The topic of virtue ethics demands special attention and the necessary contrapositions to evaluate its achievements. A. MacIntyre and I. Kant are quite important personalities in the tradition of moral philosophy. Both of them reflect on and try to approach critically Aristotle’s attitude to this matter. Thus, their critical approaches are worth more profound and analytical examination, and it determines the main goal of this work.
According to it, the paper is divided into four main sections, except the conclusion. In the first part, there is the position of MacIntyre who elucidates Aristotelian virtue ethics. The next part is dedicated to the Kantian position towards the moral philosophy. In the third part, the author gives the comparison of the two different conceptions of successful morality of MacIntyre and Kant. Finally, the last section contains the explanation and illustration of the strength of MacIntyre’s arguments over Kantian ones.
Position of MacIntyre on Behalf of Aristotle’s Virtue Ethics
In the investigation After Virtue, the Scottish philosopher A. MacIntyre proposes the analysis of the Aristotelian morality. The work contains the historical review of the previous philosophical achievements and contributions towards this topic. The sufficient viewpoint of this book pertains to the Kantian critique of the Greek predecessor.
Primarily, MacIntyre elucidates the attitudes of Aristotle and Kant towards action. The Greek representative reckons that action and physics form the whole unity. At the same time, the German rejects the Aristotelian position and supposes that actions should confirm to the moral imperatives. Therefore, this is the first difference between Aristotle and Kant that concerns to action.
Secondly, the two thinkers possess different conceptions of the virtues and inclination. Aristotle maintains that the action comes from the inclination, which the virtues cultivate. On the contrary, Kant proposes the idea that the virtuous action means the action against inclination. Thus, the difference in these standpoints explains the antithesis between the virtue and inclination.
Finally, the interrelation between the virtues is also perceived differently by the philosophers. On behalf of Aristotle, MacIntyre elucidates, “excellence of character and intelligence cannot be separated” (154). As for Kant, he contradicts the previous statement and writes, “one can be both good and stupid” (MacIntyre 155) at the same time. These quotations illustrate the misunderstanding of the interrelationship between the central virtues.
Consequently, the position of MacIntyre in regard to the Kantian critique of Aristotle contains three blocks of oppositions. They mean the correlation between the couples of action-physics, virtue-inclination, and virtue-virtue. In sum, MacIntyre reviews these points in his After Virtue.
Position of Kant Towards Aristotelian Morality
According to Kantian Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, Aristotle personifies the lasting ancient tradition. It provides the peculiar attitude upon the matter of virtue. Kant’s critique of Aristotle is less evident than MacIntyre’s one as his standpoint is too generalized and lengthy.
To begin with, two strong positions pertain to different basic notions in the context of moral philosophy. Kant considers Pure Reason as the power of will that is the key issue in ethics. Meanwhile, for Aristotle, the desire or a posteriori action plays the significant role in the morals. Therefore, the peculiarity of the both concepts is essential.
Moreover, Kantian and Aristotelian interpretations of the happiness differ from one another. Aristotle affirms that to be happy means being moral. Kant regrets that Aristotle misinterpreted the sense of this notion as this state elucidates the Good Will in itself. In sum, the conception of happiness is different in the proposed standpoints.
Overall, the Kantian idea dissents from the Aristotelian one in two main aspects. The first one lies in the key points of the philosophies. The second one elucidates the various approaches towards happiness. Consequently, these two combinations of the notions provide the Kantian critique of Aristotle.
MacIntyre’s and Kant’s Conceptions of a Successful Moral Philosophy
Both MacIntyre and Kant have different views on the successful, moral philosophy. Their standpoints vary according to the previous traditions and the sociocultural contexts that determine the power of influence on the receivers. Thus, the contemplation upon the success of the virtue ethics is worthy of the special attention.
The singularity of MacIntyre’s approach consists in the historical narration through the previous traditions. He investigates the notion of virtue through the prism of errors of the post-Enlightenment philosophers. Therefore, his strong position provides a wide comparison of the generations of moral thinkers.
Meantime, Kant supports the rational, theoretical background with the logical proofs. His approach differs from MacIntyre’s one within the methodological framework. In sum, Kantian theory opposes MacIntyre’s philosophical history and they represent the various perceptions of the right, ethical methodology.
As a result, MacIntyre’s approach differs from the Kantian conception of the successful morality. While the first philosopher uses the historian background of his narration, the second one proves the essence of his investigation with the theoretical framework. Both conceptions have their strength and credibility, which determines their worthiness.
Defense of MacIntyre’s Position Versus Kant’s
The abovementioned examination of the positions of the two thinkers allows evaluating them from the point of their persuasion. The cogency of any author determines the reader’s sympathy or, contrary to it, incomprehension of his thoughts. Comparison of the both philosophers’ arguments determines MacIntyre to be more persuasive than Kant is.
In After Virtue the author uses the Kantian thought about the action and connected with it categorical imperative in the context of repudiation of the Aristotelian understanding of nature in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. He writes:
The explanation of action is increasingly held to be a matter of laying bare the physiological and physical mechanisms which underlie action; and, when Kant recognizes that there is a deep incompatibility between any account of action which recognizes the role of moral imperatives in governing action and any such mechanical type of explanation, he is compelled to the conclusion that actions obeying and embodying categorical imperatives must be from the standpoint of science inexplicable and unintelligible. (MacIntyre 82)
Contrary to the Scottish thinker, Kant elucidates the strength of his interpretation of the categorical imperative in the opposition with the hypothetical imperatives. He explains:
Now if the action were good merely as a means to something else, then the imperative is hypothetical; if it is represented as good in itself, hence necessary, as the principle of the will, in the will that in itself accords with reason, then it is categorical. (Kant 31)
Thus, these two arguments of MacIntyre and Kant represent the various approaches to prove the interrelation between action and categorical imperative as the German basic notion in itself.
Overall, the Scottish philosopher’s historian support persuades the reader to disbelieve the strength of Kantian argumentation. Aristotelian understanding becomes more powerful owing to the MacIntyre’s explanation. Nevertheless, Kant creates the consecutive and consistent proofs of his theoretical statements; he finally fails to convince the opposite side of his rightness.
To sum up, this paper contains the main points of the two strong moral philosophies as MacIntyre’s and Kantian ones. Both of them try to elucidate and criticize Aristotelian ethics as the sufficient background of the whole morality. Though, as it was proved, MacIntyre, contrary to Kant, succeeds to convince the reader by his strong arguments within the historian retrospective.