… we are all already in a state so disastrous that there are no large remedies for it.

Alasdair MacIntyre, in After Virtue

+ + +

This quote is lifted from Chapter One, “A Disquieting Suggestion,” in Alasdair MacIntyre’s widely acclaimed 1981 book on moral philosophy, its current state, and ours.

Reading it once again sheds light on the darkness of today.  Yes, on our present pitiful state of being – on our intellectual, social, political, emotional, and interpersonal deficits and the absence of wise leadership.

In Chapter One, MacIntyre imagines a world in which the natural sciences suffer a catastrophe when natural disasters are blamed on scientists and riots destroy laboratories, scientists are hung, books are burned, instruments destroyed while a Know-Nothing political movement seizes power and abolishes all science education while imprisoning all who vary from its prohibitions.

With but few remnants of scientific truths remaining, people are unable to resuscitate what once was, what once was known and common.

In this condition, people’s discourse on matters scientific invoked scientific reference here and there, but none of what they said made any sense.

What was lost, could not be recovered.

In After Virtue, MacIntyre explores what might happen if we lost our moral bearings, our reference to what we learned over the centuries, lost the place of moral reasoning and its easy integration into decisions and human existence.

As he says … a disastrous state ensues.

Now some 35 years after he wrote After Virtue, it is hard not to ask: have we come to what MacIntyre imagined in our moral ife?  Have we not lost our capacity for moral reasoning? Forfeited our intellectual legacy that stretches back 2,000 years or more?

Think about it.  Killing the unborn is a constitutionally protected right.  Selling the body parts of aborted children is acceptable.  Pornography is widespread.  Sadly, while homicides among African-Americans are largely confined to Black-on-Black violence, we listen to those who focus on the dubious proposition that White police officers are the principle cause of homicides in their communities.  Drug addictions and mass murders are too common.

Likewise, we are all bundled up in odd propositions surrounding sexual conduct and are attentive to demands pursued thereto.

Then, there is the legalization of drugs, the redefinition of marriage, unlawful expansion of federal executive initiative, an inert federal legislature, corrupt bureaucracies, unprotected national borders, the unraveling of long-standing allied relationships … The lost goes on.

We seem lost, much as MacIntyre describes.  How did we get there?

Well, I am old enough to remember when we discarded moral philosophy in law school in favor of ethics.  We did something quite the same in teacher education.  Out with moral reasoning, in with the rule book.  Applying rules is a far cry from moral life lived.

Additionally, we waltzed away from God, convinced that we were sufficient unto ourselves.

And finally, we touted but one guiding index – equality as if equality alone, detached from morality, was a Holy Grail.

Nice try – we now look and act like the crew of Monty Python, but have no remote understanding that we impose this grotesque image on one another, and in a hostile and dangerous world waiting for easy prey.


Note – Alastair MacIntyre is a Scot.  He has taught at a number of great universities in the U.S. and in Europe.  He arrived at Notre Dame as an atheist and Marxist.  In due time, he became a Catholic and migrated from Marxism.  Would that we might follow his path.