Talk:After Virtue

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How do people feel about this book?[edit]

I'm curious to know how people feel about this book. I myself have just began reading it, and while I find it difficult, and often times a struggle to comprehend, the parts that I am able to follow I find amazing. I was hoping that anyone who has read it would like to share their thoughts on Macintyre's thesis. Afterall, this book deserves to be discussed.

Hi, anonymous user. Firstly, it might be worth you creating a Wikipedia account. It is quick, easy, absolutely not a security risk and means communication is easier. It also helps you become a part of the Wikipedia community quicker. If you do, you can sign a name and date stamp using four ~s in a row. Anyway, to your actual query. I created the page, because I like you think it is a book that deserves to be discussed. I read it first about a year ago, and was baffled by some of it (he assumes a level of background knowledge that is a bit above me, and a lot of the stuff about the Weberian society was fascinating but I could not see where it fitted into the whole scheme), and totally bowled over by other bits. His centre thesis (I think) is that post-Enlightenment moral thinking is dominated by the question "how can I do good" (and even that is reduced to "how can I do what I think is good" by Emotivism). The real question for MacIntyre is "how can I be good", ie the Aristotelian Virtue Ethics approach. What do you think? A discussion of the book would be good, not only for its own sake but also so that we can add to the article. Glad you enjoyed it, and hope you like Wikipedia! Batmanand 23:52, 27 July 2005 (UTC)

Value of ON content and quality of reference[edit]

The content added from the ON reference remains in this article, but the reference has been removed. This action is disputed and a conversation is ongoing here. Uriah923 06:13, 2 September 2005 (UTC)

Potential external link[edit]

I added the entire 'synopsis' section from information I gleaned from [1]. While it is not a peer reviewed journal or a textbook (and therefore possibly not worthy of being a reference), the article does have significat content up and above what is included here concerning the topics in the book. Are any opposed to adding it as an external link? Uriah923 16:32, 12 September 2005 (UTC)

I would think that the content - if it can be proven it is not copyrighted - is of sufficient quality to quote as a reference. The only concern I have is that surely we are simply linking to a copy of the article? Batmanand 17:19, 12 September 2005 (UTC)
I'll say pretty much the same thing here as I did at Talk:ITunes. This is just one out of a SEO campaign by the ON people to get links to that site from Wikipedia. (Just as we don't need the above link since it can be seen in the diff where it was removed) The same thing was done with multiple Wikipedia articles until people cried foul, and the consensus was that ON articles do not make the type of quality references Wikipedia needs. That said, if a consensus forms here (with a reasonable minimum of 5-6 people involved) that the article is valuable enough to justify an external link despite the linkspam implications, I certainly wouldn't stand in the way. That said, our article would be much better off using actual highly regarded references than linking to a website with no inherent credibility. Wikipedia:Verifiability is the goal, not seeing how many links we can get to ON. - Taxman Talk 18:33, September 12, 2005 (UTC)

We have three users here already. My vote is that the page is worthy of an external link (not a reference). Batmanand and Taxman - agree or disagree? Uriah923 18:51, 12 September 2005 (UTC)

