With a Foreword by Richard J. Bernstein and an Afterword by John Durham Peters
Edited By Jason Hannan
16 Alasdair MacIntyre: Tradition and Disagreement JASON HANNAN 385
16 Alasdair MacIntyre Tradition and Disagreement JASON HANNAN ________________________________________ In his celebrated essay, “The Hedgehog and the Fox,” Isaiah Berlin offers an extended meditation upon an ancient aphorism over which commentators have historically been divided. “The fox,” wrote Archilochus, “knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” On Berlin’s reading of these dark and enigmatic words, there are at least two types of writer and thinker. On the one hand, there are foxes: those who pursue a wide range of different and unrelated questions for which they seek different and unrelated answers. Thinkers of this first type see no particular need to synthesize all questions under an overarching order. That is, they remain content with scattered and fragmentary analysis. On the other hand, there are hedgehogs: those who interpret the world according to some basic and fundamental principle—a single driving idea by which to make sense of everything around them. Thinkers of this second type characteristically offer systematic answers to all manner of questions. They see in the diversity and heterogeneity of social and historical phenomena a common or underlying thread. It is not, of course, that thinkers of this second type are incapable of knowing many things. It is, rather, that later generations are able to extract from their thinking a signature theme by which to memorialize them into perpetuity. This chapter is about a contemporary thinker who, I suggest, is better understood as a hedgehog than a fox. Alasdair MacIntyre is one of the most influential...
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