Raymond Geuss’ Outside Ethics

Alasdair MacIntyre reviews Raymond Geuss’ Outside Ethics, a book, which by the way, I highly recommend. (You can read the Introduction to the book, here.)

No one among contemporary moral and political philosophers writes better essays than Raymond Geuss. His prose is crisp, elegant, and lucid. His arguments are to the point. And, by inviting us to reconsider what we have hitherto taken for granted, he puts in question not just this or that particular philosophical thesis, but some of the larger projects in which we are engaged. Often enough Geuss does this with remarkable economy, provoking us into first making his questions our own and then discovering how difficult it is to answer them.

In so doing he continues and extends some of the enquiries of the Frankfurt School, more especially of Adorno. Three aspects of those enquiries should be kept in mind. They were and are an attempt to free us from the limitations and distortions of the bourgeois cultural and social order inherited from the Enlightenment, so that we may understand the inadequacies of concepts and presuppositions that are taken for granted by and so imprison most of our contemporaries. They posed and pose the painful question of how, if and when we have arrived at such an understanding, we are to live out our everyday lives within a discredited social and cultural order. And their focus was and is on the concrete and the particular, so that generalizations and abstractions, unavoidable as they are, should not obscure the realities that they are designed to disclose.