I’m excited about going to see Alasdair MacIntyre talk today. I think he’s the most influential living philosopher, and it’s a rare chance to see him speak in London (he moved to the US 40 years ago). The influence of his 1981 book. After Virtue, is still growing. More and more thinkers are following him in embracing Aristotle and a Neo-Aristotelian virtue politics as a way beyond the ethical relativism of liberal, pluralist capitalism.
That includes communitarians on the right, like Phillip Blond, the architect of the Tory party’s Big Society concept, who called for a ‘new communitarian settlement’, and communitarians on the left, like the MP John Cruddas, who writes in the New Statesman today that Labour should embrace a “politics of virtue, rooted in Aristotle, which resists commodification and nurtures community”.
It also includes the literary critic Terry Eagleton, who I see has left behind post-modernism and the relativism of literary theorists like Derrida and Baudrillard to embrace a Neo-Aristotelian / MacIntyrean virtue politics.
MacIntyre, and Aristotle, are obviously back in vogue. But I wonder what he thinks of the contemporary fusion of Aristotle with empiricism and utilitarian happiness measurements? Does he think we can discover a ‘science of flourishing’? Hopefully I’ll get the opportunity to ask him this evening.