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Classics | Political Science


Alasdair MacIntyre’s theory of the state is often viewed by critics as being unnecessarily hostile to modern political arrangements, particularly the modern state. However, many critics of MacIntyre do not argue on MacIntyre’s own terms, that is, they argue from distinctly modern positions. The first section of the thesis will be devoted to explaining why such criticisms of MacIntyrean state theory are bound to fail or at least be easily dismissed. I will discuss in particular MacIntyre’s theory of tradition-dependent rationality and how one must work to develop an idea within a tradition rather than attacking it from the outside. In the second section, I will give a brief outline of this tradition through Aristotle and discuss how MacIntyre himself ignores Aristotle’s Politics in outlining a theory of the state. Using the Politics and drawing upon the Greek history, both intellectual and political, I will demonstrate that MacIntyre’s theory of the state need not be inherently antagonistic to non-ideal forms of the political organization. On the contrary, the Aristotelian tradition not only recognizes the legitimacy of political arrangements quantitatively and qualitatively different from the ideal polis but also allows for citizens to participate in and engage with non-ideal states.


Advisors: Margaret Cook, J. Scott Johnson