The probing readings of Putting On Virtue offered by Sheryl Overmyer, Darlene Weaver, and James Foster provide a welcome opportunity for further reflection on key questions: Was Aquinas really concerned with the status of pagan virtues? Can we properly understand a thinker whose driving questions are not the same as our own without taking up a stance of pure deference? Can an inquiry into hyper-Augustinian anxiety over acquired virtue assist us in arriving at an account of positive self-regard? Can an (...) account that stresses the graced character of all virtue formation be coherent? And can it do justice to the ways in which Christians reached for accounts of infused virtue precisely in order to affirm how grace overcomes the ways in which fortune hounds acquired virtue? I respond affirmatively to all of the above. (shrink)
The present volume is the fifth out of eight total projected for the Clarendon Edition of the Works of David Hume. Its editor, Tom Beauchamp, is one of the general editors of the Clarendon Hume, together with David Fate Norton and M. A. Stewart. Beauchamp served as the editor for the Clarendon editions of An Enquiry concerning the Principle of Morals (1998) and An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding (2000), both of which have garnered critical acclaim. Like the previous volumes, this (...) new edition of A Dissertation on the Passions and The Natural History of Religion has been prepared with erudition and meticulous attention to detail. It becomes without question the definitive critical edition of these .. (shrink)
Despite the fact that Stanley Hauerwas has not taken up many of the topics normally associated with virtue ethics, has explicitly distanced himself from the enterprise known as “virtue ethics,” and throughout his career has preferred other categories of analysis, ranging from character and agency to practices and liturgy, it is nevertheless clear that his work has had a deep and transformative impact on the recovery of virtue within Christian ethics, and that this impact has largely to do with the (...) ways in which his thought resists normalization. This essay traces the evolution of Hauerwas's reflections on virtue and the virtues over the course of his career, with special attention to how this has been bound up with an increasingly emphatic theological particularism that has remained ambivalent between what I term “comprehensive” versus “exclusive” particularism. I argue that it is important to distinguish between these, and suggest that grasping the destructive tendencies of “exclusive” particularism should cement our commitment to shouldering the responsibilities associated with comprehensive particularism. (shrink)
In "Theology and Social Theory", John Milbank critiques Scottish Enlightenment political economy and its attendant descriptive moral philosophy for "de-ethicizing" human action. A closer look at the development of theoretical understandings of sympathy, however, shows that instinct did not ultimately displace virtue. Moreover, a survey of practical responses to poverty calls into question the claim that political economy obliterated the Christian sphere of public charity. Many of the innovations Milbank criticizes as de-ethicizing in fact reflect serious efforts to absorb into (...) ethical reflection and practice deep social and economic changes, which Christian theology could ignore only at its own peril. Moreover, it was sometimes non- or even anti-religious thinkers like David Hume and William Hazlitt who were soonest to see the dangers involved in appealing to instinctual behavior and providential coordination of social action. Returning to the roots of social theory allows theologians to recover lost possibilities for productive collaboration with "the secular.". (shrink)
This review essay assesses the significance of J. B. Schneewind's "The Invention of Autonomy" for the history of moral thought in general and for religious ethics in particular. The essay offers an overview of Schneewind's complex argument before critically discussing his four central themes: the primacy of Immanuel Kant, the fundamentality of conflict, the insufficiency of virtue, and community with God. Whereas Schneewind argues that an impasse between modern natural law and perfectionist ethics revealed irresolvable tensions within Christian ethics and (...) thus encouraged the emergence of secular moral thought, this author suggests that these tensions were specific to a voluntarist strand of Christian moral thought from which even antivoluntarists of the modern period were unable to break free. (shrink)
Seventeenth-century Cambridge Platonist Ralph Cudworth, writing just at the time when the concept of sympathy was moving from the realm of magic to that of ethics, argued that God must be understood as having a vital sympathy with suffering human beings. Yet while Cudworth invoked sympathy in an attempt to capture God's intimate relation with creation, in fact, it served as a principle of mediation that tended either to collapse God into the world or to distance God from the world. (...) The broader implications of this problematic conception of divine transcendence can be seen in the secularizing tendencies within sentimentalist ethics and in the work of the late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century Anglican theologians, who were the first to affirm divine passibility. (shrink)
In this introduction to a cluster of three articles on eighteenth-century ethics written by Mark Larrimore, John Bowlin, and Mark Cladis, the author maintains that although the broad narrative tracing the emergence of a religiously neutral or naturalistic moral language in the eighteenth century is a familiar one, many central questions concerning this development remain unanswered and require further historical study. Against those who contend that historical study is antecedent to, but not part of, the proper substance of religious ethics, (...) the author argues that historical and normative studies are interdependent, each helping to define the questions central to the other. The introduction concludes with an overview of the three articles and suggests ways in which religious ethicists can, in the future, make a distinctive contribution to the history of ethics. (shrink)
This book explores Hume's concern with the destructiveness of religious factions and his efforts to develop, in his moral philosophy, a solution to factional conflict. Sympathy and the related capacity to enter into foreign points of view are crucial to the neutralization of religious zeal and the naturalization of ethics. Jennifer Herdt suggests that Hume's preoccupation with religious faction is the key which reveals the unity of his varied philosophical, aesthetic, political, and historical works.