Vainglory: The Forgotten Vice.
For most of us, the construct of pride has largely obscured the construct of vainglory. However, in the age of Facebook, Lady Gaga, and Gaston (from Disney's Beauty and the Beast) the author makes a convincing case that we need to reconsider the vice of vainglory. The author is a faculty member in the Department of Philosophy at Calvin College. Her thinking about this topic has been largely informed by the early Christian desert ascetics, St. Augustine, and Thomas Aquinas. I confess that sometimes, when I read the work of a philosopher, I feel like a colorblind individual walking through an art gallery: clearly I am missing something. However, DeYoung writes well and with clarity and she makes reading her book a very interesting and intriguing journey.
DeYoung first begins by distinguishing between the constructs of pride and vainglory. Pride is about position and power and vainglory is about attention and acknowledgment. "Put simply, the prideful person desires to be greater than others, whether others recognize this or not, while the vainglorious person wishes to attract others' notice and applause, whether she is better than them or not." (p. 42). DeYoung also comes from the theological position that vice is always twisted virtue (e.g., St. Augustine). Her primary concern about vice is that vice will interfere with love: love of God and love of others.
DeYoung presents glory as 'goodness displayed.' She the makes the case for the potential goodness of glory (ala, Aquinas). First, there is scripture (e.g., Matthew 5:14-17 and Jesus's command to "let your light shine"). And, second there is the way that good things normally work. Good things naturally tend to reveal themselves." For example, God, the perfect good and origin of all goodness, shares his goodness through the act of creation." (p. 19). So, the question then becomes how can glory become "vain" or empty? The author suggests that glory can be vain in terms of what we are seeking glory for. For example, goodness can be faked (e.g., an embellished vita) or goodness can be claimed for something that is not really worthy of attention (e.g., having lots of bling and a great tan). Glory can also become vain in terms of why we are seeking attention. Essentially, DeYoung argues that things go awry when good actions are done for extrinsic reasons. I let "my light shine" not because I want to reduce the darkness but because I love being in the spotlight.
DeYoung also introduces the idea that being vainglorious is a capital sin in the sense it is the head (or source) of several other vices. A partial list of vainglorious fruit would include: boasting, hypocrisy, presumption of novelties (needing to always have the best and newest), obstinacy, contention, discord, and disobedience. Given the observation that many of these fruits involve issues of posturing and self-presentation this raises the interesting question if acting in the direction of goodness is simply hypocrisy. The author discusses this dilemma in an interesting and engaging way. In addition, DeYoung suggests that the roots of vainglory tend to be pride and fear. Again, it is an interesting discussion.
I strongly recommend this book. It is an opportunity to carefully consider a topic that is very relevant to psychologists from a non-psychological perspective. The book is well written and will cause you to think carefully about yourself and about others. Now, I simply need to consider to what extent writing this book review was vainglorious.
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|Author:||Bassett, Rodney L.|
|Publication:||Journal of Psychology and Christianity|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2017|
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