The Politics of Practical Reason
Why Theological Ethics Must Change Your Life
Imprint: Cascade Books
Drawing on Elizabeth Anscombe's significant account of practical reason, Mark Ryan illumines not only my work but how theologians must reason to make clear the truthfulness of the claims we make as Christians. This is an extremely important book, which hopefully will receive the attention it deserves. Few are able to negotiate these philosophical waters with such clarity."
Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Theological Ethics
Duke Divinity School
"This book is as discerning as its title. By way of a critical study of Jeffry Stout's Democracy and Tradition, author Mark Ryan offers a surprising defense of the theopolitical thinkers Stout often criticizes: Hauerwas and MacIntrye. The defense is surprising because it takes its measure not from postliberal theology but from the claim of analytic philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe: that ethics is mere speculation unless it speaks to the realities of human desire. By this measure, argues Ryan, Hauerwas's Christian ethics may win reason's trust and philosophic ethics may lose it."
Bronfman Professor of Modern Judaic Studies
University of Virginia
"We have long lacked a guide for the philosophical background of Hauerwas's thought, especially as it comes from the work of idiosyncratic anglophone philosophers like Elizabeth Anscombe, Iris Murdoch, and Charles Taylor. Now Mark Ryan has offered us one such guide, and a generous and insightful one at that. The book represents a new step into philosophical seriousness for those of a Hauerwasian persuasion. Offering a 'non-reductive understanding of politics' as the context in which to see how practical reason becomes what it aims to be, Ryan shows us how Hauerwas's ethics is actually also a politics. His provocative but charitable critiques of Charles Taylor, Gloria Albrecht, and Jeff Stout help flesh out how Hauerwas's work is both engaged with and distinct from some of his sharpest interlocutors."
Associate Professor of Religious Studies
University of Virginia
"Mark Ryan's The Politics of Practical Reason is a thoughtful, insightful, and timely book, patiently illuminating the importance of formation as a central yet overlooked aspect of ethical deliberation. Ryan highlights the virtues of Hauerwas's embodied, storied, and social approach to ethics by reading him as taking up Anscombe's challenge. By incisively articulating the limitations of Stout's and Taylor's alternatives, this book deepens the character of conversation regarding practical reason in religious ethics today."
Faculty of Liberal Studies
"In this wondrously clear and seamlessly constructed book, Mark Ryan makes a compelling case for the centrality of practical reason in any serious contemporary account of theological ethics. Further, he shows why this account must be rooted in a politics that knits us together around a shared conception of the good that is itself practical, a form of life that anchors a lived conception of the virtues, especially justice. This gives him firm footing for assessing the trajectories of key contemporary moral thinkers: Elizabeth Anscombe, Charles Taylor, Alasdair MacIntyre, Jeffrey Stout, and Stanley Hauerwas. His reading of Hauerwas is especially helpful for future work in theological ethics, as Ryan shows how Hauerwas can help us begin to discern together not only how we think but what we most love."
Chair of the Department of Theology and Religious Studies
University of Scranton