21. Contemporary Communitarianism (II)

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Moral Foundations of Politics (PLSC 118)

In this lecture, Professor Shapiro delves into the nuances of MacIntyre's argument, focusing specifically on his Aristotelian account of human psychology. It has two features: (1) man's nature is inherently teleological or purposive, and (2) human behavior is fundamentally other-directed, in that a person's happiness is conditioned upon the experience of others as it relates to him, particularly on the feeling of being valued by someone he values. MacIntyre's account of human psychology also highlights its malleability and its contingency. There is the untutored, or raw, condition, and there is that of having realized one's telos. Ethics are how one evolves from the former to the latter, but MacIntyre notes that ethics are designed to improve behavior, not to describe or aggregate it. Therefore, they cannot be deduced from true statements about human nature; this is his criticism of the Enlightenment project. But he does concede the Enlightenment notion that human beings are capable of thinking critically about purposes and goals. However, this can only come from within a system of norms to have an effect on the people it is intended to influence. Thus, the anti-Enlightenment story subordinates the individual to the practice, to the group, and to the inherited system of norms and values.

00:00 - Chapter 1. Introduction: Aristotelian Conception of Human Psychology
20:26 - Chapter 2. Aristotle's Teleological Scheme and the Hopelessness of the Enlightenment Project
32:04 - Chapter 3. MacIntyre's Prescription

Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://open.yale.edu/courses

This course was recorded in Spring 2010.