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e-book Nietzsches justice : naturalism in search of an ethics

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Many people today regard moral pluralism as a desirable thing and the best outcome for liberal democratic societies shaped by the Enlightenment ideals of free rational inquiry and tolerance.

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Genuine moral pluralism is impossible if the parties involved cannot enter into dialogue due to having incompatible conceptual frameworks, including different ideas about what it means to be rational. Neither can they engage in meaningful debate if the views of at least some of the parties are internally confused.


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So MacIntyre thinks that these two kinds of problem prevent moral pluralism from being a genuine possibility. See Three Rival Versions.. MacIntyre says that the failure of dialogue is connected to a failure of the Enlightenment thinkers to achieve their ambition of arriving at consensus in truth via the use of reason. The Encyclopaedists in 18th-century France, who were among the founders of the Enlightenment, cherished the belief that through the use of reason alone, human beings could agree on the truth about the way things really were by taking an objective viewpoint freed from tradition and prejudice.

Further, the work of the later Wittgenstein and of contemporary Continental philosophers influenced by Nietzsche and Heidegger have also helped to destroy the ideals of neutral objectivity in truth. MacIntyre largely accepts the various criticisms of Enlightenment objectivity as being wellfounded, and indeed directs his own criticisms at those like Donald Davidson who would try and win back some ground from all this talk about conceptual relativism.

See Whose Justice? It only remains in contemporary thought, argues MacIntyre, in a very weakened sense. Although the arguments and views derived from your tradition might appear weird and confused from the viewpoint of my tradition, it does not at all follow that they will do so to you or that our minimal shared rationality is strong enough to shift either of us from our own position.

He wants to champion a form of naturalist theory, Aristotelianism. This does not, he argues, open him to the Moorean charge that he has committed the Naturalistic Fallacy. MacIntyre sees three rival theories as dominating moral discourse at least in the West.

He calls them Tradition, Encyclopaedia, and Genealogy. It is by belonging to a tradition, by participating in it, and being changed by it as well perhaps as changing it that a person forms a moral position. There is no other way, according to MacIntyre. It is an illusion to think one can be a pure individual or possess a traditionless, timeless moral reason.

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The real choice, he tells us, is between Nietzsche and Aristotle. Nietzsche was right, he says, in exposing Enlightenment illusions of objectivity.


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The importance of Nietzsche for MacIntyre is that he is the most consistent modern thinker on morality. Nietzsche realised that this was precisely what modern moral theories like utilitarianism failed to do — they try to combine traditional virtues inconsistently with a modern view of the self. His task - by no means completed - is to try and show that Thomism is the most coherent tradition and therefore, presumably, either the most useful or the most true. Mill, Karl Marx, G. Moore, and probably also evolutionary ethical positions of the Darwinian naturalist mould. The basic flaw of all moral thinking touched by Encyclopaedia, for MacIntyre, is that it has not been chastened by the Nietzschean critique.

It is blind to its own time-bound tradition, believing it is describing human nature and its values as it is at all times and all places. In the case of Kant and Moore, the muddle derived from Enlightenment separation of fact and value is more tortuous. Close mobile search navigation Article Navigation. Volume Email: matthieu. Oxford Academic.

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Ethical Naturalism

Cite Citation. Permissions Icon Permissions. Abstract This paper argues that Nietzsche is a critic of just the kind of genealogical debunking he is popularly associated with.

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