Gratitude: An Intellectual History

Gratitude: An Intellectual History

by Peter J. Leithart
     
 

Gratitude is often understood as etiquette rather than ethics, an emotion rather than politics. It was not always so. From Seneca to Shakespeare, gratitude was a public virtue. The circle of benefaction and return of service worked to make society strong. But at the beginning of the modern era, European thinkers began to imagine a political economy freed from the

Overview

Gratitude is often understood as etiquette rather than ethics, an emotion rather than politics. It was not always so. From Seneca to Shakespeare, gratitude was a public virtue. The circle of benefaction and return of service worked to make society strong. But at the beginning of the modern era, European thinkers began to imagine a political economy freed from the burdens of gratitude. Though this rethinking was part of a larger process of secularization, it was also a distorted byproduct of an impulse ultimately rooted in the teachings of Jesus and the apostle Paul. Christians believed that God stood at the center of the circle of gratitude. God was the object of thanksgiving and God gave graciously. Thus, Christians taught that grace cancelled the oppressive debts of a purely political gratitude. Gratitude: An Intellectual History examines changing conceptions of gratitude from Homer to the present. In so doing, Peter J. Leithart highlights the profound cultural impact of early Christian "ingratitude," the release of humankind from the bonds of social and political reciprocity by a benevolent God who gave—and who continues to give—graciously.

Baylor University Press

Editorial Reviews

First Things - Gary A. Anderson

Creative, Insightful, and Ambitious

Choice

Clear and cogent, Gratitude provides an opportunity for faculty and students alike to rethink issues that are both intellectual and practical.

Christianity Today - Wesley Hill

One of the distinct pleasures of a new Leithart book is the opportunity it gives us to watch a smart, unpredictable mind sharing his reactions to the books he's worked through. This new work deepens that pleasure.

Themelios - Stephen Witmer

Elegantly written, intellectually stimulating, and practically helpful

Freedom in Orthodoxy - Johnny Walker

...Leithart is exemplary in his performance of what a kind of Christian-theological account of history of ideas might look like.

From the Publisher

"Leithart's masterful, commanding narrative takes several surprising turns, teasing out the revolutionary disruption of Christian ingratitude in social and political life--a refusal to bargain and grovel precisely because we are fundamentally grateful to the Creator and risen King."
--James K.A. Smith, Professor of Philosophy, Calvin College, and Editor, Comment magazine

"From Homer to the present, poets, theologians, and thinkers have struggled to find a proper place for this all-important, yet potentially toxic virtue. In a masterpiece of exposition, Peter Leithart tells the story of their efforts. To read this book is to listen in on the debate of an entire civilization, across the ages, over the nature of its own cohesion."
--Peter Brown, Philip and Beulah Rollins Professor of History, Emeritus, Princeton University

"This is no 'gratitude lite' approach with its blending of philosophical, theological, political, and social sciences perspectives. Leithart persuasively makes a case for why gratitude is intrinsically interesting."
--Robert Emmons, co-editor of The Psychology of Gratitude, and author of Thanks! and Gratitude Works!

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781602584495
Publisher:
Baylor University Press
Publication date:
02/15/2014
Pages:
350
Sales rank:
986,425
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.40(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

James K.A. Smith

Leithart's masterful, commanding narrative takes several surprising turns, teasing out the revolutionary disruption of Christian ingratitude in social and political life—a refusal to bargain and grovel precisely because we are fundamentally grateful to the Creator and risen King.

Peter Brown

From Homer to the present, poets, theologians, and thinkers have struggled to find a proper place for this all-important, yet potentially toxic virtue. In a masterpiece of exposition, Peter Leithart tells the story of their efforts. To read this book is to listen in on the debate of an entire civilization, across the ages, over the nature of its own cohesion.

Robert Emmons

This is no 'gratitude lite' approach with its blending of philosophical, theological, political, and social sciences perspectives. Leithart persuasively makes a case for why gratitude is intrinsically interesting.

From the Publisher

"This is no 'gratitude lite' approach with its blending of philosophical, theological, political, and social sciences perspectives. Leithart persuasively makes a case for why gratitude is intrinsically interesting."

--Robert Emmons, co-editor of The Psychology of Gratitude, and author of Thanks! and Gratitude Works!

"Leithart's masterful, commanding narrative takes several surprising turns, teasing out the revolutionary disruption of Christian ingratitude in social and political life--a refusal to bargain and grovel precisely because we are fundamentally grateful to the Creator and risen King."
--James K.A. Smith, Professor of Philosophy, Calvin College, and Editor, Comment magazine

"From Homer to the present, poets, theologians, and thinkers have struggled to find a proper place for this all-important, yet potentially toxic virtue. In a masterpiece of exposition, Peter Leithart tells the story of their efforts. To read this book is to listen in on the debate of an entire civilization, across the ages, over the nature of its own cohesion."

--Peter Brown, Philip and Beulah Rollins Professor of History, Emeritus, Princeton University

Meet the Author

Peter J. Leithart is Adjunct Senior Fellow of Theology at New Saint Andrews College and President of Trinity House Institute for Biblical, Liturgical, and Cultural Studies. He is the author of more than twenty books, including, Deep Exegesis: The Mystery of Reading Scripture. He lives in Moscow, Idaho, where he serves as pastor of Trinity Reformed Church.

Baylor University Press

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