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Thursday, May 28, 2020

MacIntyre’s Rightwing Postmodernism

Postmodernism is generally leftwing, but, in his 1981 book After Virtue, Alasdair MacIntyre articulates a rightwing form of postmodernism in which there is an emphasis on the importance of traditions. MacIntyre’s traditions perform a role similar to the “scientific paradigms,” which Thomas Kuhn has described—the traditions include the idea of a worldview or conceptual scheme, and also a history through time, as it’s understood by a community with its distinctive way of life and social norms. The traditions are not only capable of being rational but serve as the context in which rationality can be determined—all reasoning is conducted in some tradition or another. The traditions can be judged according to the criteria of rationality; one tradition is more rational than another if it can explain the success and failure of the other tradition better than the other tradition itself can. MacIntyre shows that instead of being an escape from tradition, modernity is itself a tradition. Thus, modernity’s rejection of traditions is incoherent, and there is a need for a right-wing postmodernism. Modern moral philosophy, according to Macintyre, leads to skepticism because it has neglected the notions of character and virtue—modernity’s focus is on what makes an act right or wrong rather than on what makes a person good or evil. Macintyre says that to learn rational ethics we have to go beyond modernity and study the Aristotelian and religious traditions which focus on the formation of character and the development of virtue.

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