It's not a question of whether or not the page is worthy -- the link is not worthy. Omit link. Zora 21:06, 12 September 2005 (UTC)
Again, are you listening to my question? Are you even reading the posts? There is not link on the page to omit, so what are you talking about? I am suggesting a link be added in an external links section. Uriah923 21:33, 12 September 2005 (UTC)
I have read the ON linkspam stuff, and see the point, however in this case I think the information added to the page is both correct and substantive. Thus in principle I support it being added as a link. However, given that the page is pretty much a rewrite of where it would link to, would we just be "proving" that someone else had written this information before? So far, I withhold my vote. I would be inclined to vote with Uriah923; however I must first be satisfied that this is not a copyright infringement. Incidentlally, if it is, the information on the Wikipedia page needs a substantive rewrite to not fall foul of copyright too. Batmanand 09:32, 13 September 2005 (UTC)
Yes, if it is a rewrite of what was in the ON link without incorporating other sources and without changing it enough it is a copyright violation. If it has been changed a lot, then the changes basically amount to original research which isn't allowed here. If the information is correct as you say, then it should be able to be substantiated by other, higher quality published sources, and then we have no problems. We don't need external links just for the sake of them. They serve the purpose of either linking to the most prominent, important websites on a topic or as a very weak form of citation/referencing. Wikipedia is long past the stage where it needs just any content added with weak references. Beyond that is the fact that Uriah's actions are so obviously just part of an SEO campaign. We need to discourage the use of Wikipedia to promote other people's sites, and that is very clearly in Wikipedia:External links#What should not be linked to. Basically I suggest the link isn't needed anyway, and is damaging if it is included. - Taxman Talk 12:05, 13 September 2005 (UTC)
I'm sick of Uriah's SEO spamming. As it stands, his account seems little more than a Wikipedia:Role account, with the purpose of pimping traffic to his blog. He seems to have put a link to ON on every single topic he's ever written about. He presents his arguments as an "objective" look, but he is supporting the inclusion of all ON links on all of the articles so far! I oppose all ON links at this time. --DropDeadGorgias (talk) 19:55, 13 September 2005 (UTC)
OK I think I am now convinced that the ON stuff is merely an attempt to get more links to his site and thus is basically tantamount to SEO spamming. Thus I change my original vote to Oppose. The question of how to deal with the content of the page if we think that ON is suspect is something we will have to discuss in due course. Batmanand 16:16, 14 September 2005 (UTC)

Francis Wheen and the tone of the article[edit]

Just thought i'd add that I recently read Francis Wheen's 'How mumbo-jumbo conquered the world', in which he savages this book for its reactionary and atavistic stance. Persmer143.167.142.210 15:24, 23 January 2006 (UTC)

I have no opinion on whether that specific criticism should be include, but I do think the general tone of the page needs to read a little less like a MacIntyre fan page. The book is indeed "highly regarded" (as the intro states) by many people, but it's also poorly regarded by others. To a large extent, what people think of the book is influenced by what they think of virtue ethics more generally. --Delirium 12:29, 26 February 2006 (UTC)

Notes scheme & potential ext link[edit]

I added proper notation to all of the links included in the text. Also, I added a hidden external links section. It's hidden because it would violate NPOV for me to add the link, but I think it's worthy of listing. So, if you happen along and find it, please check it out and un-hide it if you agree. uriah923(talk) 18:34, 1 February 2006 (UTC)

Seriously, don't go back to the same old games and prove for sure that the only reason you're still here is to substantiate links to your site. It wasn't NPOV that prevents adding the link, it's disruption. - Taxman Talk 12:56, 26 February 2006 (UTC)
Agreed, we went over this a few months ago. Let's just keep the references removed. I think that was the consensus then, as now. Batmanand | Talk 15:11, 26 February 2006 (UTC)

Most important text?[edit]

The sentence "After Virtue is the most important text in the recent revival of virtue ethics" seems too POV for a wiki article. I would also question this claim in that MacIntyre does away with an essential part of virtue ethics in his rejection of Aristotle's "metaphysical biology." I know of few virtue ethicists who would take such an extremely social stance on human nature.

