Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue
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Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  145 ratings  ·  26 reviews
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 impassi...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published September 20th 2001 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 2001)
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There is a certain vagueness in the author's use of reverence, but I do like this attempt at definition: "Reverence is the well-developed capacity to have the feelings of awe, respect, and shame when these are the right feelings to have." It is tied initially to ritual and Woodrufff examines it especially in its Greek origins and also in Chinese thought. He finds reverence to exist potentially in religion, but not necessarily. Reverence recognizes human limitations, is awestruck towards those th...more
Glen Smith
A provocative and rich look at reverence that has given me much to reflect on. Woodruff treats the topic as a virtue that crosses religious and cultural barriers. He makes ample references to classical Greek thinking, as well as, Chinese thoughts.

Essentially, reverence in this work is viewed as the capacity for right feelings that move you in the right direction towards others, life and responsibilities. This definition gives the concept great social consequences as Woodruff shows the practical...more
Maughn Gregory
A book of wisdom makes me want to be a better person and some way shows me how. This is a very wise book in both senses. By drawing on sources mostly from ancient Greece and China, and illustrating with examples from the contemporary western world (sports, politics, family, religion, education), Woodruff makes a compelling case that reverence as he defines it is a cardinal, i.e. trans-cultural virtue. Also, and not incidentally, I take Woodruff to be an exemplar of philosophical writing: he is e...more
FreshGrads .Sg
Noting the nonchalant destruction for our environment and a lack of respect for rules and authorities, philosopher Paul Woodruff questions if modern society has lost its capacity for reverence in his book Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue.

In this thin 256-page book, he eloquently examines the meaning of reverence and explores it as an important aspect of a moral life, defining it as "the well-developed capacity to have the feelings of awe, respect, and shame when these are the right feeling...more
I read this book over a year ago, but I still think of it from time to time. Reverence: awe, respect and shame, all involving something bigger than ourselves that can't be controlled by us, and not necessarily religious. Something which seems to make each of us a better person. It doesn't mean blind obedience. One can protest one's government... out of reverence for justice. It's what people feel is lacking when they feel "dissed." Where there is contempt, ridicule and condescension there is a l...more
A life-changing book. One cannot read it without improving in mind and morals.

Months after reading this book I cannot shake its message from my head. And I don't want to. It's looking to be the best book I read in 2009.

Woodruff talks about a trait that can tie all believers and non-believers together, a trait that the contemporary West is losing quickly, one we cannot afford to lose. It is reverence that draws us to Cathedrals though we might not be Catholic, Stonehenge though we might not be...more
Mark Lacy
Interesting, made me think. Would've helped if I'd had more of a classical education so I could understand all the references to Greek literature. Was pleased to read his opinion of reverence as a virtue, a virtue that I think is sadly lacking in so many people these days. Disappointed that the final chapter didn't tie everything together or summarize his thesis. The book simply ended.
A very full treatment of the topic, maybe a bit repetitive, but enlightening all the same.
Yes, this led to much cognitive dissonance as I struggled to apply the principles of quietness, listening and respect of overarching principles to my multi-task, interrupt, fight life. The chapter on teaching was especially interesting to me. The book’s flaws are mostly that it repeats ad infinitum the same principles and that it gives no discernible conclusion, just kind of gives you the chapter on home and then...ends. The first couple of chapters are adequate for him to make his point, especi...more
A good subject and very well written. Uses Ancient Greek poetry and Chinese philosophy to support his case. He manages to steer away from the predictable religious approach and makes a graceful and emotive argument for reviving respect and humility. I'm reminded of a quotes by Einstein.

"A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment an...more
Wow! What a book. The concepts of virtue, of community, and of reverence itself have changed the way I look at the regular ceremonies I participate in with Church, school, family, and country. I value them now more than ever. I started marking the passages I liked in my copy, and found I'd marked nearly half the book.
Woodruff's style does get a bit repetitive, so reading it all in one or two days (as I did) may not be ideal; you'd be better off picking it up in small segments, and being reminded...more
This is not Woodruff's fault as much as mine, but the final few chapters began to seem somewhat repetitive, and rather to cloud the luminosity of reverence than to focus it. Still, this is a very intersting book which reads ancient Greek poetry and philosophy in light of Confucian (chiefly Mencian) thought, and vice versa. As a culture, whave lost much reverence, I agree. Woodruff makes a good case that in losing the sense of reverence, we lose much that makes us human.
Braden Canfield
Redeems the virtue and practice of reverence from the clutches of mere "faith" and plants it firmly in the every day acts of living as a human being (regardless of your beliefs) amidst unfathomable immensity and mystery. Reverence is the practice that saves us from the destructive and absurd 'sin' of arrogance. Nice book.
I loved this. Woodruff presents reverence as a cardinal virtue and makes a good case for its universality (it's not something restricted to one religion or even to religion at all). It's a broad definition, but that doesn't seem to conflict with the idea of reverence as absolutely essential in society.
Barbara Lovejoy
I was so excited to read this book. Enjoyed it very much. It has given me so much food for thought considering reverence especially as it relates to leadership and teaching. I got this book from the library but will probably buy my own copy because I'll want to read it again and again.
Jun 25, 2009 Amy is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
This book needs to be read slowly. Very deep subject matter and full of philosophical debate and ethics from the ancient Greeks and Chinese cultures plus modern day ideas on the subject of reverence and virtues. This is not a book for a day at the beach. lol
Rose M
This is an important book with an significant message.
Woodruff lays out an argument in the classic sense, and then proves his point repeatedly. Woodruff is now in charge of the undergraduate curriculum at UT Austin. This gives me hope for the future. Excellent book.
A key philosophical underpinning for any theology. Woodruff offers a helpful view about what reverence is - beyond a feeling - and what virtue is (making use of Aristotle's perspective, that a virtue is a "right balance" of feelings).
I had difficulty with this book between "respect" and "reverence." I'm still not sure about how I feel regarding the differences between the two concepts.
Not far into the book, but it's interesting so far. The author takes the virtue of reverence beyond just the religious sphere, applying it to power in general.
Reese Forbes
This is what keeps humans from being too self-important.
Deleted by reviewer.
Victoria Weinstein
A very preachable little gem!
Oct 15, 2010 Karen is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I don't have a lot of free time with all my school and book club reading, but I'm making a point to savor a page or two of this when I need a calm, thoughtful moment.
Nov 21, 2009 Jonathan added it
Shelves: philosophy
Bishop Harber
Bishop Harber is currently reading it
Sep 07, 2014
Jessica Bird
Jessica Bird marked it as to-read
Sep 04, 2014
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