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    Gregson, John 2019. Marxism, Ethics and Politics. p. 135.

  • Print publication year: 2003
  • Online publication date: November 2009

4 - Modern(ist) Moral Philosophy and MacIntyrean Critique


We have to describe and explain a building, the upper story of which was erected in the nineteenth century; the ground floor dates from the sixteenth century, and a careful examination of the masonry discloses the fact that it was reconstructed from a dwelling-tower of the eleventh century. In the cellar we discover Roman foundation walls, and under the cellar a filled-in cave, in the floor of which stone tools are found and remnants of glacial fauna in the layers below. That would be a sort of picture of our mental structure.


My title and topic here call to mind both the title and themes of G. E. M. Anscombe's article, now almost half a century old, “Modern Moral Philosophy” (1958). In one of the twentieth century's most widely reprinted and influential pieces of philosophical writing, which gave us the term (and the topic) consequentialism and helped spawn both the line of inquiry later called philosophy of action and the revival of interest in the moral virtues, Anscombe defended three principal theses. First, she urged philosophers not to explore moral philosophy until possessed of an adequate philosophical moral psychology. Second, both they and the rest of society should abjure conducting moral discussion using the discourse of “morally right/wrong,” of“morally ought,” of moral obligation, the morally required/forbidden/permitted, and so on, because those terms mean nothing substantive today, retaining only what she memorably called “mesmeric force.” Third, the differences among modernist moral philosophers, much discussed by her predecessors and contemporaries in the profession, not least in their elaborations of C. D.

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Alasdair MacIntyre
  • Online ISBN: 9780511609961
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