‘After the Catholic Church’ – more MacIntyre for everyone

The US, Ireland and Germany are the countries that now openly struggle with the Catholic Church and the Pope and are trying to understand what went wrong in the institution Church. Child abuse cases in this particular institution should just not happen. And the Pope is coming to Great Britain and many Catholics seem not to know what to think of that. It becomes apparent that the scandals in the Catholic Church lead to questions regarding moral behavior. For a long time religion supplied most people with a moral code. The Catholic Church however is not able to provide this moral code anymore, because too many of those working within the Church did not adhere to it. It lost its believability and hence the code lost its usefulness. A moral code only makes sense if basically all people use it as the premise for moral behavior. The contemporary philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre proposes a solution for the problem, and he did so long before the Church lost hers. Religion as a moral code is not practical, because too many people believe in too many different things and therefore follow sometimes drastically different moral ideas. Therefore in order to arrive at a morality that is suitable for all people, we have to go back to antiquity, to Aristotle and adapt his philosophy of morality to modern times. Aristotelian ethics is free of theological dogma and highly dependent on the self to act to achieve a good. There exists a God in Aristotle, the Unmoved Mover, but ethical conduct does not happen in reference to this God but out of the self. When one chooses to act in an ethical way  for its own sake, then ethical conduct can be achieved. Therefore, following MacIntyre, we have to regress to Aristotelian thinking in order to establish a code of morality that is not achievable in our fractured world otherwise.

Related articles:
Article in the timesonline about the papal visit.

Morality and Religion
By Tim Mawson, St. Peter’s College
Vol. 4, December 2009
Philosophy Compass

Author: the medical philosopher

I am a philosopher of science with the main focus on philosophy of medicine. I write about evidence based medicine, medical research versus medical practice, ethics in medicine and why medicine needs to be patient centred and how we can achieve that.

2 thoughts on “‘After the Catholic Church’ – more MacIntyre for everyone”

  1. But as I recall, MacIntyre left Marxism and followed the Aristotelian trail to Thomism and from there to the Catholic church. So where does that leave the regression to Aristotle?

    1. It is true that MacIntyre has converted to catholicism, but even last year when I heard him speak in London he was not proposing the Catholic ethics as guide for everyone. He proposes a form of virtue ethics that is much more closely related to Aristotle, via St. Thomas Aquinas but without any dogma, then todays morality that simply fails to function in his eyes. Especially because the societies we live in are made up out of so many people following different religions. Society in order to function morally would have to change radically according to MacIntyre. In ‘After Virtue’ he describes in detail how society should function morally, following virtues and traditions.

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