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

3.89  ·  Rating Details ·  200 Ratings  ·  35 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. This short, elegiac volume makes an impassioned case for the fundamental importance of the forgotten virtue of reverence, and how awe for things greater th ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published December 5th 2002 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 2001)
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Feb 23, 2016 Jeff rated it it was amazing
This essay, which is based on reflections of Woodruff's book, appeared in my blog:

My life is lived out in tension.

I want the world to be a better place. I also desire for people to treat one another with respect. Often, these two desires come into conflict.

How can we encourage people to be better without being perceived as attacking them? Is there a way to accept people without judgment? I hope so, but sometimes find it difficult. I try not to be judgmental. But I find I am judgmental, especial
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
Aug 03, 2016 Jacob rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think anyone (who cares about living a good life) would benefit from reading this book. The author argues compellingly for the necessity of fostering reverence in human beings and the value of behaving virtuously. By detaching the notion of reverence both from belief and compulsion, Woodruff explains ethics in rational, humanistic terms. In his discussion of classical Greek philosophy, for instance, he reminds the reader, "Reverence calls us to be conscious of bare humanity, the humanity of ou ...more
Michael Lewyn
Oct 22, 2014 Michael Lewyn rated it it was amazing
This book defines reverence as "a sense that there is something larger than a human being, accompanied by capacities for awe,, respect, and shame... [often] reinforced by ceremony". Later in the book, Woodruff more succintly defines reverence as the ability "to feel respect in the right way towards the right people" as well as "awe towards an object that transcends particular human interests." The author believes that reverence is a virtue which, like other virtues, can help you feel like doing ...more
FreshGrads .Sg
Jan 17, 2011 FreshGrads .Sg rated it really liked it
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
Jul 30, 2008 Bob rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
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
Jun 13, 2014 Glen rated it really liked it
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
Jun 04, 2009 Jon rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 08, 2014 Tim rated it really liked it
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
Jul 27, 2010 Mary rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 05, 2010 Sydney rated it liked it
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
Feb 06, 2009 Sarah rated it it was amazing
Shelves: grownup
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
Apr 05, 2014 Andrew rated it liked it
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
Mar 04, 2015 Braden Canfield rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy
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.
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.
Circular writing and a preachy tone, with side orders of "get off my lawn" and "waah waah respect the Greeks!" Woodruff seems incapable of recognizing any form of reverence that doesn't look like his--no mean feat for someone who refuses to give even for-this-book-only working parameters for the word.
Dec 20, 2015 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
An excellently written book on the virtue of reverence. Woodruff examines this subject using both examples from Greek philosophy and drama and also from the Confucian school. However what makes this book so successful is that Woodruff is able to apply his observations to contemporary life, in the spheres of education, the military, home and belief. Not a light read by means but well worth it.
Sep 05, 2009 Amy rated it really liked it
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.
Jeff Lampson
Yes, I believe that this ancient virtue is more meaningful today than ever. I was moved to read this by the lack of reverence I was experiencing in the world and it introduced me to a broader and deeper pool of reverence than I ever expected. This book transcends religion, philosophy, and humanities to a core human virtue necessary to a life well lived.
Barbara Lovejoy
Sep 13, 2011 Barbara Lovejoy rated it it was amazing
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
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
May 26, 2008 Rose M rated it it was amazing
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.
Brian Beatty
May 25, 2016 Brian Beatty rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
Oh dear! I could not bring myself to finish this... I always finish books, no matter how tiresome, but this was just unbearably repetitive and vague. It felt forced, covering what should have been a short essay.
Dec 27, 2015 Dhonna rated it liked it
Interesting and thought provoking. Why isn't philosophy a requirement? I think our culture is more interested in irreverence then reverence. I really enjoyed some parts of this book and other parts not so much. I am glad I read it tough.
Nov 21, 2007 Paul rated it it was amazing
Shelves: about-theology
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).
Jan 22, 2013 Iain rated it really liked it
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.
Dec 20, 2013 Patricia rated it liked it
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.
Jun 03, 2015 Rick rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy
An adequate review of reverence as it relates to culture, life, and the individual's place and understanding.
Oct 15, 2010 Karen is currently reading it
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.
Mike rated it liked it
Aug 04, 2010
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