The Disappearance of Moral Knowledge and the Disintegration of Western Culture
In his influential 1981 book After Virtue, Alasdair MacIntyre observed that contemporary moral and political disagreement tended toward a “slightly shrill tone.” Four decades later, that tone has metamorphosed into a hateful acrimony that not only undermines democratic norms of civility and tolerance but has increasingly spilled over into violence on both the left and the right. A growing body of research suggests that political polarization is at a 40-year high, and that it is rooted less in disagreements over policy than in negative and outright hostile attitudes toward political opponents, a condition known as “affective polarization.” Such trends do not materialize out of thin air. While there is ample evidence that human nature includes egoistic and tribalistic traits that naturally predispose us to intolerance, the present situation calls for special explanation. Human nature has not changed over the last four decades, so why the drastic increase in intolerant attitudes and behaviors? Proposed explanations abound, and it is well that they should: the full explanation of any significant sociohistorical shift is likely to be quite complex, with many contributing causes of many different sorts at varying levels of analysis and at varying degrees of proximity to the present. The aim of this seminar is to explore several contributing factors related to what Dallas Willard called “the disappearance of moral knowledge,” a twentieth-century cultural shift resulting in the general unavailability of moral knowledge as an institutionally embodied resource for guiding public and private life.
Join Dr. Aaron Preston of Valparaiso University this Spring (exact date TBA) as he discusses the disappearance of moral knowledge and the disintegration of the West, and what we can do about it. This event is open to any students who can attend in-person!