Whether they find him persuasive or no, few readers will deny that Alasdair MacIntyre is one of the most significant Catholic philosophers of our time. Titles like Whose Justice? Whose Rationality? So it behooves us to consider the question MacIntyre poses in the title of his Findley lecture: Is patriotism a virtue? The question is not a rhetorical one.
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Whether they find him persuasive or no, few readers will deny that Alasdair MacIntyre is one of the most significant Catholic philosophers of our time.
Titles like Whose Justice? Whose Rationality? So it behooves us to consider the question MacIntyre poses in the title of his Findley lecture: Is patriotism a virtue? The question is not a rhetorical one. The fact that so few public figures openly challenge the value of patriotism indicates not a genuine consensus in favor of patriotism, but only that few public figures have given much thought to what patriotism actually is.
It is to judge as any rational person would judge, independently of his or her interests, affections and social position. And to act morally is to act in accordance with such impersonal judgments. Thus to think and to act morally involve the moral agent in abstracting him or herself from all social particularity and partiality.
And here and now there are those American politicians who claim that the United States deserves our allegiance because it champions the goods of freedom.
Put another way, a citizen who claims to love his country solely because he subscribes to its principles might be compared to a son who claims to love his mother only because, after having taken a long hard critical look at her, he has decided that she, a person of high ideals and correct opinions, is worthy of his love.
Setting aside just how disturbingly inhuman this hypothetical son would be were his claim true, we must at least recognize that by his own admission his attitude is hardly an example of filial piety. MacIntyre himself seems reluctant to take a firm stand in the debate between patriots and liberals, and instead remains content to point out the profound dilemma faced by the would-be liberal patriot.
In one intriguing passage, however, he suggests that traditional patria may be not only compatible with morality, but a necessary condition for it:.
If first of all it is the case that I can only apprehend the rules of morality in the version in which they are incarnated in some specific community; and if secondly it is the case that the justification of morality must be in terms of particular goods enjoyed within the life of particular communities; and if thirdly it is the case that I am characteristically brought into being and maintained as a moral agent only through the particular kinds of moral sustenance afforded by my community, then it is clear that deprived of this community, I am unlikely to flourish as a moral agent […] Detached from my community, I will be apt to lose my hold upon all genuine standards of judgment.
Loyalty to that community, to the hierarchy of particular kinship, particular local community and particular natural community, is on this view a prerequisite for morality.
An argument can be made, then, that culture is to morality as grammar is to communication. The point is not that any given culture or language is necessarily superior to any other, but that each man needs to be steeped in some particular culture or language if he is to engage in moral reasoning or communicate. The preceding also makes clear why the subversion of patriotism should be important to everyone interested in defending what Pope John Paul II called the culture of life.
To be fair to militant leftists, they are only being sincere and consistent in applying their professed principles, more sincere and consistent than many who call themselves conservative. If to judge from a moral standpoint really is to judge impersonally, then not only patriotism but also marital fidelity, love of family and kin, friendship, and school spirit are all vices too.
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You may have noticed an unusual amount of renewed attention being given to the Rosenbergs—that is, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Traub grabs […].
Sign up to receive a weekly email with news, analysis, and commentary from a voice you can trust! News Briefs. About Jerry Salyer 39 Articles. Catholic convert Jerry Salyer is a philosophy instructor and freelance writer. Previous Back to the Land, Back to the Lord. Will Obama pardon the Rosenbergs? January 5, Dr. Paul Kengor 0. The last Puritan statesman and the conventions July 13, George Weigel 0. Anger and citizenship February 3, George Weigel 0.
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Is Patriotism a Virtue?
Monday, February 5, Patriotism raises questions of the sort philosophers characteristically discuss: How is patriotism to be defined? How is it related to similar attitudes, such as nationalism? What is its moral standing: is it morally valuable or perhaps even mandatory, or is it rather a stance we should avoid? Yet until a few decades ago, philosophers showed next to no interest in the subject. This changed in the s. The change was due, in part, to the revival of communitarianism, which came in response to the individualistic, liberal political and moral philosophy epitomized by John Rawls; but it was also due to the resurgence of nationalism in several parts of the world.
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