A book review.
Paul Gosselin (2022)
MacIntyre's book has two parts. In the first half MacIntyre makes a startling claim, namely that the many attempts to develop morals within the Enlightenment worldview have failed rather miserably. The result is what MacIntyre calls emotivism, that is the claim that moral judgements are NOTHING more than the expression of emotions and thus, as a result moral judgements can have no moral or social authority. Here is how MacIntyre describes our situation (1981: 8 – my comments in brackets)
But the rival premises are such that we possess no rational way of weighing the claims of one [moral judgement] as against another. For each premise employs some quite different normative or evaluative concept from the others, so that the claims made upon us are of quite different kinds. In the first argument, for example, premises which invoke justice and innocence are at odds with premises which invoke success and survival; in the second, premises which invoke rights are at odds with those which invoke universalizability; in the third it is the claim of equality that is matched against that of liberty. It is precisely because there is in our society no established way of deciding between these claims that moral argument appears to be necessarily interminable. From our rival conclusions we can argue back to our rival premises; but when we do arrive at our premises argument ceases and the invocation of one premise against another becomes a matter of pure assertion and counter-assertion. Hence perhaps the slightly shrill tone of so much moral debate.
As MacIntyre points out, since the Enlightenment worldview ruled out an appeal to a recognized moral standard (God), this basically leads to our situation where resolution of moral discussions can only occur when one protagonist shouts louder (or gets better media coverage or hires better lawyers) than the other. This is what MacIntyre calls emotivism which leads moral discussion into a dead-end. Needless to say, the “slightly shrill tone of so much moral debate” that MacIntyre noted has, since 1981, very much escalated in the West and we now find ourselves with postmodern Brown Shirts such as AntiFa or Extinction Rebellion (England) activists being deployed to shout down and intimidate one's adversaries, insuring only certain views remain dominant. Further into the text MacIntyre observes the moral/ethical situation in the West, a deadlock leading to a paradoxical outcome (1981: 68)
Contemporary moral experience as a consequence has a paradoxical character. For each of us is taught to see himself or herself as an autonomous moral agent; but each of us also becomes engaged by modes of practice, aesthetic or bureaucratic, which involve us in manipulative relationships with others. Seeking to protect the autonomy that we have learned to prize, we aspire ourselves not to be manipulated by others; seeking to incarnate our own principles and stand-point in the world of practice, we find no way open to us to do so except by directing towards others those very manipulative modes of relationship which each of us aspires to resist in our own case.
As MacIntyre points out, our present state of affairs regarding morality and ethics has its roots in Hume's Law, that is to the Scottish philosopher David Hume's is/ought dilemma. Basically Hume denied that moral/ethical claims, duties or rules can be derived from empirical facts. Early on in his book (pp. 57-59), MacIntyre rejects Hume's is/ought claim that empirical facts cannot lead to moral/ethical claims, duties or rules. MacIntyre's discussion of Hume's Law is brief and in my view inconclusive. Here is an argument offered by MacIntyre against Hume (1981: 57)
There are several types of valid argument in which some element may appear in a conclusion which is not present in the premises. A.N. Prior's counter-example to this alleged principle illustrates its breakdown adequately; from the premise 'He is a sea-captain', the conclusion may be validly inferred that 'He ought to do whatever a sea-captain ought to do'. This counter-example not only shows that there is no general principle of the type alleged; but it itself shows what is at least a grammatical truth - an 'is' premise can on occasion entail an 'ought' conclusion.
This argument is unconvincing, little more than a word-game... The sleigh of hand involved is that the audience should not notice that Prior has snuck in an ought (or moral duty) into his first statement. Prior's ‘Sea-Captain' is not a brut empirical fact such as a lump of coal, a ton of steel or a litre of water. The ‘Sea-Captain' is intrinsically a moral/ethical being, with commitments to duties regarding the handling of his ship, duties regarding port authorities as well as duties regarding managing his crew. This is the only reason why Prior's next assertion, 'He ought to do whatever a sea-captain ought to do', appears acceptable. Otherwise this statement would be meaningless... Should an orang-utan identify as a ‘Sea-Captain' then quite possibly expectations about “What a Sea-captain ought to do”, may very well take sudden, unexpected turns. So basically Prior has cheated in attempting to refute Hume's Law, as his ‘Sea-Captain' is already a moral/ethical being. And just for fun, replace Prior's ‘Sea-Captain' with the expression ‘human being', then open a history book detailing the horrible things humans have done to each other over time. What conclusion could we then draw regarding that ‘a ‘human being' ought to do whatever a ‘human being' ought to do'?? One could then conclude that, since it is a FACT that History demonstrates that humans have always been at war with one another, then nations ‘ought' to go to war (for whatever reason)...
