1st Edition

Paradoxical Virtue Reinhold Niebuhr and the Virtue Tradition

Edited By Kevin Carnahan, David True Copyright 2020
    268 Pages
    by Routledge

    268 Pages
    by Routledge

    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.


    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



    Kevin Carnahan is Professor of Philosophy and Religion at the Central Methodist University, USA. He is Co-editor of the Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics; former President of the Niebuhr Society; author of Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Ramsey (2010), From Presumption to Prudence in Just-War Rationality (2017), several scholarly articles, and many popular and editorial pieces.

    David True is Associate Professor of Religion at Wilson College, USA. He is Co-editor of Political Theology and is author of articles and book chapters on fundamentalism, just war theory, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Martin Luther King, Jr. He has also written for venues such as Religion Dispatches, the Christian Science Monitor, Politico, and Political Theology Today. In addition, he is the Director of Wilson College’s Orr Forum on Religion and The Wilson College Common Hour.