now, I hope, be clear that in the chapters dealing with those topics I was 'not merely summing up arguments against the social embodiments of 98 I Combining Social Science with Moral Theory liberal individualism, but also laying the basis for arguments in favor of an alternative way of envisaging both the social sciences and society, one with which the Aristotelian tradition can easily be at home. My own conclusion is very clear. It is that on the one hand we still, in spite of the efforts of three centuries of moral philosophy and one of sociology, lack any coherent rationally defensible statement of a liberal individualist point of view; and that, on the other hand, the Aristotelian tradition can be restated in a way that restores intelligibility and ration- ality to our moral and social attitudes and commitments. But although I take the weight and direction of both sets of arguments to be rationally compelling, it would be imprudent not to recognize three quite different kinds of objection that will be advanced from three quite different points of view against this conclusion. 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.) Consequently those who wish to resist some particular conclusion are equally rarely without any resort. Let me hasten to add immediately that I do not mean to suggest by this that no central issues in philosophy are settlable; on the contrary. We can often establish the truth in areas where no proofs are available. But when an issue is settled, it is often because the contending parties — or someone from among them — have stood back from their dispute and asked in a systematic way what the appropriate rational procedures are for settling this particular kind of dispute. It is my own view that the time has come once more when it is imperative to perform this task for moral philosophy; but I do not pretend to have embarked ‘ upon it in this present book. My negative and positive evaluations of particular arguments do indeed presuppose a systematic, although here unstated, account of rationality. It is this account — to be given to a subsequent book — which I shall hope to deploy, and will almost certainly need to deploy, against those whose criticism of my central thesis rests chiefly or wholly upon a differ— ent and incompatible evaluation of the arguments. A motley party of defenders of liberal individualism — some of them utilitarians, some Kantians, some proudly avowing the cause of liberal individualism as I have defined it, others claiming that it is misinterpretation to associate them with my account of it, all of them disagreeing among themselves 7 are likely to offer objections of this kind. A second set of objections will certainly concern my interpretation of what I have called the Aristotelian or classical tradition. For it is clear that the account I have given differs in a variety of ways, some of them quite radical, from other appropriations and interpretations of an Aristo- telian moral stance. And here I am disagreeing to some extent at least with some of those philosophers for whom I have the greatest respect and from whom I have learned most (but not nearly enough, their adherents will say): in the immediate past Jacques Maritain, in the present Peter wnrfl1mmwwswwm{ Wm.“mmmmmuwmmmmimmwmnmwi““WM Inmwtrmwnlmslm . . its“. l i E g l mm .mwmw “r... .W... wmmmmv-mamw-mwm “is ... . After Virtue 99 Geach. Yet if my account of the nature of moral tradition is correct, a tradition is sustained and advanced by its own internal arguments and conflicts. And even if some large parts of my interpretation could not withstand criticism, the demonstration of this would itself strengthen the tradition which I am attempting to sustain and to extend. Hence my attitude to those criticisms which I take to be internal to the moral tradi- tion which I am defending is rather different from my attitude to 'purely external criticisms. The latter are no less important; but they are impor- tant in a different way. ' ' I Thirdly there will certainly be a quite different set of critics who Will begin by agreeing substantially with what I have to say about liberal individualism, but who will deny not only that the Aristotelian tradition is 'a viable alternative, but also that it is in terms of an opposition be- tween liberal individualism and that tradition that the problems of mo- dernity ought to be approached. The key intellectual 'opposition of our age, such critics will declare, is that between liberal indiv1dualism and some version of Marxism or neoaMarxism. The most intellectually com— pelling exponents of this point of view are likely to be those who trace a genealogy of ideas from Kant and Hegel through Marx and claim that by means of Marxism the notion of human autonomy can be rescued from its original individualist fermulations and restored within the context of an appeal to a possible form of community in which alienation has been overcome, false consciousness abolished and the values of equality and fraternity realized. My answers to the first two kinds of critic are to some large degree contained, implicity or explicitly, in what I have already written. My answers to the third type of criticism need to be Spelled out a little further. They fall into two parts. I _ The first is that the claim of Marxism to a morally distinctive stand- point is undermined by Marxism’s own moral history. In all those cr1ses in which Marxists have had to take explicit moral stances — that over Bernstein’s revisionism in German social democracy at the turn of the century or that over Khrushchev’s repudiation of Stalin and the Hungar- ian revolt in 1956, for example w Marxists have always fallen back into relatively straightforward versions of Kantianism or utilitarianism. Nor is this surprising. Seereted within Marxism from the