A few paragraphs further down in the same chapter, MacIntyre attempts to circumvent Hume's Law with his “bad watch” and “good farmer” examples, but goes on to concede (1981: 58):
Yet moral arguments within the classical, Aristotelian tradition - whether in its Greek or its medieval versions - involve at least one central functional concept, the concept of man understood as having an essential nature and an essential purpose or function; and it is when and only when the classical tradition in its integrity has been substantially rejected that moral arguments change their character so that they fall within the scope of some version of the 'No "ought" conclusion from "is" premises' principle. That is to say, 'man' stands to 'good man' as 'watch' stands to 'good watch' or 'farmer' to 'good farmer' within the classical tradition.
MacIntyre is right. If one commits to the belief in an origins myth that provides a basis for clear and authoritative statements about human nature, then one can escape Hume's Law, but what MacIntyre does not recognize is that Enlightenment devotees who have bought into the Darwinian materialistic origins myth now dominant in the West have no such basis for clear statements about human nature (and derivative ethical duties, rules). In their case, Hume's Law is absolute and inescapable. While philosophers may balk at drawing such grim conclusions, scientists have done so. William B. Provine, professor of biology at Cornell University, made the following comments on the cultural and philosophical implications of the materialistic origins myth, the theory of evolution (1990: 23):
"(...), when he [Darwin] deduced the theory of natural selection to explain the adaptations in which he had previously seen the handiwork of God, Darwin knew that he was committing cultural murder. He understood immediately that if natural selection explained adaptations, and evolution by descent were true, then the argument from design was dead and all that went with it, namely the existence of a personal god, free will, life after death, immutable moral laws, and ultimate meaning in life. The immediate reactions to Darwin's On the Origin of Species exhibit, in addition to favourable and admiring responses from a relatively few scientists, an understandable fear and disgust that has never disappeared from Western culture."
Of course Provine is right. The Darwinian materialistic origins myth does leave us with a very grim worldview. And 20th century History has provided grim empirical examples of nations that attempted to build a civilisation on this basis. I expect that MacIntyre, like many others, believes in the dominant materialistic origins myth, but perhaps finds the moral implications of this myth somewhat distasteful and as a result attempts to evade them and restore some form of immutable moral laws that could give shape and meaning to human existence.
But getting back to the reactions to Hume's Law over time, now we come to the 19th century. While it is unlikely the Russian novelist Fydor Dostoyevsky ever heard of Hume's Law, he seems to have become well aware of the moral implications of the materialistic worldview (the legitimate child of the Enlightenment). In the Brothers Karamazov (1880) Dostoyevsky has a character bluntly asserting: “Without God (...) all things are permitted.” In the same time period, Frederick Nietzsche (who's worldview was radically opposed to Dostoyevsky's) made some rather biting remarks regarding attempts to preserve moral rules in the context of the Enlightenment worldview remarks that converge on Dostoyevsky's. In his 1889 essay Twilight of the Idols (ix.5), Nietzsche cynically remarked:
"G. Eliot. They are rid of the Christian God and now believe all the more firmly that they must cling to Christian morality. That is an English consistency; we do not wish to hold it against little moralistic females à la Eliot. In England one must rehabilitate oneself after every little emancipation from theology by showing in a veritably awe-inspiring manner what a moral fanatic one is. That is the penance they pay there.
"We others hold otherwise. When one gives up the Christian faith, one pulls the right to Christian morality out from under one's feet. This morality is by no means self-evident: this point has to be exhibited again and again, despite the English flatheads. Christianity is a system, a whole view of things thought out together. By breaking one main concept out of it, the faith in God, one breaks the whole: nothing necessary remains in one's hands. Christianity presupposes that man does not know, cannot know, what is good for him, what evil: he believes in God, who alone knows it. Christian morality is a command; its origin is transcendent; it is beyond all criticism, all right to criticism; it has truth only if God is the truth - it stands or falls with faith in God.
"When the English actually believe that they know 'intuitively' what is good and evil, when they therefore suppose that they no longer require Christianity as the guarantee of morality, we merely witness the effects of the dominion of the Christian value judgment and an expression of the strength and depth of this dominion: such that the origin of English morality has been forgotten, such that the very conditional character of its right to existence is no longer felt. For the English, morality is not yet a problem."
