Can We Escape Our Past? Self & Responsibility (After Virtue 9)

In chapters 13-15 of Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue, we get to contemplate the idea that we are much more affected by our personal story and and our history than we want to admit. Are we capable of making ourselves into just anything we want to be, regardless of the cards we were dealt? Are we free of responsibility for what we’ve done in our personal past or what our ancestors have done? MacIntyre’s answer is that the existential self, capable of being radically chosen at any given point, is a fantasy which, rather than freeing us, can leave us aimless and depressed. What, then, is the benefit of seeing ourselves as MacIntyre wants us to–benefited but also burdened by the context into which we are born? And how do the virtues fit into all of this?

I am Professor of Political Science/Political Philosophy at Kansas State University, and the author of seven books, including the latest, Ideological Possession and the Rise of the New Right: The Political Thought of Carl Jung (2019). Much of my work has revolved around a critique of neoliberalism as corrosive to community, honor and moral obligation, humane economics and environmental health. The task, as I see it, is to re-invent community in the modern context to withstand the challenges we are facing now and in the future.


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