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Unformatted text preview: son why he is able to openly pose the question that
Tamir avoids, that of rightness of dying for the state, and indeed conciders it to be of central
importance, lies in the fact that he take a very different view of the concept of the ground
project than Williams does. But in order to present this view, I will have to turn to
Macintyre’s critique of Williams’ internalism.
Since both strands seem to be pointing in the same direction, I will proceed with my
argument by reviwing Williams’ account of internal and external reasons, and Macintyre’s
critique of this account. Conviniently, Williams ilustrates his argument with an example CEU eTD Collection which seems to be taylor-made for our discussion, that of Owen Wingrave, the hero of Henry
James’ story of the same name. I will retain the example, and also use give a hypothetical
Macintyrian account of it. Afterwards I will reflect on the significance and consequences that
these two accounts for the problem of dying for the liberal state.
In his text on internal and external reasons, Bernard Williams suggests a provisional
distinction between the two, only to conclude that external reasons as such cannot really exist
– either they are “disguised” internal reasons, or they are no reasons at all. To illustrate his 20 Bernard Williams, “Persons, characters, morality”, in Moral Luck (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1981), 13. 13 point, Williams uses a literary example – Henry James’ story “Owen Wingrave”, about a
young man who declines to pursue a military career despite his family’s military tradition.
Alasdair Macintyre criticizes Williams’ conclusion on several counts, and suggests the
distinction between internal and external reasons should be redrawn in such a way that both
types of reasons should still be meaningful, while the transition of the latter into the former
should be made clearer. Macintyre especially insists on the role of social mediation in this
transition from purely external to internal reasons.
I will begin with a short summary of James’ story; then I will proceed with an
exposition of Williams’ arguments, and the way that he uses the Wingrave example to
illustrate it; then I will pass on to Macintyre’s critique of Williams, and in the end I will offer
a Macintyrian account of the Owen Wingrave example and offer arguments for its advantage
over Williams’ model. 2.1 WILLIAMS ON INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL REASONS
Owen Wingrave, the hero of James’ story of the same title, is a young man who comes
from a family with a long and distinguished military tradition. All of his male predecessors
have dedicated their lives (and many have lost them, too) to the military profession. It is CEU eTD Collection expected that he will follow in their footsteps and become an officer himself. However, he
declines to do that. At the very beginning of the story he announces to his family and friends
that he has no intention to pursue a military career, and moreover that he considers the
military trade as such to be immoral and even “criminal”. The plot of the story revolves
around the attempts of Owen’s family to dissuade him of his intentions and bring hi...
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