Oddly enough, in this quote, Nietzsche is not targeting English philosophers, but an English novelist. “G. Eliot” is in fact George Eliot, the pseudonym used by the English novelist Mary Ann Evans (Middlemarch being one of Eliot's more famous novels)... It is somewhat unusual that Nietzsche would bother complaining about English novelists, but one could expect that Mary Ann Evans/Eliot was just following a general trend among English intelligentsia of the time and as a result Nietzsche considered her a fair “representative” of that trend...
Would Nietzsche view MacIntyre's attempt to develop morals based on Aristotle's philosophy in the same manner? Despite the fact that MacIntyre is not stealth promoting a revival of Judeo-Christian ethics (but one referring to Aristotle), I suspect the answer would be yes. And years before Nietzsche made these comments, an Englishman had replied with similar comments about moral posturing on the Continent. When the French Republican Declaration of Rights was published, Jeremy Bentham reacted with his (1796) text Anarchical Fallacies. Perhaps influenced by Hume, Jeremy Bentham rejected the concept of Natural Rights claimed by the Declaration, that is the concept of human rights inscribed in nature. Bentham bluntly asserts that Nature provides for no such thing as rights (1796/1818: 501):
That which has no existence cannot be destroyed—that which cannot be destroyed cannot require anything to preserve it from destruction. Natural rights is simple nonsense: natural and imprescriptible rights, rhetorical nonsense,—nonsense upon stilts. But this rhetorical nonsense ends in the old strain of mischievous nonsense: for immediately a list of these pretended natural rights is given, and those are so expressed as to present to view legal rights. And of these rights, whatever they are, there is not, it seems, any one of which any government can, upon any occasion whatever, abrogate the smallest particle.
MacIntyre's revival of virtue
As I noted beginning this review, MacIntyre's book has two parts. In the second, MacIntyre asserts that the West's moral deadlock can be resolved by evoking a system of morals based on a revival of Aristotle's catalogue of virtues. But as he goes about doing so, MacIntyre casually mentions (p. 162) that he rejects Aristotle's acceptance of slavery. Why does MacIntyre reject this particular aspect of Aristotle's moral system? What is his basis for this rejection? Is there perhaps some other moral standard he is NOT telling us about? In the final analysis it appears that MacIntyre's reference to an “Aristotelian moral tradition” is an arbitrary pick and chose affair. This is particularly true if one considers that slavery has long been an accepted part of the human “moral tradition”. Even North American First Nations practiced slavery before the arrival of Europeans.
As we have seen, most moderns have despaired of developing a coherent moral system. Philosophers are of course the exception to this rule and can be observed to make great efforts to avoid this trap. Most of these attempts at moral systems within the Enlightenment worldview are fated to get read by a few professional colleagues, with luck, garner a review or two (in a journal read by a handful of people), then die a painless death and go on to slowly collect dust on shelves in university libraries. The verdict is out. The man on the street quickly understands that no one can live by these obscure moral systems, probably not even their own authors... One may ask: whose life has been demonstrably (and lastingly) changed by MacIntyre's revival of Aristotelian virtues? This is where the rubber hits the road...
MacIntyre, of course, fits this pattern. A parallel attempt at a coherent moral system was put forward by another Enlightenment devotee, a cheerful fellow (who lived in the generation following David Hume) called Donatien Alphonse François, the marquis de Sade. As a pre-Darwinian materialist, de Sade faced the question that if the gods are dead, then where should humans turn to for moral standards? In contrast to MacIntyre's convoluted proposal to revive Aristotelian virtues and morality, Sade's solution to this dilemma is straightforward and easy to understand; imitate Nature. Working on this basis, here is how de Sade worked out the implications of his moral system in regards to relationships between men and women. (Sade 1795/1965: my comments in brackets)
If then it becomes incontestable that we [men] have received from Nature the right indiscriminately to express our [sexual] wishes to all women, it likewise becomes incontestable that we have the right to compel their submission, not exclusively [Sade rejects marriage], for I should then be contradicting myself, but temporarily. It cannot be denied that we have the right to decree laws that compel woman to yield to the flames of him who would have her; violence itself being one of that right's effects, we can employ it lawfully. Indeed! Has Nature not proven that we have that right, by bestowing upon us the strength needed to bend women to our will?
