Alasdair MacIntyre, universities, and the common good

Nicholas H. Smith*, Andrew Dunstall

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Best known as a political philosopher, Alasdair MacIntyre is also a critic of the modern university. The paper examines the grounds of MacIntyre's criticism of modern universities; it offers an assessment of the philosophical debate occasioned by MacIntyre's writings on the topic; and it proposes a way of taking this debate forward. The debate is shown to be centered around three objections to MacIntyre's normative idea of the university: that it is overly intellectualist, parochial, and moralizing. The merits of these objections are considered and a different interpretation of the normative core of MacIntyre's conception of the university is presented: realization and promotion of the common good. An analysis is offered of the kinds of common good universities may serve to realize, including practices internal to the institution, education of a public, and flourishing relationships in various social roles. The implications of this neo-Aristotelian analysis of the normative core of universities are also shown to be at odds with some of MacIntyre's explicitly stated views on the role of universities in forming an educated public and educating students for work.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1173-1186
Number of pages14
JournalEuropean Journal of Philosophy
Issue number3
Early online date17 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022


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