Virtuous selves in vicious times
Alasdair MacIntyre on narrative identity
In this paper I review some of the key elements of Alasdair MacIntyre’s conception of narrative identity. I focus on his notions of tradition and unified self, which have been interpreted by some critics as signs of a political conservatism and elitism. My argument proceeds by reviewing the critiques offered by Galen Strawson and Hilde Lindemann Nelson, both concerned with the conflict between tradition and choice. While Strawson and Nelson believe that traditions are oppressive at least to some individuals, MacIntyre offers a more complex understanding of tradition, emphasizing that traditions embody conflicts. In proposing a different reading of these concepts, one I claim is more accurate, I suggest that MacIntyre’s concept of narrative selfhood can serve as foundation of a political theory that is utopian in a standard liberal way.