The Virtues of a Christian Realist: Toward a Niebuhrian Virtue Ethics in Conversation with Martha Nussbaum

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Title: The Virtues of a Christian Realist: Toward a Niebuhrian Virtue Ethics in Conversation with Martha Nussbaum
Authors: ter Kuile, Martha
Date: 2011
Abstract: Abstract The objective of this project is to articulate a Christian realist virtue ethics, based on the theological anthropology of Reinhold Niebuhr, and elements of the Aristotelian virtue ethics tradition, emphasizing Martha Nussbaum. For Christians it is impossible to avoid two conspicuous facts: that fragility is a primary quality of the human condition, and that Christians are called to serve neighbour as self. Virtue ethics explores the habits of perception, feeling and action that we should cultivate so that we may live out this vocation, even in the midst of our fragility. This project aims to develop a virtue ethics which will address the life situation of liberal Protestant justice-seekers. It does this by combining key elements from the Aristotelian tradition of virtue ethics with the framework of theological anthropology found in Niebuhrian Christian realism. The goal of the project is to develop a Christian realist virtue ethics. The organization of the research follows three broad steps. First, it analyses Reinhold Niebuhr’s Christian realist framework of theological anthropology, as adapted by Rebekah M. Miles, to determine the appropriateness of a virtue ethics treatment. Second, it seeks in the Aristotelian virtue ethics tradition, with special emphasis on Martha Nussbaum, the key elements of virtue ethics which will augment this framework. Third, using David Tracy’s methodology of critical correlation, it places the findings of the two resources together, combining key elements from virtue ethics with the Christian realist framework of theological anthropology in order to formulate a Christian realist ethics of virtue. The project identifies a theological-ethical cycle which emerges in both Niebuhr and Nussbaum as they describe the dynamism of the human condition. The purpose of virtue is to moderate and maintain the unstable equilibrium of the cycle. Its objective is to allow us to live with our fragility rather that escape it. In the constructive exercise, using Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer as an organizing structure, the thesis presents a Christian realist version of the four cardinal virtues: courage, temperance, prudence and justice, and identifies the corresponding excesses and deficiencies. It identifies the primary emotion that is implicated in each virtue.
URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10393/20646
http://dx.doi.org/10.20381/ruor-794
CollectionThèses Saint-Paul // Saint Paul Theses
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