I see what you're getting at: the claim "most important" does imply the exercise of judgment. But I think NPOV doesn't exclude all exercises of judgment. The article doesn't claim that After Virtue is the best book on virtue ethics, or even a good book, which certainly would be out of bounds. But it does claim that this book is the most important text in the revival of virtue ethics, which is a historical claim, and a well-founded one, I think. After Virtue didn't start the revival, true; but it was the most widely read, the most commonly responded to, and remains the subject of engagement today. This is true irrespective of his attitudes towards Aristotelian biology-- even if others have failed to follow him along exactly the same lines, this book's historical influence remains. So I'm comfortable with the judgment standing.
And by the way, is it really true that, as you imply, most virtue ethicists today embrace Aristotle's biology? That sounds like a much more contentious claim than the one you're taking issue with.Talented Mr Miller 14:23, 19 February 2007 (UTC)

Its not that virtue ethicists today would accept Aristotle's particular understanding of human nature and, by consequence, his table of virtues- but rather that they are willing to pursue the virtues via an understanding of man qua animal, which MacIntyre rejects. That is, the project of virtue ethics today is not just the uncovering of one's social roles and an embodiment of the excellences which one's social narrative provides as MacIntyre conceives of it in After Virtue. Most contemporary virtue ethicists would object to such a socially situated view of human nature and instead favor a return to the Aristotelian project of examining the essential nature of man. It seems to me that MacIntyre is more important in the development of communitarian philosophy for which his virtue ethics was tailored. Besides, GEM Anscombe wrote the article "Modern Moral Philosophy" in 1958 and Philippa Foot, Virtues and Vices in 1978, which it seems to me, are the works that really kicked things off for contemporary virtue ethics.

Anscombe in 1958 and Foot in 1978? That's a long lead time in getting things "kicked off"!
Removing tongue from cheek, I'd again assert that MacIntyre's book was more widely influential and remains so; look at amount of scholarly response, and amount of interest outside the academy. Or look at respective sales at Amazon and such. However one may feel about the book's merit, its influence still seems to me to be greater than its rivals.
That said, I'm still going to amend the opening line to "among the most important texts", and we'll see if anyone feels strongly enough to change it back.Talented Mr Miller 14:52, 3 April 2007 (UTC)

Chapter Summary[edit]

I'm a researcher who's currently reading this book for the second time, and I'm writing a chapter summary as I go along, both for my own purposes and for the use of other researchers who want help dealing with this dense and difficult but significant book. I'm writing it up on my own private wiki, but am considering integrating it with this article when I'm done. I think it would be tremendously useful, but I'm writing it at a higher level of detail than is typical for Wikipedia articles, and thought I'd check here first for peoples' opinions on whether this would be appropriate to include. Here is a sample summary. Let me know what you all think. Ario (talk) 03:21, 17 November 2008 (UTC)

Chapter 2. The Nature of Moral Disagreement Today and the Claims of Emotivism[edit]

MacIntyre notes that the nature of most moral discourse today is interminable disagreement. He lists several examples of common moral arguments on the subjects of just war, abortion, and medical licensing and regulation (6-7), and notes three salient characteristics of these debates: First, though each argument presented is logically valid, the respective concepts they use are incommensurable, so that there is no apparent rational way to decide in favor of one argument over another, and thus such a decision has the appearance of being personal and non-rational; Second, that despite the necessity of some impersonal and non-rational choice, the arguments all purport to be impersonal and rational, in that they "presuppose ... the existence, independently of the preferences or attitude of speaker and hearer, of standards [of morality]" (9); And third, that the concepts employed for each argument have been divorced from larger theories and contexts of which they were originally a part, and in some cases the concepts (such as virtue, justice, and ought) have changed meaning over time so that the evaluative expressions themselves have also changed their meanings. If these characteristics are symptoms of moral disorder, he argues, then it should be possible to construct a history of moral discourse in which, at an earlier stage, moral utterance is not regarded "simultaneously and inconsistently ... as [both] an exercise of our rational powers and as mere expressive assertion" (11). He notes that a major obstacle to this goal is today's unhistorical treatment of moral philosophy as a single debate among contemporaries examining the same exact subject matter, rather than as a progressing series of traditions among philosophers working in distinct historical contexts.

