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Renewing a Forgotten Virtue 

An elegant meditation on the forgotten virtue of reverence 

Reverence is an ancient virtue dating back thousands of years. It survives among us in half-forgotten patterns of behavior and in the vestiges of old ceremonies. Yet, Paul Woodruff says, we have lost sight of reverence. Like an important engine part that has rusted over time, the idea of reverence has become increasingly foreign. This short, elegiac volume makes an impassioned case for the fundamental importance of the forgotten virtue of reverence, and how awe for things greater than oneself can--indeed must--be a touchstone for other virtues like respect, humility, and charity.

Ranging widely over diverse cultural terrain--from Philip Larkin to ancient Greek poetry, from modern politics to Chinese philosophy--Woodruff shows how absolutely essential reverence is to a well-functioning society. He tackles some thorny questions: How does reverence allow not only for leaders but for followers? What role does reverence play in religion? Do some religions misuse reverence? Must reverence be humorless? In the process, Woodruff shows convincingly how reverence plays an unseen part in virtually every human relationship, whether in government, work, friendship, or family. It is essential, he says, for us to recover a sense of reverence in order to help repair the fraying bonds that tie us together.

Elegantly written, thoughtful yet urgent, Reverence is sure to reach out to a wide variety of people interested in the moral health of Western culture, showing how our own intellectual and spiritual legacy can guide us more than we realize.

"In this small book, philosopher Paul Woodruff sets himself two large tasks: to revive an appreciation for reverence in a culture that celebrates irreverence, and to rescue the idea of virtue from its proponents on the right and its opponents on the left. He succeeds admirably in both." --Scott Russell Sanders, Christian Science Monitor

"Reverence is a beautifully written meditation on an important--and neglected--virtue. It is a wise, humane work and--in its own reverent way--something of a minor masterpiece."--David Reeve, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

"Woodruff approaches his subject with reverence, thereby invoking it even as he is analyzing it with depth and clarity. We have lost the 'idea' of reverence, he tells us, and to reclaim it is our obligation and opportunity. A beautiful book, lyrical and hard-hitting, intellectual and emotive, transformative."--Ursula Goodenough, author of Sacred Depths of Nature 

Paul Woodruff is Mary Helen Thompson Professor of the Humanities at the University of Texas in Austin. A widely published translator of Plato, Thucydides, and other ancient writers, he has written extensively on classical philosophy and political thought. 

Back Philosophy 256 pp.; 
5 x 7; 0-19-514778-2 
$22.00 cloth 2001 

$11.95 paper 0195157958 

Publicity department, Fax: 212-726-6447 
Oxford University Press 
198 Madison Avenue New York, NY 10016