- Free Essays, Term Papers & Book Notes

Macintyre’s Interpretation of and Objections to Either/or

Page 1 of 10

MacIntyre’s interpretation of and objections to Either/Or:          

In his book After Virtue (1981), Professor Alasadair MacIntyre presents his own interpretation of/objections to Kierkegaard’s philosophical work Either/Or (1843). Between 1630 to 1850, morality, a set of rules of conduct undefined by religion or law, found it’s renaissance in Northern European culture (MacIntyre, After Virtue). The morals that came about in this time were unquestioningly accepted by the masses without any rational justification (MacIntyre, After Virtue). According to MacIntyre, Kierkegaard’s Either/Or was seen as an “astonishing novelty” to Northern European culture in 1842 because it was an attempt to provide a rational justification for morality (MacIntyre, After Virtue). In his interpretation and objections to Either/ Or, MacIntyre presents a view of Either/Or that differs from the standard interpretation provided by Kierkegaard and most modern philosophers who study Kierkegaard (MacIntyre, After Virtue). Though well stated, the cogency of some of MacIntyre’s arguments does not hold to be entirely correct.

        In summary, MacIntyre views Either/Or as presenting two premises described as the ethical and aesthetic lifestyles (MacIntyre, After Virtue). Kierkegaard’s Either/Or is about the choice between the aesthetic and ethical ways of life as described by two authors (MacIntyre, After Virtue). Both paradigms are informed by “different concepts, incompatible attitudes [and] rival premises” (MacIntyre, After Virtue).  Author A (‘A’), the aesthetic, is a romantic lover who commends obtaining passion and losing oneself in the immediacy of present experience  (MacIntyre, After Virtue). In contrast, Author B (‘B’) praises the ethical way of life by outlining the state of commitment and obligation required of marriage through time (MacIntyre, After Virtue). ‘B’ attempts to defend the ethical way of life by showing ‘A’ the aesthetic component of marriage (Kierkegaard, 384-474). The problem of justifying either way of life arises here; also referred to as the circularity problem (Kraal, 2017; MacIntyre, After Virtue). The ethical person lives his/her life under the categories of good and evil where as the aesthetic lives life under the categories of fun and boring (Kraal, 2017; MacIntyre, After Virtue). In order to rationally justify either way of life, ‘A’ would have to view life in terms of the categories that define the ethical way of life and, vice versa for ‘B’ (Kraal, 2017; MacIntyre, After Virtue). This creates a circularity problem where neither can justify their own way of living to the other because of the different categories in which they view life (Kraal, 2017; MacIntyre, After Virtue). MacIntyre hypothesizes that Kierkegaard purposefully wrote Either/Or under pseudonyms so that the reader does not see him as endorsing either position (MacIntyre, After Virtue). He thinks that Kierkegaard’s own opinion is made through the voice of ‘B’ when he states that anyone who faces the choice between the aesthetic and ethical will chose the ethical (MacIntyre, After Virtue). MacIntyre rejects the idea that Kierkegaard is endorsing a third way of life, the religious life (MacIntyre, After Virtue).

         MacIntyre presents two objections to Either/Or (MacIntyre, After Virtue). Firstly, there is no objective reason provided that would propel the aesthetic into the ethical realm (MacIntyre, After Virtue). The reader is presented the ethical life as having authority without a justification for the ethical maxim (Kraal, 2017; MacIntyre, After Virtue). There cannot be any authority behind the ethical maxim unless the reasons for this maxim are provided (Kraal, 2017; MacIntyre, After Virtue). His second objection is that Kierkegaard’s account of religion and ethics is biased by Kant’s account of religion and moral philosophy (Kraal, 2017; MacIntyre, After Virtue). Kierkegaard and Kant were both brought up in traditional and conservative Lutheran families and, therefore, have the same “inherited morality” that they unquestioningly assumed to be correct (MacIntyre, After Virtue). Modern ethics has branched in to a number of different sub branches that vary from the traditional ethics presupposed by Kierkegaard in Either/Or (Kraal, 2017; MacIntyre, After Virtue).

Download as (for upgraded members)
Citation Generator

(2018, 07). Macintyre’s Interpretation of and Objections to Either/or. Retrieved 07, 2018, from

"Macintyre’s Interpretation of and Objections to Either/or" 07 2018. 2018. 07 2018 <>.

"Macintyre’s Interpretation of and Objections to Either/or.", 07 2018. Web. 07 2018. <>.

"Macintyre’s Interpretation of and Objections to Either/or." 07, 2018. Accessed 07, 2018.