Alasdair MacIntyre's After Virtue After Auschwitz

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Shapiro, Daniel
Philosophy , Virtue Ethics
This thesis explores the concept of moral breakdown in Auschwitz to consider what happens to the virtues under extreme circumstances. The method of exploration applies Alasdair MacIntyre’s virtue theory to the moral experience of Auschwitz inmates. The application of his theory to the moral landscape of Auschwitz sheds light on the ability of MacIntyre’s virtue ethical approach to make sense of extreme circumstances in terms of his account of the minimal conditions required for the moral life. I argue that MacIntyre’s account of narrative moral agency as fundamental to the intelligibility of moral life passes the limit test of Auschwitz experience by showing that the intelligibility of moral life is called into question when the narrative nature of moral agency is seriously interrupted and fragmented. As such, he offers good conceptual resources for understanding the demoralization Auschwitz inmates faced. This is so because he emphasizes the manner in which any moral theory must be capable of social embodiment, and he takes seriously the notion that every social situation reflects a set of moral standards that can be articulated theoretically. This allows MacIntyre to spell out the moral theory embodied in the moral landscape of Auschwitz and to judge it deficient in terms of his conceptual framework of a core conception of the virtues.
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