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How can MacIntyre claim that some traditions, but not others, can escape the problem of incommensurability in their moral reasoning?

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  1. Introduction.
  2. Determining how MacIntyre can claim that some theories can escape the problem of incommensurability.
  3. MacIntyre's strong commitment to contextualism.
  4. Criticisms of MacIntyre's work.
  5. MacIntyre's rejection of modernity and its interminable conflicts between incommensurable traditions.
  6. MacIntyre's account of modern philosophy.
  7. Conclusion.
  8. Bibliography.

From the moment we abandoned Aristotle's teleology, MacIntyre believes, there has been no proper moral philosophy, but only philosophers "working with bits and pieces of philosophies which are detached from their original pre-Enlightenment settings in which they were comprehensible and useful." In other words we live in a world where philosophy is in a state of great confusion, whereas it was once rational and unified. So was, MacIntyre believes, the ancient Greek polis which was articulated according to Aristotle's tripartite scheme; ethics (third element) showed human-beings how to live a good life, that is to say how to pass from the state of man-as he-is (first element) to the state of man-as-he-should-be (second element). Such teleology was based on Aristotle's metaphysical assumptions upon the nature of human-beings, so when his metaphysics was discarded, his teleology was similarly put in question. The Enlightenment philosophers definitely rejected this notion of telos when trying to secularize bases for morality.

[...] best account that can be given of why some [ ] theories are superior to others presupposes the ability of constructing an intelligible dramatic narrative which can claim historical truth and in which such theories are the subjects of successive episodes?[10]. The construction of histories of this kind which can be rationally compared with each other allows rational comparison between traditions. Modern philosophy, on the contrary, has been built upon a rupture from the continuous narrative of pre-Enlightenment traditions. That is why, according to MacIntyre, conflicts between modern traditions can't be rationally settled. [...]


[...] In E. Craig Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. London: Routledge. Retrieved November from http://www.rep.routledge.com/article/R045 T. Clayton, ?Political Philosophy of Alasdair MacIntyre?, The Internet Encyclopedia of philosophy D. Keating, Ethical Project of Alasdair MacIntyre : a disquieting solution?,www.anselmphilosophy.com S. Mulhall and A. Swift, Liberals and Communitarians, Blackwells T. Clayton, ?Political Philosophy of Alasdair MacIntyre?, The Internet Encyclopedia of philosophy THOMAS, ALAN (1998). MacIntyre, Alasdair. In E. Craig Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. London: Routledge. Retrieved November from http://www.rep.routledge.com/article/R045 MacIntyre, Alasdair. After Virtue. Second Edition. [...]


[...] What is at stake here is to determined how MacIntyre can sincerely claim that some theories can escape the problem of incommensurability, while he accuses all modern theories of failing before such an issue. What distinguishes the ones from the others? Is the distinction that he draws consistent enough? I shall first consider how to escape the problem of incommensurability according to MacIntyre. Secondly I shall argue that such an account might in fact be doomed by self-contradiction. Moreover, MacIntyre's argument falls under the critique that he applies a double standard when it comes to decide between the theory he stands for (Thomism) and modern theories (especially liberalism). [...]

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