Paradoxical Virtue: Reinhold Niebuhr and the Virtue Ethics Tradition, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Paradoxical Virtue

Reinhold Niebuhr and the Virtue Ethics Tradition, 1st Edition

Edited by Kevin Carnahan, David True


304 pages

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Hardback: 9781138588660
pub: 2020-01-27
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After the re-emergence of the tradition of virtue ethics in the early 1980s Reinhold Niebuhr has often served as a foil for authors who locate themselves in that tradition. However, this exercise has often proved controversial. This collection of essays continues this work, across a wide range of subjects, with the aim of avoiding some of the polemics that have previously accompanied it.  

The central thesis of this book is that putting the work of Reinhold Niebuhr and Christian realism in dialogue with contemporary virtue theory is a profitable undertaking. An introductory essay argues against locating Niebuhr as a consequentialist and in favour of thinking of his work in terms of a dispositional ethics Contributors take different positions on whether Niebuhr’s dispositional ethics should be considered a form of virtue ethics or an alternative to virtue ethics. Several of the articles relate Niebuhr and Christian realism to particular virtues. Throughout there is an appreciation of the ways in which any Niebuhrian approach to dispositional ethics or virtue must be shaped by a sense of tragedy, paradox, or irony. The most moral disposition will be one which includes doubts about its own virtue.

This volume allows for a repositioning of Niebuhr in the context of contemporary moral theory as well as a rereading of the tradition of virtue ethics in the light of a distinctly Protestant, Christian realist and paradoxical view of virtue. As a result, it will be of great interest to scholars of Niebuhr and Christian Ethics and scholars working in Moral Philosophy and the Philosophy of Religion more generally.

Table of Contents



Kevin Carnahan

1 Niebuhr on the Ironies of Virtue and the Virtue of Irony

Charles Mathewes

2 Hope, Virtue, and Politics in Reinhold Niebuhr’s Works

Robin Lovin

3 Virtue and the Fragile Christian Realist

Martha ter Kuile

4 Reinhold Niebuhr: Faith in and Beyond History

Scott Paeth

5 Deceptive Honesty: Myth and Virtue in Reinhold Niebuhr

Dan Malotky

6 The Paradoxes of Virtue: Agape in the Work of Reinhold Niebuhr

Mark Douglas

7 Reinhold Niebuhr and the Virtue of Mutuality

Daniel Morris

8 The Humble Place of Humility in Reinhold Niebuhr’s Ethics

Jodie Lyon

9 Choosing Sorrow: Niebuhr, Contrition, and White Catastrophe

Christopher Dowdy

10 Reinhold Niebuhr, Virtue, and Political Society: A Key To the Christian Character of Prophetic Realism

Ward Holder

11 A Niebuhrian Virtue of Justice

Kevin Carnahan

12 Reinhold Niebuhr and Phronesis

David True and Thomas James

13 Reinhold Niebuhr and the Aesthetics of Political Leadership

Thomas James

14 The Virtues of the Social Critic

Jeremy Sabella


About the Series

Routledge New Critical Thinking in Religion, Theology and Biblical Studies

The Routledge New Critical Thinking in Religion, Theology and Biblical Studies series brings high quality research monograph publishing back into focus for authors, international libraries, and student, academic and research readers. This open-ended monograph series presents cutting-edge research from both established and new authors in the field. With specialist focus yet clear contextual presentation of contemporary research, books in the series take research into important new directions and open the field to new critical debate within the discipline, in areas of related study, and in key areas for contemporary society.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PHILOSOPHY / Ethics & Moral Philosophy
RELIGION / General
RELIGION / Philosophy
RELIGION / Christian Theology / Ethics
RELIGION / Theology