Virtue and ethics


Does it matter more that I cannot definitively prove a political point or that I know it to be true? This is what I am getting from a book I rambled across during various discussions here at work last week. Although over 20 years old now, Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue provides a useful analysis for a political animal; lost in a world of trying in vain to keep up with all those political stories.

MacIntyre is an Aristotelian it seems, or so the commentary I have found tells me. This means that ethics are not so much a matter of knowing the precise facts that vcan be objectively tested using ‘scientific’ methods but more to do with an ability of knowing what is the truth and going with that instead. Don’t ever get me to write an essay on ethics by the way. For example, isn’t it enough that I know that the stars are not points of light pinned out the firmament and not that I need to know how light reaches my eye, I perceive it as light and know then that this is a star in the sky and is only visible when dark?

A further example, thankfully more commonplace: I do not need to know the precise problem with traffic getting on to the M50 at Templeogue in the morning rush hour only that it is a problem and that it concerns me that I sit there so long to get on to the road. For me to be political about this problem, I don’t have to know the exact volume of vehicles using particular junctions, only that it is a problem. There are others charged with that and I am charged with deciding which of the people who put themselves up for election are best suited to solving the problem.

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