Kenneth B. McIntyre is a professor of political and social sciences at Sam Houston University and modern philosopher. His most celebrated work was ‘After Virtue’, a critique of the immoral chaos sweeping the Western world. He does not base his belief system necessarily on Christian ideals, but more prosaically on the incoherence and abstract vulgarity of ‘Enlightenment’ ‘rationalism’ which has led to social and moral convulsions in every state in the Western world.
K. McIntyre’s ire toward ‘rationalism’, is not necessarily based on the falsities and corruption of science or ‘scientism’, though he has little patience for the debasement of real scientific inquiry by money, fraud and philosophical statements untethered to experimental or observational reality. McIntyre is critical of ‘rationalism’ for the incoherence of its underlying philosophy and morality, and its impact on modern society’s conceptions of the same.
In McIntyre’s view, morality, an ethical source of agreement and boundaries of activity, is now fragmented and destroyed. Abortion, ‘Just Wars’, capital punishment, open borders, climate ‘crises’, trans-genderism, are some examples of what he means. The destruction of cultural morality, or an agreed upon set of doctrines leads to:
“…disagreements (which) are expressed in their interminable character…such that we possess no rational way of weighing the claims of one…against another.”
The presuppositions of those who uphold one view, versus the ‘other side’ is so different and the gaps so great, that no ethical compromise can be reached. Starting points, details and end objectives are often-times not even understood. Different groups can include those who believe in natural law rights and the rationality of humans, juxtaposed against those who see humans as irrational, or with a corrupted reason, situated in a natural world without natural law, or human-centred rights. For McIntyre, this means that for most people the starting point of their ‘morality’ can be quite arbitrary, even unknown, and their ‘ethical belief’ is more likely to be that of self-interest or a desire, not premised on a defendable philosophical premise, he terms this the ‘emotivist’ position. The ‘emotivist’ modern belief is simply an ‘expression of preference’, though the holder believes usually quite passionately, that they hold a moral absolute and doctrine of righteousness.
For McIntyre the decadence of modern moral philosophy is that the conception of the use of moral language, diverges significantly from the conceptual meaning of moral language. This leads to a desiccated moral vocabulary which no longer objectively describes the moral world we live in. Standardised morality ceases to exist and is replaced by desires or preferences parading as moral absolutes.
The pathos of modern thought and philosophy can be trace to the ‘diremption’ of 400 years ago, when philosophy, according to McIntyre and many other historians, took a new and radically different route in trying to explain the world around us, in both natural sciences and theological morality. This diremption reached a crescendo during the ‘Enlightenment’ leading to moral confusion and the modern pathologies that now afflict Western civilisation.
McIntyre writes that highly functional conceptions about human nature and flourishing were replaced with abstract, vague, universalisms, about behaviour, nature and science. This splits the unity of the Western church into two parts; and elevated ‘reason’ to the ex-cathedra position of dominance. However, the failure of the ‘Enlightenment’ to build a morality based on tradition, history, and virtues has now led inevitably, to the current malaise in Western society, when desires are now ‘moralities’.
For McIntyre, the failure of the Enlightenment project in producing a coherent morality is reflected in Hume, Kant and Kierkegaard. For Hume morality is simply a set of rules based on desires, happiness, the ‘greatest good’, or not doing ‘harm’ to others. None of these terms are properly defined nor is there any attempt to assess how they are derived. Morality for Kant is simply a set of rules based on ‘reason’ and reason alone according to the general welfare, and universal principles discovered by reason. This is abstract and meaningless, with the obvious objection that universal reason is unknown and does not in itself exist. For Kierkegaard, the choice to lead a moral or unethical life is based at least in part on irrational emotions and beliefs. This creates a contingent morality, localised, specific, individual, directly opposing the vague universalism of Kant. For McIntyre none of these claims is sensible and have led to moral decay and fracture.
For McIntyre morality is based on the neo-Aristotelian and Catholic idea of participation in the wide range of institutions humans have built up over time. Morality and moral philosophy are not just a set of rules, or some vague incantation of universal reason. They are premised on participating in the practices of life, including church, sports, school, charity, farming, work, building, music, art and all the activities that crowd a person’s existence. In these endeavours one learns virtue (as opposed to quite useless and transient ‘values’) and internal goods or the build of good moral character.
McIntyre’s common social practices can only be shared and promulgated from within a common cultural and historical framework. In the modern world today, our elites, the endless array of government agencies and trans-national organisations, the deconstruction of Christianity and faith; the elevation of scientism premised on corruption and fraud; the ending of moral absolutes and certainties, and the debasement of Western culture through open-borders, pornography and immorality in the guise of gender confusion and child-abuse, have led to the inevitable end point of the ‘Enlightenment’ which is social chaos.