Now this raises a question for MacIntyre, “Would you agree with the Marquis de Sade who basically states that because it is an empirical fact that Nature has made men stronger than women, this justifies men doing absolutely ANYTHING they want to women?” Seeing MacIntyre rejects Hume's Law, would he agree one should derive an “ought” from this particular natural “is”? If a materialist were to agree with de Sade, then I would say that he/she is logical and consistent with his/her worldview. That said, as a follower of Christ I do NOT agree with Sade's materialism, nor with his view of male/female relationships, but I do agree he is at least being consistent within his worldview and with his basic presuppositions on this matter. However if MacIntyre were to disagree with de Sade's view of male/female relationships, then I would demand he justify his disagreement and give us evidence for what the BASIS for his disagreement is.
Besides de Sade, I would also consider animal rights activist and philosopher Peter Singer as one of the very few logically consistent (and dangerous) materialists. Nietzsche comes close, but only talks (in Also Spoke Zarathustra?) about "dancing at the edge of the Abyss", whereas de Sade and philosopher Peter Singer actually dive in... Perhaps I should throw in the French Existentialist philosopher Albert Camus who in his essay The Rebel (1951/1978: 13) regarding moral laws brutally observed (perhaps echoing Dostoyevsky):
If we believe in nothing, if nothing has any meaning and if we can affirm no values whatsoever, then everything is possible and nothing has any importance. There is no pro or con: the murderer is neither right nor wrong. We are free to stoke the crematory fires [participate in the Final Solution] or to devote ourselves to the care of lepers. Evil and virtue are mere chance or caprice.
The Marquis de Sade, pursuing his materialist logic to the end, made significant remarks about murder (1795/1965: 329-330):
What is man and what difference is there between him and other plants, between him and all the other animals of the world? None, obviously. Fortuitously placed, like them, upon this globe, he is born like them; like them, he reproduces, rises, and falls; like them he arrives at old age and sinks like them into nothingness at the close of the life span. Nature assigns each species of animal, in accordance with its organic construction. Since the parallels are so exact that the inquiring eye of philosophy is absolutely unable to perceive any grounds for discrimination, there is then just as much evil in killing animals as men, or just as little, and whatever be the distinctions we make, they will be found to stem from our pride's prejudices, than which, unhappily, nothing is more absurd.
But getting back to the issue of morals, as a Social Anthropologist, the observable phenomenon of universal human development of moral codes is actually excellent evidence for man's uniqueness in the animal world. Humans have this strange tendency to make up verbal (or written) codes or rules for human interaction rather than relying on instinct. And if man is unique in this regard, then where does this uniqueness come from? Unfortunately, the Judeo-Christian worldview has an answer for that (as well as for his stupidity, inhumanity and inability to live up to these moral codes, not to mention mental instability). Of course, from an evolutionary point of view this phenomenon of developing moral codes can be “explained” (as always), but it is NOT expected or predicted.
There is a very practical issue confronting MacIntyre's proposal of revived Aristotelian virtues that MacIntyre does not address: How to sell it to the postmodern masses? The typical reaction of the postmodern individual to any moral system claiming universality is to loudly exclaim: “Don't ram your religion/moral system down my throat!” All of which raises the basic question why a moral system developed by a dead Greek guy should be binding on ME? The basic issue is then authority, as postmoderns believe each individual is their own moral authority. A moral code claiming submission from more that one individual must then be justified. While the name “Aristotle” still carries some prestige among philosophers, MacIntyre makes no attempt to justify Aristotle's authority to the man on the street.
On the other hand the Judeo-Christian moral system provides a rational basis for its authority as it links it's moral system to the Creator/God, the One who knows what is best for humans. If a manufacturer provides its clients with a “User manual” for a device or machine they sell, then it is rational to consider this manual as a critical reference to the use of said device/machine. No one will claim that the manufacturer is being intolerant, racist or colonialistic by publishing such a manual. By the same token, if one admits the concept of an omniscient Creator/God, then it is rational to consider his User manual (God's Word) as a critical reference for individual human lives and the development of civilisations. A Creator/God has clear authority and credibility to tell his creatures how to live, how to run their moral, sexual, economic and relational lives... All of which of course is heresy in postmodern eyes...
Yes, of course in the Postmodern West the claim that the development of civilisations should specifically refer to God's Word or the Bible will inevitably draw VERY strong reactions. I am not being flippant about this. History shows us how Enlightenment social experiments have played out in the 20th century. Abundant empirical/historical data in this regard is available. Here are a few tidbits to chew on... Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the Russian dissident and novelist, Nobel Prize winner and Gulag survivor, as over the years he reflected on the horrors and millions of deaths produced by over 70 years of communism in Russia, in his Templeton address made a revealing comment regarding the WHY? question (1983):
More than half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened. Since then I have spent well-nigh fifty years working on the history of our Revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous Revolution that swallowed up some sixty million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened.
