Fragments

A Miscellany of Study

Our Only Shared Morality

What is made true by this ideological success — as well as by ‘power and money’ — is not participative citizens collectively ruling themselves but subjects attributing ‘democracy’ to the state, accepting that they are morally obliged to obey its commands and, even, to participating in its electoral rituals.  Indeed, so successful has been contemporary liberalism that the idea of the good is now widely regarded as private and merely subjective whilst that of right has been detached from it and identified with the law enforced by the state, justice being equated with adherence to the state’s procedures.  Our only shared morality is that of acquiescent obedience to power, and what the powerful tells us to fear is any appeal to first principles or final ends.  A more insidiously demoralizing ideology of passivity and manipulation is hard to imagine. (176)

Kelvin Knight | Aristotelian Philosophy: Ethics and Politics from Aristotle to MacIntyre

Preferential Option

It is with those whose actions are most immediately and constantly constrained by material need who most keenly understand self-estrangement and desire its end, and it is those who labour who are likely to have most insight into how best to reform society. (108)

Kelvin Knight | Aristotelian Philosophy: Ethics and Politics from Aristotle to MacIntyre

What Morality is Not

Morality is not something to be separated from sensuous reality and then theorized a priori in some pure, idealized form.  It is not something that individuals, as social beings, can or should autonomously impose on their own practice in consistent defiance of social relations and pressures.  Nor is it something that they should seek to impose upon themselves in resistance to their own desires. (105)

Kelvin Knight | Aristotelian Philosophy: Ethics and Politics from Aristotle to MacIntyre

Self-Interest in the Christian Life

The traditional relationship between Christianity, and the ideas which sustained the growth of capitalism may increasingly be called into question but, at another level, there is a need for the political and social education of the majority of laity and many priests.  This education would not encourage them to form up behind the latest political banner and social cause, but enable them to discover the potentially exciting totality of human existence, with its many dimensions and possibilities, and also the way the world has shaped their understanding of existence and even Christianity itself.  Ministerial concern with the ‘personal’ is rarely ministry to the person at all, but ministry to the religious part of the private individual who has been produced by the legacy of nineteenth-century liberalism and the effects of an industrial society.  Christian ‘freedom’ is still equated with this pseudo-philosophical background that the individual is ‘free’ to think and say and do what he likes within the framework of the law.  Christians whose spiritual immaturity leads them into this liberal trap may discover that, in defending what they believe to be the will of God, they are supporting the present sinful condition of man, and defending Satan’s claim to unlimited dominion.  For there are fallen ‘structural realities’ as well as individuals.  The struggle for the freedom of the children of God is not against other individuals’ self-interest, as many Christians seem to practice in their spiritual life, but against the spiritual powers of darkness which rule the world order.  Even the simple discovery of this can be liberating.  Self-interest, correctly understood, is indeed essential to human nature, but it does need to be distinguished from possessive individualism and the world view this entails. (273)

Michael Langford | “Hard Times: Catholic theology and the critique of capitalism” in Essays Catholic and Radical

Secularism & Class Conflict

The key difference between the seventeenth- and the eighteenth-century examples is the consciousness of the emerging autonomy of secular life.  This autonomy is strengthened by the tendency apparent in secular life for economic growth to result in the splitting of society into new kinds of class division.  The relations between classes become in crucial ways relations of conflict.  It is of course true that throughout the course of these conflicts there are attempts to continue the appeal to common norms and to revive the older social and moral values, but the changing structure of society makes it only too obvious to all parties that the alleged authoritative norms to which appeal is made are in fact man-made, and that they are not the norms of the whole community to which in their own way men of every rank are equally subject.  In so far as the norms which do govern the new standard economic, political, and social relations between classes are given a religious significance, what happens is that religion is invoked to justify the norms which one class wishes and is able to use against another.  (13-14)

Alasdair MacIntyre | Secularization and Moral Change