CFP: Crafts, Traditions, and Ideologies: Relations Between Theory and Practice in the Thought of Alasdair MacIntyre

Submission deadline: April 30, 2013

Conference date(s):
July 25, 2013 - July 28, 2013

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Conference Venue:

International Society for MacIntyrean Enquiry (ISME), Grand Valley State University
Allendale, United States

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In his 1995 new Introduction to the re-edition of Marxism and Christianity, Alasdair MacIntyre wrote that the fundamental problem he had been struggling with in the earlier editions was the problem of how to properly characterize the mutual relatedness of theory and practice in philosophy, and so to develop Collingwood’s conception of philosophy as “a form of social practice embedded in and reflective upon other forms of social practice.”  He implies a circular or cycloidal relation between theory and practice, so that practices, even gestures, imply entire epistemologies and ontologies, and theories justify, modify, or create practices expressing traditions embedded in self-identity-forming historical communities.  Practices have a “sacramental” logic not an instrumental and managerial logic.  Philosophical theories, valuable in themselves, are also needed to enable us to understand what it is about particular forms of social life that enables their participants to grasp and to pursue genuine goods in their activities, and what it is about other particular forms of social life that blinds them to such goods.  Philosophy needs to take Marx seriously by tying itself to the practice of a politics of self-defense against the corrosive effects of capitalism and of state power, and by challenging the moral, social, and economic theory and practice of liberal individualism.  It has to recover some version of Aristotle’s view of social and moral theory and practice, for Aristotle’s concepts articulate the theory and practice of small-scale and local participatory communities in which social relationships are informed by a shared allegiance to the goods internal to communal practices, in which power and wealth are subordinated to the achievement of those goods, and in which participants don’t have continually to struggle against being reduced to the status of instruments of capital formation.  Aristotle’s concepts only make sense as functioning within such communities, and holding to Aristotelian insights about the close connections between theory and practice, as the early Marx did in the Theses on Feuerbach, will enable philosophical theorizing to better evaluate not only the Marxist critique of bourgeois liberalism but also the claims of Christian orthodoxy.  For all theory--philosophic, scientific, or theological--is the theory of some mode of practice, and when theories are understood or evaluated in detachment from their relationships to the practices in which they alone make sense, as has sometimes happened in both Marxist and Christian theorizing, they are apt to become ideological tools of deception.  The politics of participatory communities will be much more effective if conducted by persons able to understand and to learn from both Christianity and Marxism.

 MacIntyre’s remarks in this 1995 Introduction show us some reasons why, in the central chapters ofAfter Virtue, and throughout the After Virtue trilogy, he revived a version of the ancient craft analogy and began to re-conceive moral philosophy along Platonic-Aristotelian lines by treating it as a kind of master art/craft or Basilike techne that ranks and harmonizes the goods of other crafts.  For arts and crafts strive to realize values by maintaining close mutual relations between theoretical grasp and embodied activity.  They have internal to them non-instrumental goods, very different from the goods of wealth and coercive power, whose appreciation and recognition require hard-won virtues and skills, and bring about changes in the motivations of participants.   They are non-egalitarian and non-individualistic to the extent that distinctions must be made in them between masters and apprentices at various levels of development.  They are socially and historically embodied, so that their internal goods are common goods shared by all practitioners, and good practitioners must know the history of their disciplines.  They are realistic and non-relativistic insofar as they measure achievement by standards set by master practitioners over the course of their history.  They follow explicit rules that have emerged from a history of practice, but always as guided by phronesis and leavened by creativity, and formulated with the aim of forming those who follow them in the virtues necessary for expanded (positive) freedom and increased personal (but non-manipulative) power in their practice.

The deadline for submission of proposals is April 30th, 2013.

It is not envisaged that all of the papers presented at the conference will directly address the theme, and contributions devoted to other aspects of the work of Alasdair MacIntyre are most welcome.  Proposals should include a title, abstract, and brief biographical information.  Proposals from postgraduate research students are welcome.

Some possible presentation topics (mere suggestions):

  • The ancient craft analogy in general
  • The craft analogy and the relation between theory and practice in Plato and Aristotle
  • Relationship between skills and virtues
  • ‘Homo creator’ in Scotus Erigina, Nicholas of Cusa, and Vico
  • Relation between theory and practice in art, religion, and philosophy in Collingwood
  • Neuroscientific perspectives on relations between theory and practice
  • Value theory: goods, common goods, and the distinction between internal and external goods
  • Marx’s labor theory of value
  • Institutionalized injustices in capitalist modernity?
  • Problems with liberal theories of justice
  • Consumerism and pleonexia
  • Dilemmas and problems of Pluralist Democracy
  • Ideology, self-deception, and the separation of theory from practice
  • Philosophy and theology as ruling crafts
  • Is Business a Craft, or MacIntyrean Practice?
  • Is Teaching a Craft, or MacIntyrean Practice?
  • Richard Sennett’s The Craftsman and Matthew Crawford’s Shop Class as Soul Craft
  • Technology and craftsmanship: similarities and differences
  • Practical Reasoning
  • Partial Truth, “pragmatist” theories of truth
  • Virtue epistemology
  • What is tradition?  John Henry Newman, Blondel’s History and Dogma, Yves Congar, etc.
  • Theory and Practice, Intellectual Passions, in Michael Polanyi’s Philosophy of Science
  • Charles Taylor on the Modern “Excarnation” of Religious, Epistemic, and Moral Practices
  • Charles Taylor on Code Fetishism and Bureaucracy
  • Charles Taylor’s Narrative of the “Construction of the Modern Epistemic Predicament”
  • Theory and Practice in Maurice Blondel’s L’Action
  • Jacques Maritain on Cognitivity and Creativity in Creative Intuition in Art and Poetry
  • What is it to Follow a Rule?  What is a Rule, and What Kinds of Rule exist?
  • Wealth, Waste, and Modernity in Joseph Conrad’s Nostromo

The academic convener is Mark Moes (ISME member) (email: moesm@gvsu.edu).

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