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Vainglory: The Forgotten Vice.

Vainglory: The Forgotten Vice. By Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung. Grand Rapids, Ml: Eerdmans, 2014. Pp. x + 157. $14.

In her aptly titled work, philosopher DeYoung draws upon Aquinas, Augustine, and the desert fathers to analyze a character flaw rarely addressed in contemporary ethics, despite its ubiquity (under other names) in contemporary Western culture. As D. explains, vainglory poses a number of problems for Christian ethics. If vainglory is a vice, in what sense is glory a virtue, especially given the traditional emphasis upon humility in Christian thought? Moreover, Aquinas's approach to vainglory, upon which D. relies, includes a broad range of behaviors that raise disparate spiritual questions, from the pursuit of notoriety at any cost to the pursuit of excellence or even sanctity for unworthy reasons. As a result, success in overcoming some aspects of vainglory can create a temptation to other more insidious forms, including the "seductive addiction to applause" (8). D. also poses two interesting methodological questions. Since the Christian tradition sees the glory of created things as derivative from and evidence of divine glory, to what degree can one discuss vainglory as a secular vice? Alternately, how can Christian ethics analyze vices and virtues (including vainglory and glory) without losing sight of divine grace, and degenerating into a works-righteousness that is, in itself, a form of vainglory?

This volume is effective both as an introduction to Christian thought regarding vainglory and to the topic's contemporary relevance. D.'s illustrations from everyday experience (e.g., iPhone advertising as an example of the medieval "presumption of novelties") are pedagogically engaging. Her insight that vainglory can arise from fear as well as pride--its more generally recognized foundation--is intriguing and deserves further development, especially at a time when the mass shooting of strangers has become an act of self-definition for the desperate.

D.'s concise, well-written book will appeal to undergraduates and to general readers as well as to professional scholars. This would make fine supplemental reading for a course in virtue ethics.

DOI: 10.1177/0040563915619978

Julia Fleming

Creighton University, Omaha

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Author:Fleming, Julia
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 1, 2016
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