While Solzhenitsyn provides us with an important clue, in my view he does not go far enough with his claim that the early 20th Russian elites (followed by Communist politicians) had "forgotten God". The issue is much deeper. Rather, modern elites did everything in their power to remove God from the equation, that is, by eliminating all traces of Judeo-Christian influence in the West. Nietzsche's famous statement “God is Dead!” sums it up rather well. But, the critical point Solzhenitsyn misses is that once God is cut out of the equation, then Man is Dead too, that is Man, made in the image of God, now loses any intrinsic value. Which leads to Lenin's heartless quip, “To make omelettes, you have to break a few eggs...” Man is just a heap of molecules, nothing more... Why should anyone have "moral duties" to a heap of molecules?? What would be the point? Since Darwin, the only moral duty left to moderns is Survive! This is an issue that as a young atheist, CS Lewis ran into as he was reflecting on one of the common arguments against Christianity. In Mere Christianity, Lewis observes that, when closely examined, this argument raised an unexpected question for the origin of morals (1943/1977: 45-46).
If a good God made the world why has it gone wrong? and for many years I simply refused to listen to the Christian answers to this question, because I kept on feeling "whatever you say, and however clever your arguments are, isn't it much simpler and easier to say that the world was not made by any intelligent power? aren't all your arguments simply a complicated attempt to avoid the obvious?" But then that threw me back into another difficulty.
My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? if the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet.
Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too — for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist — in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless — I found i was forced to assume that one part of reality — namely my idea of justice — was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. if the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.
I wonder if MacIntyre would recognize that the West's “moral tradition” that he so heavily relies on was massively eroded in the 20th century. For example, while Germany has given the world great scientists, philosophers, and musicians such as Bach and Beethoven, it also gave us Hitler and the Final Solution. In his essay Grammars of Creation, UK literary critic George Steiner made telling comments about this time period when Enlightenment concepts were actually implemented for nation and civilisation-building. How did that experiment go down? (2001: 4-5):
The catastrophe which overtook European and Slavic civilization was particular in another sense. It undid previous advances. Even the ironists of the Enlightenment (Voltaire) had confidently predicted the lasting abolition of judicial torture in Europe. They had ruled inconceivable a general return to censorship, to the burning of books, let alone of heretics or dissenters. Nineteenth-century liberalism and scientific positivism regarded as self-evident the expectation that the spread of schooling, of scientific-technological knowledge and yield, of free travel and contact among communities would bring with them a steady improvement in civility, in political tolerance, in the mores of private and public business. Each of these axioms of reasoned hope has been proved false. It is not only that education has shown itself incapable of making sensibility and cognition resistant to murderous unreason. Far more disturbingly, the evidence is that refined intellectuality, artistic virtuosity and appreciation, scientific eminence will collaborate actively with totalitarian demands or, at best, remain indifferent to surrounding sadism. Resplendent concerts, exhibitions in great museums, the publication of learned books, the pursuit of academic research both scientific and humanistic, flourish within close reach of the death camps. Technocratic ingenuity will serve or remain neutral at the call of the inhuman. The icon of our age is the preservation of a grove dear to Goethe within a concentration camp.
Of course these are matters that moderns and postmoderns consistently avoid... And should such issues be seriously raised, they are quite adept at turning the tables and pointing the finger at any other available target. If 20th century Russians and Germans had front row seats to see what communist and Nazi elites would do, in the 21st century we now have front row seats to see what postmodern elites will do with all the ABSOLUTE power they currently have. And one should also keep in mind that the postmodern elites presently in power in the West are just as ardent believers in the materialistic origins myth as the Nazis or Communists ever were...
While moderns consistently rejected the supernatural, religion or even the occult, with postmoderns all these are now back in fashion. The door to “spirituality” is open. In the 21st century, the hardcore materialism of the New Atheists is a hard sell and as a result the concept of a Paradise (going to a “Better Place”) after death has again become attractive to many. But this leads to a paradox as postmoderns determinedly reject all moral absolutes. The postmodern mass-marketing meme/motto is of course: “Everyone has their own truth”. Since for the postmodern there can be no Truth or Law standing over the individual, dictating right and wrong, then the concept of a Last Judgement in the next life is out of the question. This leads to a comforting thought, that the postmodern Paradise/“Better Place” will welcome all, no questions asked... How nice...
