- Paperback: 256 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press (December 5, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0195157958
- ISBN-13: 978-0195157956
- Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.6 x 5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 26 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,106,292 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue
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From Publishers Weekly
What is the difference between reverence and faith? Is reverence supposed to take the place of faith or belief? Does reverence belong to religion? In this simple, and often simplistic, little book, Woodruff, who teaches humanities at the University of Texas at Austin, probes the meaning of reverence and tries to recover it as an essential component of a moral life. He defines reverence very simply as "the well-developed capacity to have the feelings of awe, respect, and shame when these are the right feelings to have." In an admirable historical and ideological survey, he traces the roots of reverence to Greek and Confucian ideals. Yet contemporary society seems to have lost this capacity for reverence, a loss that is reflected in disdain for the government, destruction of the environment and disrespect for rules and rituals. How can we recover reverence and act more reverently? Taking a cue from Aristotle, Woodruff says that we become reverent by doing reverent things. Such a circular argument is not the book's only flaw. Woodruff covers his subject in the first 15 pages, demonstrating that it would have been more appropriate as a lengthy journal article. Although he offers a variety of different approaches to the same subject, Woodruff cannot overcome a deadening sense of repetition (e.g., reminding us on almost every other page that reverence and respect are not synonymous), ultimately defeating his valiant efforts to rehabilitate reverence for today.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Philosopher Woodruff had an epiphany: reverence, "the virtue that keeps human beings from trying to act like gods," has been forgotten in our society. People practice reverence, but without understanding or valuing it. To rekindle awareness of the virtue that "lies behind civility and all the graces that make life in society bearable and pleasant," Woodruff defines reverence and explains how it makes community life possible. Drawing on two classic traditions, ancient Greek philosophy and Confucianism, as well as the poetry of Tennyson, Yeats, and Larkin, Woodruff carefully separates reverence--the sense of a greater, transcendent force, the feeling of awe we feel in the presence of beauty--from faith, showing how tyranny occurs when reverence breaks down. Like courage, reverence is not tied to any one belief system, and, as Woodruff so eloquently argues, "habits of reverence" are essential to every sphere of life, from education to politics to land management to love. Clarion and worthy, Woodruff's treatise will give readers their own "Eureka!" moments and, hopefully, create a ripple effect. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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What you get here is a rather trite self-help book. Woodruff himself notes that the idea for the book began as an article and ended up as a book. Well, I'm sorry, it should have stayed as an article. The introduction is, in and of itself, intriguing. It is worth reading, and Woodruff clearly has hit on something in saying that reverence is a forgotten virtue. But it really only takes ten pages to say that. Do we need a 200 page book on the subject?
It was with dismay that I read on. Page after repetitive page. Paragraph heaped upon paragraph to explain what could be explained in a sentence or two. The book itself is presented in a pocket book format - very self-helpish. The chapters are broken down into little digestible bits with handy headings - also very self helpish. The headings themselves are cutsey , "Dad Slugs the Umpire". There is, for pete's sake a section entitled, "Why go to a Meeting".
This book has all the hallmarks of something cooked up and rushed to take its place in the self help market. Which may not be entirely Woodruff's fault - lord knows Oxford Press would probably love to have a best-selling little self help book. But as I read this book (and I have a background in classics as a glance at my other reviews will tell you) I grew annoyed and pevish, it was actually a waste of my time. And there is precious enough time to read as it is. I was STRONGLY reminded of Victor Davis Hanson's admonition to teachers of the classics -teach more write less. I kept asking myself - why did this book need to be written?
In other reviews I have railed against the tendency of reviewers to accord 5 stars to every book they like. To me, a work of genius is a five star book. Excellent books are 4 star books. There is no way on god's green earth that this is a work of genius deserving of the five star reviews it is receiving.
What I do feel compelled to draw attention to is that there are two reviews here from reviewers in Texas -- Woodruff teaches in Texas. Is this a co-incidence? In each case the reviewers have reviewed one and only one book - one reviewer with 52 helpful votes does not even have an "about me section." I find that odd. Both review have received an extraordinary number of "helpful votes". Even odder. There is also a review from the Publisher -- something I thought was not allowed. I am afraid that all of this taken together paints a suspicious picture. I realise that the rules also call for us not to comment on other reviews -- as rule I have religiously followed. I make an exception in this one case. Caveat Emptor.
Although it is written in the discursive modern style, this book employs insightful reasoning to get to the root of our modern neurosis: we have lost reverence for life, leaving us only with ourselves -- and how fascinating can we be? It is as if we have created a world inside of ourselves and gotten lost in it.
Using plain language, and common sense examples as well as references to events through history, Woodruff explains how when we approach life with respect, awe and a sense of discovery, we become better people. His approach is not limited to any religion or culture, or political viewpoint. Everyone can use it and will improve with it.
Some have criticized this book as "self-help." Part of that is the informal style, which I prefer to the ivory tower stream of abstract language. The other part is that this is a practical book because Woodruff, like all the great philosophers, believes philosophy is a tool to improve life -- and that is in itself proof of reverence in action.
I recommend this book to anyone who is curious about how we got to our present time and what failing in common unites our screwups. With the ideas in this book, we can avoid attacking the symbols and instances of our failing, and go for the throat of the Hydra itself. It's easy and fun to read as well as informative.
Most recent customer reviews
find this work admirable in its intent and detail.Read more