chapter  8
12 Pages

Spiritual communism 1

The career of a theory from Saint Augustine to MacIntyre
WithGábor Kendeffy

This paper compares the respective ideas of Saint Augustine and Alasdair C. MacIntyre on what may be termed spiritual communism. The bishop of Hippo and the Scottish-American philosopher both put in contrast goods to be acquired in win-lose games (that is, private and exclusive goods) on the one hand, and goods to be acquired in win-win games (that is, common goods), on the other. Both think that a desirable community is founded on the latter kind of goods. Both associate to the possession of these kinds of goods a pleasure superior to that which accompanies those which can only be possessed by means of a win-lose game. MacIntyre and Augustine alike found true community on common thought and employ the concept of internal goods. There are, of course, significant differences. To Augustine, common goods are connected to the intelligible and the transcendent world. On the contrary, MacIntyre regards internal goods to be internal in relation to a particular practice within a particular community. He does not exclude all kinds of competition from the striving after interior good, whereas to Augustine, all the possession of common goods requires is cooperation. MacIntyre’s version of spiritual communism is, of course, a secularized one. To the Scottish-American philosopher, the social character of the thinking process furnished the paradigm for conceiving true community – and this is not an Augustinian, but an Aristotelian idea. Further, true community for him is far from being merely spiritual: it is constructed by individuals having everyday needs and constructed not only in the networks of mutual learning, but in those of giving and receiving as well. Finally, the ideas about common and private things, which belonged to Augustine’s moral theology, became central to the political philosophy of MacIntyre.