But on more serious reflection, this entails that the postmodern Paradise/“Better Place”, being an inclusive place after all, will welcome, not only the greatest paragons of virtue and altruism, the 'good' people, but also the Others, all those despised individuals such as Hitler, Stalin, Pol-Pot and the neighbourhood serial killer, paedophile or rapist. Imagine then a world where such people enjoy perfect health, endless ressources and an eternity to develop their evil... Once such considerations are given serious thought and marketing hype is stripped away, the postmodern Paradise/“Better Place” shows its true face, a Hell...
Even in this present life, if postmoderns hold "Everyone has their own truth" as an axiom for civilisation then there are no obstacles to all the selfishness, manipulation, lunacy, bloodthirsty wickedness or sexual perversions which human nature is capable of. And this has political repercussions as well since a culture based on "Everyone has their own truth", in the face of the postmodern State (and/or the media elites), which claims to represent the Community, the collective, it follows that the individual has no recourse to a morality above the State. There is no authority above the State. The individual now has no basis to criticise the State or call it to account and is therefore totally at its mercy. And there is accumulating evidence that in the 21st century postmodern elites consider the rights of the individual and his or her privacy as entirely contingent, disposable concepts. Why should it be otherwise? Postmoderns reject any belief in an Absolute...
A Covid Crisis Aside
While MacIntyre's After Virtue was published many years before the Covid crisis (1981) nonetheless MacIntyre offers interesting observations about bureaucrats (which of course includes the “scientific experts” which have come into so much political power during the Covid crisis). First of all MacIntyre observes that bureaucrats and the managerial class typically rely on the Social Sciences (economics, sociology) for their authority yet, as MacIntyre points out, the Social Sciences do not provide any predictive power or claim to law-like behaviour (as do physics or chemistry), which leads him to conclude their authority is bogus. And while a technocrat such as Anthony Fauci claims authority from health science, when he puts in place SOCIAL POLICIES, he is stepping outside his field and is inevitably relying on the Social Sciences. Here is a (lengthy) lively quote, which details MacIntyre's rather cynical view of “experts” and rather aptly describes the medical technocrats that have emerged in the Covid crisis (1981: 106-107)
But that rebuttal entails also a large rejection of the claims of what I called bureaucratic managerial expertise. And with this rejection one part of my argument at least has been completed. The expert's claim to status and reward is fatally undermined when we recognize that he possesses no sound stock of law-like generalizations and when we realize how weak the predictive power available to him is. The concept of managerial effectiveness is after all one more contemporary moral fiction and perhaps the most important of them all. The dominance of the manipulative mode in our culture is not and cannot be accompanied by very much actual success in manipulation. I do not of course mean that the activities of purported experts do not have effects and that we do not suffer from those effects and suffer gravely. But the notion of social control embodied in the notion of expertise is indeed a masquerade. Our social order is in a very literal sense out of our, and indeed anyone's, control. No one is or could be in charge.
Belief in managerial expertise is, then on the view that I have taken, very like what belief in God was thought to be by Carnap and Ayer. It is one more illusion and a peculiarly modern one, the illusion of a power not ourselves that claims to make for righteousness. Hence the manager as character is other than he at first sight seems to be: the social world of everyday hard-headed practical pragmatic no-nonsense realism which is the environment of management is one which depends for its sustained existence on the systematic perpetuation of misunderstanding and of belief in fictions. The fetishism of commodities has been supplemented by another just as important fetishism, that of bureaucratic skills. For it follows from my whole argument that the realm of managerial expertise is one in which what purport to be objectively-grounded claims function in fact as expressions of arbitrary, but disguised, will and preference. Keynes's description of how Moore's disciples advanced their private preferences under the cover of identifying the presence or absence of a non-rational property of goodness, a property which was in fact a fiction, deserves a contemporary sequel in the form of an equally elegant and telling description of how in the social world of corporations and governments private preferences are advances under the cover of identifying the presence or absence of the findings of experts. And just as the Keynesian description suggested why emotivism is so convincing a thesis, so would such a modern sequel. The effects of eighteenth-century prophecy have been to produce not scientifically managed social control, but a skillful dramatic imitation of such control. It is histrionic success which gives power and authority in our culture. The most effective bureaucrat is the best actor.