outset 1s a certain radical individualism. In the first chapter of Capital when Marx charac- terizes what it will be like ‘when the practical relations of everyday life offer to man none but perfectly intelligible and reasonable relations’, what he pictures is ‘a community of free individuals’ who have all freely agreed to their common ownership of the means of productionland to various norms of production and distribution. This free indiVidual is described by Marx as a socialized Robinson Crusoe; but on what baSis he enters into his free association with others Marx does not tell us. At this key point in Marxism there is a lacuna which no later Marxist has ad- equately supplied. It is unsurprising that abstract moral principle and utility have in fact been the principles of assocration which Marx1sts have 100 COmbining Social Science with Moral Theory appealed to, and that in their practice Marxists have exemplified precisely the kind of moral attitude which they condemn in others as ideological. Secondly, I remarked earlier that as Marxists move towards power they always tend to become Weberians. Here I was of course speaking of Marxists at their best in, say, Yugoslavia or Italy; the barbarous despot- ism of the collective Tsardom which reigns in Moscow can be taken to be as irrelevant to the question of the moral substance of Marxism as the life of the Borgia pope was to that of the moral substance of Christianity. Nonetheless Marxism has recommended itself precisely as a guide to practice, as a politics of a peculiarly illuminating kind. Yet it is just here that it has been of singularly little help for some time now. Trotsky, in the very last years of his life, facing the question of whether the Soviet Union was in any sense a socialist country, also faced implicitly the ques- tion of whether the categories of Marxism could illuminate the future. He himself made everything turn on the outcome of a set of hypothetical predictions about possible future events in the Soviet Union, predictions which were tested only after Trotsky’s death. The answer that they re- turned was clear: Trotsky’s own premises entailed that the Soviet Union was not socialist and that the theory which was to have illuminated the path to human liberation had in fact led into darkness. Marxist socialism is at its core deeply optimistic. For however thor- oughgoing its criticism of capitalist and bourgeois institutions may be, it is committed to asserting that within the society constituted by those institutions, all the human and material preconditions of a better future are being accumulated. Yet if the moral impoverishment of advanced capitalism is what so many Marxists agree that it is, whence are these resources for the future to be derived? It is not surprising that at this point Marxism tends to produce its own versions of the Ubermensch: Lukacs’s ideal proletarian, Leninism’s ideal revolutionary. When Marx- ism does not become Weberian social democracy or crude tyranny, it tends to become Nietzschean fantasy. One of the most admirable aspects of Trotsky’s cold resolution was hisrefusai of all such fantasies. A Marxist who took Trotsky’s last writings with great seriousness would be forced into a pessimism quite alien to the Marxist tradition, and in becoming a pessimist he would in an important way have ceased to be a Marxist. For he would now see no tolerable alternative set of political and economic structures which could be brought into place to replace the structures of advanced capitalism. This conclusion agrees of course with my own. For I too not only take'it that Marxism is exhausted as a political tradition, a claim borne out by the almost indefinitely numerous and conflicting range of political allegiances which now carry Marxist banners -u this does not at all imply that Marxism is not still one of the richest sources of ideas about modern society m but I believe that this exhaustion is shared by every other political tradition within our culture. This is one of the conclusions to be drawn from the arguments of the preceding chapter. Does it then follow more specifically that the moral After Virtue 10] tradition which I am defending lacks any contemporary politics of rel- evance and more generally that my argument commits me and anyone else who accepts it to a generalized social pessimism? Not at all. It is always dangerous to draw too precise parallels between one his- torical period and another; and among the most misleading of such paral— lels are those which have been drawn between our own age in Europe and North America and the epoch in which the Roman empire declined into the Daik Ages. Nonetheless certain parallels there are. A crucial turning point in that earlier history occurred when men and women of good will turned aside from the task of shoring up the Roman impertum and ceased to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of that imperium. What they set themselves to achieve in- stead — often not recognizing fully what they were doing — was the con- struction of new forms of community within which the moral life could be sustained so that both morality and civility might survive the coming ages of barbarism and darkness. If my account of our moral condition is correct, we ought also to conclude that for some time now we too have reached that turning point. What matters at this stage is the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us. And if the tradition of the virtues was able to survive the hor- rors of the last dark ages, we are not entirely without grounds for hope. This time however the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament. We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another — doubtless very different — St Benedict. ...
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