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Each argument has a distinctive, historical origin. Maclntyre notes that "a concept of rights which has Lockean antecedents is matched against a view of universalizability which is recognizable Kantian and an appeal to the moral law which is Thomist. Maclntyre stresses the history behind ethics because he believes that human beings create the ethical systems that bind them. Moral principles and concerns do not descend on human beings from on high; rather human beings pull them out of the historical ground that roots them in a particular spatiotemporal nexus.

Maclntyre's third point is particularly important. Living in a pluralistic community, we realize that our conceptions of the good are multiple, and so we design our social and political institutions to enable us to reach as much consensus as possible about the things that matter the most to us. We agree that we should follow certain procedural rules when we are asked a difficult question such as, "Should the state be permitted to sterilize women who give birth to cocaine-addicted babies?"

First, we try to get straight on the facts: Is it possible for a cocaine-addicted woman to overcome her addiction? How long-lasting and serious are the consequences of coming into the world addicted to cocaine? Second, we appeal to the values that are embedded in the three major ethical systems that have shaped the Western moral point of view. We ask ourselves whether a woman's right to procreate is so fundamental that it cannot be abrogated under any circumstances or whether it is a right that not only may be but must be abrogated when her baby's well-being is affected deleteriously. Moreover, we seek to ask these questions in a respectful manner that aims to avoid the excess of arrogance as well as the defect of obsequiousness. Just because believe something is right does not make it right. However, it does not make it wrong either. Any bona fide moral point of view is worthy of everyone's respect and consideration, but if we want to achieve the kind of consensus that permits people to live together to prevent offense to other specific individuals, where offense is interpreted as behavior that causes feelings of shame, outrage, or disgust in those against whom it is directed).


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