Cultivating Virtue: Perspectives from Philosophy, Theology, and Psychology.
Cultivating Virtue: Perspectives from Philosophy, Theology, and Psychology. Edited by Nancy E. Snow. New York: Oxford University, 2015. Pp. vii + 349. $35.
Books on virtue ethics often have misleading titles that imply that growth of moral character is the topic at hand when in fact the book addresses specific virtues or virtue theory in general. But Snow actually does address the cultivation of virtue. This volume of mostly new works appeared only a year after S. and Narvaez were chosen as recipients of the Templeton Religion Trust grant in support of interdisciplinary work on virtue theory. The beginning of the trajectory of their work of considering virtue as "located" in the whole self (rather than in the personality) is reflected here.
Because cultivation of virtue is the focus, much of the discussion addresses the conditions and practices necessary for very young children to become virtuous adults. Developmental psychology partners with philosophy and theology here, and this partnership works well under S.'s direction. The book offers multiple perspectives both from virtue theory and psychology.
Readers in psychology might find the book insufficiently critical of the approaches within which they work, and religious studies scholars and theologians will find the religious cosmologies summarized here to be introductory rather than groundbreaking. This is a characteristic of good interdisciplinary work, however, and S. leans toward the side of hospitality, preparing soil for fruitful interdisciplinary conversation. The book avoids excessive jargon and deftly contextualizes concepts for readers. It also considers important issues that are rarely well examined in Western virtue theory (such as the potentially narcissistic tendencies of virtue ethics). Interdisciplinarity here allows for new development of these topics, breaking some new ground. The book fortunately also avoids the fixation of many contemporary works on redefining specific virtues and formulating various situation-specific virtue ethics. Likewise S. addresses the struggles of virtue ethics (with situationism, for example). Her work is successfully interdisciplinary, thoughtful, thorough, and important for scholars working in virtue ethics.
Nancy M. Rourke
Canisius College, Buffalo