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Camden Philosophical Society: Alasdair MacIntyre’s “Dependent Rational Animals” Continued

Tuesday, July 16 @ 3:30 pm 5:00 pm

The Camden Philosophical Society will be continuing its discussion of Scottish-American moral and political philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre’s book Dependent Rational Animals at its next gathering on July 16. MacIntyre’s treatment of the importance of community – at a level larger than family but smaller than the nation – and his advocacy for “just generosity” in this context will be a particular focus of the July discussion.

If you wish to participate via Zoom, please email sarahmiller@usa.net. You will receive a Zoom invitation on the morning of the meeting. Click on the “Join Zoom Meeting” link in that invitation at the time of the event.

The Society’s July 16 meeting will, as usual, be a hybrid gathering at 3:30 pm EDT. All are welcome to participate, in-person at the Picker Room of the Camden Public Library or by Zoom. That goes for summer visitors, as well as year-rounders in Maine, and friends of the society in Portugal, England, Arizona, or wherever you may be.

Dependent Rational Animals was written in 1999. It further develops or revises a number of themes introduced by MacIntyre in his 1981 classic After Virtue. The 1999 work is available for free online here: https://vdocuments.net/alasdair-macintyre-dependent-rational-animals.html?page=1  Chapters 9-11 are the highlighted readings for July.

The initial chapters of Dependent Rational Animals raise and explore the questions of why it is important for humans to pay attention to and understand both what we have in common with other intelligent animals, and what makes “attention to human vulnerability and disability important for moral philosophers.” Beginning in Chapter 9, MacIntyre explores his contention that developing the virtues of “rational independence” and “acknowledged dependence” require social groups (communities) that differ from either the modern family or the national state.

In an attempt to bridge what is often presented as a chasm between Enlightenment individualism and the importance of community, MacIntyre equates the two: “Note that on this account the good of the individual is not subordinated to the good of the community nor vice versa. The individual, in order not just to pursue but even to define her or his good in concrete terms has first to recognize the goods of the community as goods that he or she must make her own.”

MacIntyre then ties this into a virtuous attitude that he calls “just generosity” and which he traces back to Thomas Aquinas. Again, MacIntyre sees this as a bridge between what are sometimes posed as conflicting obligations – for justice, i.e. that which is owed; and for generosity, inspired by sympathy for the suffering of others and also by pursuit of the virtue of doing good.

MacIntyre is a self-described Aristotelian-Thomist. He is a renowned proponent of virtue ethics, and of communitarianism, in contrast to liberal capitalism. Born in Scotland and educated in England, he taught initially at the UK universities of Leeds, Manchester and Oxford before moving to the US in 1969. He is an emeritus professor at the University of Notre Dame, having in addition been on the faculties of Brandeis, Duke, Vanderbilt and Boston Universities.