Reforming MacIntyre: Reflections on a Tradition-based, Ethics-oriented Curriculum Transformation

  • Paul F. Jeffries


Introduction: Much of the recent scholarship on the place of religion in institutions of higher education in the United States has noted an increasing trend toward secularization. Colleges and universities that were originally founded by various faith communities have often found it difficult to maintain the religious identities their founders had sought to cultivate. Given this trend, some might consider it noteworthy when a university consciously attempts to rekindle and recreate a connection to its religious heritage and identity. The University of Dubuque (UD) is one such institution seeking to re-embrace its Presbyterian
tradition within the wider Christian community. Apart from going against this tide of secularization, however, UDs process is also significant as an example of how to apply some of the work of
Alasdair MacIntyre, one of the most important contemporary moral philosophers. MacIntyres body of work contains a strong commitment to a tradition-based mode of philosophical and moral enquiry, as well as analysis of how universities can be understood as enquiry-enhancing institutions. Although MacIntyre locates himself within the Catholic and Thomistic tradition, I believe that much of his framework can be Reformed and, in this paper, I hope to demonstrate how the changes at UD provide a useful application of MacIntyres analysis in a different theological context.