religious and metaphysicalnassumptions . . . can there be annonarbitrary basis for makingnmoral judgments? Without anpositive answer to this question,nliberalism must self-destruct as ancoherent moral ideology.nLiberalism’s attempts to give a positivenanswer have never provided an adequatenmotive for individual moralndecision-making, and they have failed tonsatisfy philosophers as a coherent basisnfor social action. Omitting Kant, thenmost famous answer in the Englishspeakingnworld was utilitarianism, bornnin the early 19th century and connectednwith the names of Bentley and Mill.nUtilitarianism still survives in economics,nwhere its premises seem to satisfyn(much like a ship can be steered by thenstars, using the Ptolemaic, geocentricnvision of the universe). Philosophersnview utilitarianism as incoherent andnlong since refuted.nIn recent decades, Bruce Ackermannand John Rawls (among others) haventried to resuscitate Enlightenment socialncontract theory. This theory contradictsneverything we know of the origin of thenstate, which evolved out of the familynand conquest, not out of a meeting ofnrational individuals. It has become anfavorite philosophical parior game tondiscover situations in which the theory’snbasic premises lead to results that arenrepugnant to most people’s moral feelings.nLiberalism as a theory for practicalnmoral reasoning does not work, and thenhypocrisy and immorality of the liberalnregime is the result of its philosophicalnfailure.nAlasdair Maclntyre has accepted thenconclusions of philosophical scholarshipnand made the natural deduction: practicalnethical reasoning must take placenwithin a definite, historically conditionedntradition, a tradition that bringsnwith it certain religious and metaphysicalnassumptions or, if you prefer, prejudices.nIf “it would be out of bounds fornthe liberal state to base moral arguments—nand, in particular, to base itsnown claims to legitimacy—on the ultimatenconvictions of any particularngroup,” as Fishkin believes, then thenliberal state is a logical monstrosity andnthe problems it is now undergoing are annecessary and inevitable prelude to itsnown implosion.nMaclntyre does not give us anothernlogical refutation of Rawls or Ackerman.nThe bibliography here is overwhelming,nand even clever graduatenstudents—say, the junior faculty innRawls’s own department at Harvard—ncan give us more than enough material.nInstead, Maclntyre tells the story of thencreation of the Western tradition ofnthinking about justice and the problemsnof practical ethical reasoning from Homernto Hume. He tells the story not bynlisting the beliefs of a long train ofnthinkers, but by reading carefully a fewnof the important ones: Homer, Pericles,nThucydides (Maclntyre thinks he canndistinguish between the last two), Sophocles,nPlato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas.nAristotle is the subject of an especiallyncareful discussion. Then Maclntyrentakes his time to paint a picture ofnthe social and philosophical background,nin the writings of Dalrymple ofnStair, Hutcheson, and Hume, of thenScotland of the Enlightenment and thenage which preceeded it. It is the epicnadventure story of a philosophical tradition,nthe equivalent of Tolkien’s RingnTrilogy in the life of the mind. Nonsummary can do justice to it, but let menpoint out a few of the highlights.nThe foundation of our ways of thinkingnabout how we act is Homer. Beforenthere is an individual, there is the hero.nIs the hero great, however, because henexemplifies excellence, or because henwins? In Homer, such a question cannotnreally be asked. The dichotomyndoes not exist. Greek society developsnon the Homeric model and in the 5thncentury the distinction becomes dangerouslynreal. Pericles is the politicalnradical who builds on the Homericnfoundations: the people of Athens is anHomeric hero and the Athenian Empirenis the new Tale of Troy. The Age ofnPericles is also the Age of the Sophists,nand the Sophists show that politicalnsuccess can thrive apart from ethicalncommitment. Thucydides in the MeliannDialogue and Sophocles in Philoctetesnsee the problem. It is Plato, especiallynin his Republic, who expressesnthe dilemma most clearly and offersnthe greatest defense of excellencenagainst mere practical success. “Platonmade of the sophists partners in posingnthese problems in a way that providedn… a permanent part of thenframework of all subsequent discussion.n. . . This is why the readingnand the continuous rereading of thennnRepublic remains indispensable tonmoral and cultural education.”nThat Plato’s work has been built sonessentially into the framework of ournthinking was the achievement of Aristotle.nFor centuries philosophers werenborn into the world as Platonists andnAristotelians like the “litde Conservativesnand little Liberals” of Gilbert andnSullivan. This vision was undercut bynWerner Jaeger’s idea that Aristotle begannintellectual life as a Platonist, andnlater scholars (including Gwyll Owen)nhave shown how similar Aristode is tonlate Plato. For Maclntyre, Aristotie isn”engaged in trying to complete Plato’snwork, and to correct it precisely insofarnas that was necessary in order to completenit.”nMaclntyre’s picture of Aristotle putsnalmost every page into a new light,nclarifying scores of problems and paradoxesnpresent in older visions. It is thenpicture of a man working within antradition. Tradition is not memorizingnand handing down the concepts andntheories of the past, with occasionalnfootnotes and retranslations into contemporarynforms of thought or expression.nTradition is the living interactionnof human minds engaged in the samentask. It is the foundation of all creativitynand of all progress. Wendell Berry’snwords come to mind:nAny man’s death could end thenstory:nhis mourners, havingnaccompanied himnto the grave through all henknew,nturn back, leaving himncomplete.nBut this is not the story of a life.nIt is the story of lives, knitntogether,noverlapping in succession, risingnagain from grave after grave.nFor those who depart from it,nbearing itnin their minds, the grave is anbeginning. . . .nEnded, a story is history;nit is in time, with timenlost. But if a man’s lifencontinue in another man,nthen the flesh will rhymenits part in immortal song.nDECEMBER 1988125n