Book Review: ‘Dependent Rational Animals: Why Human Beings Need the Virtues’

By Heyrsh Abdulrahman:

The author, Alasdair MacIntyre, has used this book to convey different concepts about human beings. This helps people understand why humans are considered to be animals and should be treated with care like other animals. The author views human human beings as dependent on their bodies and linked biologically in different ways with other animals or members of the animal kingdom.

Humans are vulnerable like other animals. Some people are disabled. The author has used the book to differentiate the “virtue of acknowledged dependence” and the most common virtue, “the virtue of independent practical reasoners”. He analyzes man in detail in relation to the animal kingdom. The author has highlighted various things that can help human beings function as rational beings. For example, he has analyzed how human beings are vulnerable to various challenges like physical danger and harm. He has also analyzed how human beings are vulnerable to dependence. People should understand the issues covered in this book as they help human beings become rational beings.

Moreover, Macintyre argues that a person should be both independent and dependent. This helps one exist in the human social order. It also helps one contribute to the common good of society. Macintyre believes that the dependent and independent behaviors result from our social relationships.

The author has also shown how people behave and react to situations. He argues that people learn how to behave and react. Learning is a new way of acquiring ideas from the outside world. The author explains that the learning begins at infancy and extends over one’s life time. Hence, human beings continuously learn how to behave and react. The author uses various examples to illustrate this. For example, he uses language to illustrate the concept of learning. Learning language begins as mimicry. Young children mimic the conversation of the care givers and learn how to talk. The author argues that people learn behaviors differently from languages.

Macintyre analyzes the differences between human beings and animals in the first six chapters. For example, animals lack intelligence and they lack language and beliefs. In addition, animals lack practical reason. On the other hand, human beings are intelligent and have language and beliefs. Also, human beings have practical reason. This makes it easy for human beings to function effectively as compared to other animals. Chapters seven to eleven focus on the disability of human beings. Human beings are disabled or need help from other people. For example, young children, the sick and old people need help. Also, people who are permanently disabled need help from other people. The author argues that an account that does not consider the disability of human beings is not useful. Instead, an account that supports the virtues of human dependence on other people and independence is valuable.


MacIntyre, A. (2001). Dependent Rational Animals: Why Human Beings Need the Virtues. Open Court Publishing.

Heyrsh Abdulrahman is an independent political observer and researcher, and a former deputy representative and director of community outreach for the PUK and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in the USA.

One Response to Book Review: ‘Dependent Rational Animals: Why Human Beings Need the Virtues’
  1. Sarkan
    May 28, 2015 | 21:42

    Good Job Mama Heyrsh.

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