Practices are significantly determined by their

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Unformatted text preview: set and will fail badly in their moral development if they remain within those sets” 32 Ibidem, 87. 33 Alasdair Macintyre, After Virtue (Notre Dame, Indiana: Notre Dame Press, 1981.), 191. 34 Ibidem, 191. 21 genuinely cares and has not the capacity for risking harm or danger has to define himself, both to himself and to others, as a coward.35 Finally, one more important element of Macintyre’s account of practices and its relation to virtues must be noted, before I turn to its application to the Owen Wingrave example. Practices are significantly determined by their history. That is why, when we are initiated into a practice we have to accept the authority of its tradition. This does not mean that we cannot, once we have been initiated into it, question some of its traditionally established standards. On the contrary, a tradition cannot thrive without such questioning. “When a tradition is in good order”, Macintyre says, “it is always partially constituted by an argument about the goods the pursuit of which gives to that tradition its particular point and purpose.”36 Moreover, according to Macintyre, every person inherits a set of debts and obligations that come together with the roles she inhabits as a member of a family, clan or a nation. 37 We cannot simply detach ourselves from that inheritance, but must treat it as “our moral starting point”.38 In other words, translated into concepts which this paper is concerned with, there is a set of good reasons for action which we inherit simply by being born into a certain role. Questioning these reasons is possible and even desirable, but it has to start from a position of CEU eTD Collection the place one has in a traditionally determined practice, and has to be formulated on terms of this practice. 2.3 MACINTYREIAN INTERPRETATION OF OWEN WINGRAVE There are two important traditions that the plot of the story is weaved around. One is a practice of family life, the other – military practice, both with their respective traditions. In the 35 Ibidem, 192. Ibidem, 222 37 “The possession of an historical identity, and the possession of a social identity coincide. Notice that rebellion against my identity is always one possible mode of expressing it”, Ibid, 221. 38 Ibidem, 220. 36 22 Wingrave family, these two traditions significantly intermingle. The tradition of the Wingraves is in its important part a tradition of the military trade.39 Being a Wingrave, or more precisely, occupying the role of male member of the Wingrave family in itself means that there is a reason for joining the army – and indeed that is the claim that the Wingraves are making when they say that there is a reason for Owen to join the army. And this reason is no less valid if Owen himself has no motivation to act in accordance with it. However, if Owen is a Wingrave, which is a fact, and he still does not want to do what he has (in a Macintyreian sense – external) reason to do, than something must be wrong with him, his motivation is not transformed in accordance with his role. Since this transformation is enabled by the possessions of virtues and disabled by their absence,...
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