MacIntyre — Secularization and Moral Change, II

We began to look at Alasdair MacIntyre’s Riddell memorial lectures gathered under the title Secularization and Moral Change in the previous post. MacIntyre is best known for his book After Virtue. Here, we continue to summarize the other two lectures that make up Secularization and Moral Change. Again, I refer the reader to Peter Webster’s summary. Continue reading

MacIntyre — Secularization and Moral Change, I

In a previous post, I offered a longer excerpt from what is surely the best-known work of the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, his 1981  After Virtue. I have also made some brief comments on After Virtue in this post. A good academic biography of MacIntyre can be found at the IEP. Here, I’d like to look at one of his earlier works, the 1964 Riddell Memorial Lectures, published in 1967 as Secularization and Moral Change. A good introduction to the social context of the book can be found on Peter Webster’s post on it; Webster rightly notes that “little of MacIntyre’s little book will surprise the modern reader in matters of fact”, and suggests that MacIntyre’s use of Marxist class analysis may strike the modern reader as “quaint”. (In all honesty, I should recommend you to Webster for the superior summary and analysis.) The ever-excellent Adam DeVille argues that “The Benedict Option” of Rod Dreher, which took its title from the final page of MacIntyre’s After Virtue, is incompatible with what MacIntyre actually writes here in Secularization and Moral Change. DeVille writes about this also here. A reviewer “Caleb” over at Goodreads suggests the same.


Secularization and Moral Change is three lectures; over the course of these three lectures, MacIntyre sought “to raise three questions and to find answers to them”. [7] Those questions were:

1) “[W]hy [has] secularization […] not progressed any further than it has done, especially among the working class”, [7]

2) “[W]hether religious decline is a, or the, cause of moral decline”, [7] and

3) “[W]hat effect secularization has had upon English Christianity”.

By secularization MacIntyre simply means “the transition from beliefs and activities and institutions [8] presupposing beliefs of a traditional Christian kind to beliefs and activities and institutions of an atheistic kind.” [7-8]

The three lectures tackle these three questions in order. Here, we deal with question one.

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Excerpt #28 — Alasdair MacIntyre on The Secondary Virtues

We are better acquainted with MacIntyre’s “secondary virtues” than we are with virtues proper; they have become the staple of our shared life, because they make a shared life between heterogeneous moral communities possible. They do not, however, tell us what we should aim at in pursuing a worthy life, only how we should bend our purposes.

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Hans Jonas, “Seventeenth Century and After: The Meaning of the Scientific and Technological Revolution”

Just over a week ago, I published a post that gave a summary of one section from Hans Jonas’ essay “[The] Seventeenth Century and After: The Meaning of the Scientific and Technological Revolution”. The essay is from Jonas’ Philosophical Essays: From Ancient Creed to Technological Man. The essay, its argument, is worth summarizing.

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