What kinds of virtues are practiced through your actions?
In his essay “Traditions and the Virtues,” Alasdair MacIntyre argues that it is only through narrative or self-interpretation, that our actions become intelligible to ourselves and to others. That is, only through the “unity of a narrative” (318) do our lives take on coherent meaning (as opposed to being a jumble of unintelligible episodes and fragments) within the contexts of tradition and history. For MacIntyre, our ability to respond to ethical questions—questions about the good, duty, or responsibility—depends upon our ability to interpret the actions of others and ourselves in relation to the “historically extended, socially embodied argument[s]” that constitute social tradition (326). For this assignment, I’d like for you to respond to MacIntyre by considering the role of traditions—and the virtues that are involved in those traditions—in your own life. Of what stories or traditions are you a part? What “debts, inheritances, rightful expectations and obligations” (324) constitute “a moral starting point” (324) for your ethical reflection and action? What kinds of virtues are practiced through your actions? And, perhaps most importantly, what “socially embodied arguments” (326) about the good are you and your family making by sustaining certain traditions? The success or failure of this essay will depend on two things: first, your ability to be specific about your family’s traditions and the role that you play in them. Give plenty of details, but then make sure to reflect on and analyze the narrative material you provide from important memories within a sufficiently critical perspective (tell the reader why an account is important to the broader question about tradition and arguments about the good). And second, the ‘critical readings’ you perform should be adequately connected to MacIntyre’s text. That is, while you need not write this essay in a very formal style (in fact it will be impossible to do that since you will be discussing your life experiences), you must find a convincing way to place your discussion within the broader terms of MacIntyre’s argument. Consequently, you will want to quote and explicate relevant passages from MacIntyre’s text during moments of your analysis. You may even want to arrange parts of your discussion around a few key terms from MacIntyre’s essay (like ‘socially-embodied arguments,’ ‘moral starting point,’ or ‘continuities of conflict,’ to name a few).
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