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Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr (1983) “Godlessness: the First Step to the Gulag”. Templeton Prize Lecture, 10 May 1983 (London)
Steiner, George (2001) Grammars of Creation. Yale University Press New Haven 347p.
 - And that some parties should sponsor or tolerate such activism is a comment on the rational strength of these said parties arguments and views... It should be noted that the use of intimidation and violence in debate would line up with views expressed by Mao who once said: “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun” (1927). "Every communist must grasp the truth, 'Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.'" (1938, Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung, II, pp. 224–225.)
 - Drawn from Hume's Treatise of Human Nature book III, part I, section I - 1739.
 - It is understandable that MacIntyre should dismiss Hume's Law, as this is necessary before his own proposed revival of Aristotelian virtues can gain any traction. It would appear that MacIntyre has examined Hume's Law more extensively in:
MacIntyre, A.C. (1969). Hume on ‘is' and ‘ought'. In: Hudson, W.D. (eds) The Is-Ought Question. Controversies in Philosophy. Palgrave Macmillan, London.
 - Though it is hard to tell if MacIntyre is convinced this is a critical argument against Hume's Law.
 - Unless it is the sole duty to survive and transmit one's genes, by any means available...
 - Like many other modern or postmodern academics, one should not expect that MacIntyre make such a connection.
 - Perhaps T. S. Eliot had such matters in mind when he wrote The Wasteland (1922).
 - It appears that Richard Dawkins, the arch-evolutionist, was caught in this same trap. In an interview on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, he observed (Dawkins 2000):
There have in the past been attempts to base a morality on evolution. I don't want to have anything to do with that. The kind of world that a Darwinian, going back to survival of the fittest now, and nature red in tooth and claw, I think nature really is red in tooth and claw. I think if you look out at the way wild nature is, out there in the bush, in the prairie, it is extremely ruthless, extremely unpleasant, it's exactly the kind of world that I would not wish to live in. And so any kind of politics that is based upon Darwinism for me would be bad politics, it would be immoral. Putting it another way, I'm a passionate Darwinian when it comes to science, when it comes to explaining the world, but I'm a passionate anti-Darwinian when it comes to morality and politics.
From a Darwinian fundamentalist such as Dawkins, this is a rather startling and paradoxical admission.
 - Part 4, Book 11, Chapter 4.
 - This quote is clearly an irritant to some... Here is a pertinent note:
Andrei I. Volkov (2011) Dostoevsky Did Say It: A Response to David E. Cortesi. (The Secular Web / Infidels)
 - At it's mature, materialistic, stage of course. The early deistic phase of the Enlightenment was only required for marketing purposes...
 - This was something CS Lewis encountered as just after WWI as he began his studies in British universities. At the time he was a zealous atheist. In his autobiography (Surprised by Joy), Lewis observed that little had changed since Nietzsche's initial observations regarding the English intelligentsia (1955: 209-210)
But there were in those days all sorts of blankets, insulators, and insurances which enabled one to get all the conveniences of Theism, without believing in God. The English Hegelians, writers like T. H. Green, Bradley, and Bosanquet (then mighty names), dealt in precisely such wares. The Absolute Mind — better still, the Absolute — was impersonal, or it knew itself (but not us?) only in us, and it was so absolute that it wasn't really much more like a mind than anything else. And anyway, the more muddled one got about it and the more contradictions one committed, the more this proved that our discursive thought moved only on the level of "Appearance", and "Reality" must be somewhere else. And where else but, of course, in the Absolute? There, not here, was "the fuller splendour" behind the "sensuous curtain". The emotion that went with all this was certainly religious. But this was a religion that cost nothing. We could talk religiously about the Absolute: but there was no danger of Its doing anything about us. It was "there"; safely and immovably "there". It would never come "here", never (to be blunt) make a nuisance of Itself. This quasi-religion was all a one-way street; all eros (as Dr. Nygren would say) steaming up, but no agape darting down. There was nothing to fear; better still, nothing to obey.
 - Though, MacIntyre's rejection of Aristotle's defence of slavery raises such questions... On such matters, I suspect that Nietzsche would have observed (1866/1966: 98)
"What the scholars called a 'rational foundation for morality' and tried to supply was, seen in the right light, merely a scholarly expression of the common faith in the prevalent morality; a new means of expression for this faith."
