Hallucination: Old Man Yells at the Old Man

This three-minute clip was sent to me by a friend. It features philosopher Alasdair McIntyre disdaining the Benedict Option.

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MacIntyre may be an important philosopher, and no doubt a great man, but this is just pathetic and dishonest.

MacIntyre claims that the Benedict Option is about withdrawing, but it isn’t — which he would have known if he had read my book. He has never done it. How can I be sure? When he first opposed it, I wrote to my boss, explaining to him that he misunderstands what I was saying, and he sent me a free copy of the book. He thanked me for the book in an email dated October 28, 2017. I replied with the following:

By the by, I am writing from Nanovic Hall at Notre Dame. Last night, I gave a talk on the Benedict Option. I’m sorry to hear that you don’t agree with my ideas. But I do hope that you were able look at the book my publisher sent to me. Grad student types often criticize me, saying that I’m not following MacIntyre’s vision. To which I respond, “You’re absolutely right.” They tell me that I’m not pretending to be doing this. I agree with MacIntyre’s criticism of late modernity and am trying to find a way to live so that lay Christians can endure the new Dark Age. It is possible, I do not know how but we must try. Every talk I give on the Benedict Option I tell my audience that although I don’t pretend to know all the answers, I try to ask the right questions. This is something we will have to do together, even if it means failure. Is there anything else? To give up on liquid modernity?

I never received a reply from him. A few years later, he was asked again about the Benedict Option in a public forum, and he again denied it. After the session ended, I went to him and introduced myself. He keeps making untrue statements about the book. When I stood before him, he froze and didn’t say a word. I offered to meet him, but he just sat there, obviously mortified, and didn’t say anything. It was very awkward so I left. It is embarrassing for MacIntyre’s scholar to constantly denounce a book that he hasn’t read and refuses to read.

Except in one case, there is not much MacIntyre’s clip that contradicts anything I wrote in The Benedict Option. Contrary to MacIntyre’s assertion, I don’t advocate for retreating completely to the hills. Anyone who has read the book will know this. We reach the end of MacIntyre’s indignant discourse, which reveals the true reason MacIntyre trashes MacIntyre’s book: Because conservative people like it. He doesn’t like conservative people.

When MacIntyre was first attacking the book, I was speaking to a Notre Dame professor about how frustrating this was. He didn’t disagree with the book (which would be fine), but he was muttering about it without ever having read it and was fundamentally wrong about its arguments. My friend mentioned that he noticed that Stanley Hauerwas as well as Wendell Berry had done similar things regarding recent writing by conservatives who faithfully cite them. (In fact, I politely reproved Hauerwas for fundamentally misstating his argument in his critique. He replied with a kind note acknowledging that he hadn’t read the book. My friend, a conservative fellow, thought that Hauerwas, Berry, MacIntyre and Berry were all good choices. He speculated that the advanced lefties cannot accept the fact that young people are most interested in their work being done by people on the Right. Tanya Berry told me that in 2007, she and Wendell couldn’t understand why so few young conservatives love his work. But they were grateful nonetheless.

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