Putting on Virtue (Large Print)
The Legacy of the Splendid Vices
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· 2009 Choice Outstanding Academic Title
· “This first-rate work deserves wide reading, and should be added to most college and all theological libraries. By demonstrating a keen command of theological and philosophical issues, it easily finds a place among the finest works on theological ethics. Essential.” —Choice
· “Erudite and lucid, Jennifer Herdt’s comprehensive study of theological and secular virtue is exceptionally engaging…A theologically rich, historically grounded, and philosophically challenging book…that resembles the magisterial work of Charles Taylor” —Jonathan Rothchild, Journal of Theological Studies
About the Book
Augustine famously claimed that the virtues of pagan Rome were nothing more than splendid vices. This critique has reinvented itself as a suspicion of acquired virtue as such, and true Christian virtue has, ever since, been set against a false, hypocritical virtue alleged merely to conceal pride. Putting On Virtue reveals how a distrust of learned and habituated virtue shaped both early modern Christian moral reflection and secular forms of ethical thought. Jennifer Herdt develops her claims through an argument of broad historical sweep, which brings together the Aristotelian tradition as taken up by Thomas Aquinas with the early modern thinkers who shaped modern liberalism. In chapters on Luther, Bunyan, the Jansenists, Mandeville, Hume, Rousseau, and Kant, she argues that efforts to guard a radical distinction between true Christian virtue and its tainted imitations ironically fostered the emergence of an autonomous natural ethics that valorized pride and authenticity, while rendering graced human agency increasingly unintelligible. Ultimately, Putting On Virtue traces a path from suspicion of virtue to its secular inversion, from confession of dependence to assertion of independence.
About the Author
Jennifer A. Herdt is associate professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame.
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