 - Aristides of Athens, a 2nd century Christian philosopher, made a similar point regarding Greco-Roman polytheism, observing it provided no reasonable basis for a coherent moral system (125 A.D.: VIII):
Let us turn further to the Greeks also, that we may know what opinion they hold as to the true God. The Greeks, then, because they are more subtle than the Barbarians, have gone further astray than the Barbarians; inasmuch as they have introduced many fictitious gods, and have set up some of them as males and some as females; and in that some of their gods were found who were adulterers, and did murder, and were deluded, and envious, and wrathful and passionate, and parricides, and thieves, and robbers. And some of them, they say, were crippled and limped, and some were sorcerers, and some actually went mad, and some played on lyres, and some were given to roaming on the hills, and some even died, and some were struck dead by lightning, and some were made servants even to men, and some escaped by flight, and some were kidnapped by men, and some, indeed, were lamented and deplored by men. And some, they say, went down to Sheol, and some were grievously wounded, and some transformed themselves into the likeness of animals to seduce the race of mortal women, and some polluted themselves by lying with males And some, they say, were wedded to their mothers and their sisters and their daughters. And they say of their gods that they committed adultery with the daughters of men; and of these there was born a certain race which also was mortal. And they say that some of the females disputed about beauty, and appeared before men for judgment. Thus, O King, have the Greeks put forward foulness, and absurdity, and folly about their gods and about themselves, in that they have called those that are of such a nature gods, who are no gods. And hence mankind have received incitements to commit adultery and fornication, and to steal and to practise all that is offensive and hated and abhorred. For if they who are called their gods practised all these things which are written above, how much more should men practise them—men, who believe that their gods themselves practised them.
(XIII) For behold! when the Greeks made laws they did not perceive that by their laws they condemn their gods. For if their laws are righteous, their gods are unrighteous, since they transgressed the law in killing one another, and practising sorcery, and committing adultery, and in robbing and stealing, and in lying with males, and by their other practises as well. For if their gods were right in doing all these things as they are described, then the laws of the Greeks are unrighteous in not being made according to the will of their gods. And in that case the whole world is gone astray.
 - Perhaps a hint of an explanation may be contained in MacIntyre's conversion to catholicism in the 1980's... Regarding slavery one should take into consideration here that one of the first voices in history to condemn this institution was a Christian, the famous Saint Patrick (385-461 AD), in his Letter to the soldiers of Coroticus. This was of course a case of Christian on Christian slavery as a British king had killed and enslaved Patrick's Irish converts...
 - Another more recent example that comes to mind is evolutionist Mark Hauser, offering another attempt at a moral system based on Evolution with his Moral Minds: How Nature Designed a Universal Sense of Right and Wrong? (2006). Since the publication of this book Hauser has had to face accusations of scientific misconduct in his research and publications. Why am I not surprised??
 - Humans, even philosophers, deeply need to self-image themselves as “moral beings”...
 - Singer has advocated the killing of intellectually handicapped children (or using them for scientific experiments). More on this in my Flight From the Absolute, volume 1.
 - Now contrast this view of the value of human life with that of a Christian. CS Lewis wrote (in Green & Hooper 1979: 204)
There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations - these are mortal... But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit... Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object present to your senses.
 - Sade is certainly not a guilt-ridden creature; he has absolutely no interest in such hang-ups. His concept of moral conscience is much more economical and coherent than that of most modern philosophers (1795/1965: 332):
Let us deign for a moment to illumine our spirit by philosophy's sacred flame; what other than Nature's voice suggests to us personal hatreds, revenges, wars, in a word, all those causes of perpetual murder? Now, if she incites us to murderous acts, she has need of them; that once grasped, how may we suppose ourselves guilty in her regard when we do nothing more than obey her intentions?
 - In the appendix to his Abolition of Man C.S. Lewis, toyed with a similar concept, the Tao, that is a more or less universal moral system among humans. I would tend to be more pessimistic than Lewis was on this matter. Lewis seemed to advocate the idea that all humans would (instinctively) promote the Tao and attempt to live by it. But in my view, the 20th century has demonstrated that even as an abstract ideal, the Tao (including the Golden Rule) has been hugely eroded in the West. Relentlessly propagated ideologies have proven rather effective in undermining the Tao.
 - Refer to Genesis 1: 27: “And God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”
 - Refer to the Doctrine of the Fall...
 - Of course Enlightenment devotees have an escape hatch, the “Hitler was a Good Christian” meme, to (conveniently) avoid any serious thinking about such matters...
 - After the initial party...
 - Think Community Standards....
 - Here MacIntyre echoes what CS Lewis said of the Conditioners in his philosophical booklet Abolition of Man (originally published in 1943).