By Peter McMylor

This publication is the 1st complete size account of the importance of Alasdair MacIntyre's paintings for the social sciences. MacIntyre's ethical philosophy is proven to supply the assets for a robust critique of liberalism. His tradition is visible because the proposal for a severe social technology of modernity.

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The cultural and intellectual response to this situation is the emergence of emotivist ethics, in which arguments about values are considered to be nothing more than statements of individual preference; argument tends to become a species of rhetoric which makes a person’s feeling present to the world; so they can exhibit the choosing of a position—as we see in the following definition, the moral critic has resurfaced in a new guise: Emotivism is the doctrine that all evaluative judgements and specifically all moral judgements are nothing but expressions of preference, expressions of attitudes or feeling, in so far as they are moral or evaluative in character…factual judgements are true or false; and in the realm of fact there are rational criteria by means of which we may secure agreement… But moral judgements, being expressions of attitude or feeling, are neither true nor false and agreement…is not to be secured by any rational method… It is to be secured if at all by producing certain non-rational effects on the emotions or attitudes of those who disagree with one.

As almost always in MacIntyre’s work it is the holding in tension of the relationship between the internal content of argument and the surrounding social world that is vital for the development of the position. In this case MacIntyre begins by questioning just how serious the issue of belief and unbelief is for the protagonist of both positions. He notes the real psychological significance that the debate about belief in God had for a considerable number of Victorian intellectuals like Henry Sidgwick and Matthew Arnold and wonders why, although the issue is discussed, it seems to make so little impact in the present.

The retreat of the substantive content of theism in theology and philosophy is related to, but not reduced to, a sociological account of the wider process of secularisation in which an environment develops which fosters what he terms ‘passive atheism’. Fundamentally MacIntyre’s sociological account, in Secularisation and Moral Change, of the changing nature of religious belief is rooted in the familiar processes of industrialisation, urbanisation and social differentiation, based upon the capitalist division of labour, as he puts it, What I in fact want to suggest is that the distinctive forms of urban working class life in the industrial city, as they came into being, and as they are to be contrasted with, for example, working class life in the domestic industries of the eighteenth century or in the earlier and smaller commercial city, marked a distinct change so far as religion is concerned.

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