MacIntyre 's Theory of Practice Term Paper

  • Length: 6 pages
  • Sources: 2
  • Subject: Philosophy (general)
  • Type: Term Paper
  • Paper: #65018587

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Philosophical Ethics: MacIntyre’s Notion of a Practice and the Idea of Virtues (Q4)

When it comes to notion of practice and the idea of virtues, MacIntyre’s explanation provides one with a sense of how the two go together. Practice is the art by which an object is pursued, and virtue is the quality that both enables and facilitates practice and is developed or reinforced through practice. This paper will discuss the link between practice and virtue, according to MacIntyre’s theory.

MacIntyre’s notion of a practice is split between two kinds of practice—that with external goods and that with internal goods. The external goods of practice are those external rewards that come by one’s practice, and usually these are of a sort that a person can possess—i.e., money, power, fame, or candy as in MacIntyre’s example of the child who is motivated to practice chess by the promise of the reward of candy, which is the external good that motivates the child. The child can learn the skills and techniques of chess and become a good player who is motivated to win at the game by the external good; however, there is no guarantee in this type of practice that the child will not stoop to cheating to win, since the main objective has been to obtain the external good and thus whatever means are necessary to obtain that external good are necessary. In this type of practice, the child has not learned the true practice of chess but rather a superficial practice that is predicated more on superficial personal satisfaction—i.e., some pleasure or material possession that the person feels enhances his existence. There is no sense of the obtainment of the external good actually being good for anyone other than oneself. There is no sense of the person being developed in a better way so as to have a more positive effect on others. There is, in other words, no sense of a development of the virtues that should correspond with practice when it is taken up to obtain an internal rather than an external good.

An internal good is related to the practice itself—such as the discipline, critical thinking skills, knowledge, and virtues that are developed as a resulted of pursuing the practice for its own end—i.e., to be practiced. In the chess, example, MacIntyre indicates that the child who participates in the chess practice is going to gain internal goods because he is motivated by the practice for its own sake rather than by money, candy or some other external good. MacIntyre calls them internal goods because they can only be obtained by participation in the practice and they are specific to the practice that is being performed. Thus, chess practice will have its own internal good; religious practice will have a separate internal good; just like meditation will, dance, karate, construction, and so on.

MacIntyre’s notion of a practice thus sheds light on the idea of the virtues by showing how virtue itself is developed. As he states, “A practice involves standards of excellence and obedience to rules as well as the achievement of goods. To enter into a practice is to accept the authority of those standards and the inadequacy of my own performance as…

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…not view humility as a virtue. The method of learning a practice would invariably be completely different in such a community, as it would most likely depend upon the student engaging in self-directed learning with a great deal of trial and error. The virtues that the community would be likely to extol would be perseverance and self-reliance. A community of radical Transcendentalists, perhaps, would be one example. However, in most cases and communities, humility is recognized as a virtue particularly among learners because teachers understand that they have a great deal to teach the learner that will not be learned if the student is filled with arrogance and wrong-headed self-assurance. Thus, virtue has to reflect the social values and principles that underscore the community’s vision of itself and the goals it seeks to attain. In this sense, there has to be a good deal of homogeneity among the community with regard to what the most important values are. In this sense, there is kind of utilitarian principle involved that could be rooted in Mill’s philosophy, as it expounds on the notion of the common good as well.[footnoteRef:7] [6: Ibid 191.] [7: John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism. Second edition, Hackett Publishing, 2001.]

In conclusion, the connection between practice and virtue according to MacIntyre is based on the pursuit of internal rather than external goods. External goods when pursued in practice do not depend upon the implementation or development of any virtue related to the practice itself. The main motivation is the possession of some property that can be obtained via the practice but not necessarily via anything related to virtue. The pursuit of internal…

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