Of all the accolades bestowed on Alasdair MacIntyre, perhaps the most interesting and least known is that of “honorary woman.”
Annete C. Baier conferred the title on Macintyre in her book Moral Prejudices after judging that MacIntyre exhibited moral insights that “for whatever reason, women seem to attain more easily or more reliably than men do.”
This was a way of extending Carol Gilligan’s suggestion (since withdrawn) that there is an intrinsic connection between being woman and taking up what is called the “care perspective,” a warmer, more communitarian alternative to the ostensibly male “justice” perspective that certain female writers see as, well, unjustly dominant.
Baier later explained that “it was MacIntyre’s anti-Kantian writings that made me regard him as an ally, and also his nostalgia for a virtues-centered variant of ethics.”
Not everyone agreed. In Justice, Gender, and the Family, feminist Susan Miller Okin vigorously opposed what she saw as MacIntyre’s particularly extreme patriarchal thinking.
Baier felt compelled to agree, later writing that MacIntyre’s “increasingly explicit defense of a patriarchal religious tradition,” (that is, Christianity, and perhaps in particular Catholicism) made “the honor that I did him looks undeserved.”
MacIntyre’s conversion has not prompted all to strip him of his honors, though. Deirdre McCloskey was still willing, in a review written earlier this year, to praise in passing the revival of virtue ethics effected by “female British analytic philosophers, together with a few honorary women such as Alasdair Macintyre.”