Res Publica

, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 251–273 | Cite as

MacIntyre on Tradition, Rationality, and Relativism



MacIntyre’s critique of liberalism relies crucially on a distinctive moral particularism, for which morality and rationality are fundamentally tradition-constituted. In light of this, some have detected in his work a moral relativism, radically in tension with his endorsement of a Thomist universalism. I dispute this reading, arguing instead that MacIntyre is a consistent universalist who pays due attention to the moral-epistemic importance of traditions. Analysing his teleological understanding of rational enquiry, I argue that this approach shows how it is possible, dialectically, to reconcile the particularity of our starting-points with the assertion of universal truths. What MacIntyre offers, I contend, is a moral universalism that avoids the pitfalls of its liberal counterpart, and invites an important meta-theoretical shift with respect to the scope for toleration and social critique and toleration in contemporary pluralist society.


Rational Enquiry Social Critique Pluralist Society Moral Relativism Universal Truth 
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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyCatholic University in RuzomberokRuzomberokSlovakia

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