Volume 1, Issue 2, Summer 1994
MacIntyre’s Conservatism and Its Cure
The Formal Structure of Traditions
Conservative communitarian Alasdair MacIntyre makes a fundamental claim about the formal conditions for rationality, personhood, and intelligible valuation, and a detachable, less fundamental empirical claim that these formal conditions can be met only in a hierarchically organized social tradition. Having suggested a formal account of narrative tradition which relies on the schematic notion of systematic complexity, MacIntyre retreats to an account in terms of canon and authority. He thus obscures the structures that underlie his own metaphysics of morals, the structures of the practices, narrative unities, and traditions which on his account are both identity-constituting and value-creating. Once these structures are discerned, the possibility of good lives will no longer seem linked to preservation of the forms of the existing polis.