Forestalling the discussion of such a history, MacIntyre first explores the question of whether moral discussion is in fact rationally interminable not as a contingent feature of our culture, but because that is the inherent nature of moral questions. He specifically addresses emotivism, which "is the doctrine that all evaluative judgments and more specifically all moral judgments are nothing but expressions of preference, expressions of attitude or feeling" (11-12, his emphasis throughout). He notes that emotivism purports to be a theory about the meaning of sentences used in moral utterance. Prominent emotivists have asserted that the sentence "This is good" means the same as "I approve of this, do so as well" or "Hurrah for this!", but MacIntyre argues that these examples make clear that "the expression of feeling or attitude is characteristically a function not of the meaning of sentences, but of their use on particular occasions" (13). Emotivism is thus not a theory of the meaning of moral utterances, as it purports to be, but rather of their use. MacIntyre then traces the history of emotivism, arguing that it in fact arose in its modern form as a theory of the usage of moral utterances in a specific period: at Cambridge in the early 20th century. He then argues that emotivism has existed in other historical periods, and that it arises as a response to the breakdown of the project of providing rational justification for objective and impersonal moral claims. He argues finally that emotivism rests upon a claim that all historical attempts to provide such a justification have failed.

'Criticism' section (Wheen and Scialabba)[edit]

Sorry - not sure how to comment correctly, but I think the 'criticism' section in this article is of negative influence on the article's quality. There have, of course, been critical responses to 'After Virtue', but neither Wheen nor Scialabba can be counted amongst serious critics of the book. Including only these two instances makes the entire section appear very arbitrary. Until there is better content for the 'criticism' section, I think it should be omitted in its entirety. (talk) 23:14, 15 February 2009 (UTC)

Before I added the Criticism section, the article was taking heat for being too much of a Macintyre fan page. So I think the section should stand. I'm not sure what you mean when you say that neither Wheen and Scialabba count as "serious critics"; is this because neither is a professional philosopher? In any case, the best course of action IMHO is to add to the section rather than omit it. I don't doubt that substantive criticism exists - so by all means let those equipped to synthesize that criticism present it here.Talented Mr Miller (talk) 16:01, 28 April 2009 (UTC)

I agree with the person who said the criticism section should be altered. It is an important section to have, but Wheen adn Scialabba are fairly little-known writers, whereas Mac has been commented on by just about everyone. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:39, 20 February 2013 (UTC)

Why is the criticism section labelled as "reception"? The reception section excludes all of the reviews that expressed the greatness of the book. Judging from the reception section here, it looks like the book was a total letdown. It wasn't. It's one of the most critically acclaimed philosophy books published since 1980.

The title of the section should remain "reception". If it bothers you that it includes only critical reviews of the book, then add some positive reviews - don't needlessly change the name of the section. FreeKnowledgeCreator (talk) 19:37, 9 January 2016 (UTC)

Just my two cents worth - I agree that having Scalabba and Wheen as two of four critics in the reception section is vaguely ridiculous. They are reasonable people with respectable media profiles (and I have enjoyed stuff they have written), but they are not the first people I would turn to for representative examples of critical responses by Alisdair Macintyre's peers, to a book as significant as After Virtue. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:30, 14 May 2016 (UTC)


Please correct "abstracting ourselves from whom we are." Obviously should be "from who we are." Refer to any style manual on the difference between the subjective & objective case (even when following a preposition). —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:42, 19 July 2010 (UTC)

Not for nothing, Anonymous User, but it would have been less work to *correct the error yourself* than to write a snotty command for *someone else* to do it.Talented Mr Miller (talk) 14:13, 22 September 2010 (UTC)

Single Source Tag[edit]

I think that the single source tag is uncalled for. True, about 2/3 of the references come from one source but that is the book the article is about. I expect a large percentage of the references of a Wiki regarding a book to be from that book, it would be strange otherwise.

General critical response to Wheen[edit]

Flagged this section as [by whom?], because the Washington Post article cited in support is the only critic offered up who actually takes this view. One critic isn't a general consensus.