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Reclaiming Virtue: How We Can Develop the Moral Intelligence to Do the Right Thing at the Right Time for the Right Reason Hardcover – April 28, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Bestselling recovery expert and motivational speaker Bradshaw (Family Secrets), presents an in-depth survey of human behavior from many angles in a probing exploration of our inner guidance system. Beginning with magnificent moral moments (a black girl integrating a school smiles at a woman who spat at her), he interweaves his own tangled life experiences: he obtained advanced degrees in theology and philosophy, yet lost jobs after alcoholic binges even after a 12-step recovery program; he still felt like he was on the outside of life looking in and set out to change the direction of his life. Inviting the reader to join him on his personal journey to make sense out of the complexities and ambiguities of the moral/ethical order, Bradshaw divides his book into three potent and compelling sections: part one defines the nature of moral intelligence; the second section examines how to develop that intelligence. In the final pages, he outlines family goals and offers ways for readers to develop their children's moral intelligence. Bradshaw followers and many first-time readers will find this an extremely effective and valuable guide. (Apr. 28)
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Bradshaw, best-selling author and creator of the PBS series Bradshaw on the Family, explores the individual capacity to develop the moral intelligence to navigate life’s challenges and achieve virtue. He begins by defining moral intelligence, looking to philosophers from Aristotle to Thomas Aquinas for ideals of human behavior. Bradshaw follows with advice on how to develop and nurture moral intelligence, outlining the preparatory work to be done and ways to develop moral character and instill it in children. To illustrate virtue, Bradshaw offers profiles of people—historic and contemporary—who stepped up to challenges of national or personal significance: Abraham Lincoln; Henry David Thoreau; Ruby Bridges, the black girl who braved rabid prejudice to integrate public schools in New Orleans; Morrie Schwartz, former teacher and subject of the book and film Tuesdays with Morrie. Bradshaw intertwines his own life history, with extremes from virtue and piety to alcoholism and wanton licentiousness, as he looks beyond religious dogma for a deeper sense of morality. He draws on religion, psychology, and philosophy to offer a broad and nuanced perspective on virtue. --Vanessa Bush
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Top customer reviews
Bradshaw's 500-page magnum opus is his grand synthesis of what he has learned during his life from his own personal and professional experiences and from his reading. Bradshaw has mastered the reading material about which he writes.
RECLAIMING VIRTUE is reader friendly, including an ample index. From cover to cover, the sentences and paragraphs in the fifteen chapters of this ambitious book are clearly written and accessible. Each chapter is divided into bite-sized subsections introduced by suitable subheadings. However, even people who are familiar with Bradshaw's thought may find this 500-page text daunting to read because of the sheer number of topics covered in the various subsections. Slow reading may be the best approach to reading this book.
As the subtitle intimates, Aristotle's NICOMACHEAN ETHICS is one of the anchors and cornerstones of Bradshaw's book. For example, he quotes Aristotle on page 51: "Anybody can become angry - that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way - that is not within everybody's power and is not easy."
Mutatis mutandi, anybody can be helpful - that is easy, but to be helpful with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way - that is not within everybody's power and is not easy.
Do you get the idea? In short, deliberate virtuous acts represent the excellence of human flourishing, because virtue represents the excellence of human nature.
Regarding anger, Bradshaw himself makes his own contribution to our understanding of anger when he says that "anger must be tempered by healthy shame" (page 180). Unfortunately, many of us do not have a healthy sense of shame. Instead, we have an unhealthy sense of shame, which Bradshaw refers to as toxic shame.
Toxic shames skews not only our expression of anger but also our expression of other emotions as well. Bradshaw's central claim is that toxic shame binds our emotions. In plain English, our emotions are frozen in the past. As a result, "we overreact or react in other inappropriate ways" not only with respect to anger but also with respect to other emotions as well (page 249). Thus we do not do the right thing at the right time for the right reason.
To be able to do the right thing at the right time for the right reason habitually, we must overcome the various problems associated with toxic shame. But how can we proceed to do this? According to Bradshaw, the key to overcoming our toxic shame is grief work, which produces intrapsychic restructuring of our psyches. Even though he does not happen to mention the work of George H. Pollock, M.D., Ph.D., regarding grief work, the very title of the two-volume collection of Pollock's essays about grief work, THE MOURNING-LIBERATION PROCESS (1989), supports the claim that healthy grief work does produce intrapsychic restructuring of the psyche.
In any event, Bradshaw quotes Erik H. Erikson as saying that ego integrity in the mature older adult means "a new, different love of one's own parents, free of the wish that they should have been different, and an acceptance of the fact that one's life is one's own responsibility" (quoted on pages 315-16). For most of us, this kind of ego integrity would indeed require a significant intrapsychic restructuring in our psyches.
I admire Bradshaw for his work as a professional therapist in helping people to undertake the grief work that they need to work through in order to free themselves of the shame that binds their emotions. I also admire him for publicizing our need for grief work in order to recover from our toxic shame through his lectures, PBS television shows, and books. I have learned a lot from his books HEALING THE SHAME THAT BINDS YOU and RECLAIMING VIRTUE.
However, as the example of Alice Miller's own grief work shows, doing this kind of grief work can be a complicated undertaking, to say the least.
Susan Campbell, Ph.D.
Author of Getting Real: 10 Truth Skills You Need To Live An Authentic Life
A magnificent work - scholarly, deeply personal and intriguing. The author pulls from many fields, in addition to his own personal experiences both as a therapist and a man in recovery, to reveal the compelling necessity of personal virtue.
A fine book, well worth reading.
Replacing a book I let out for loan never to return.I wanted my collection of his writings to be complete. Delivered faster than expected in great condition .