Monday, January 9, 2012

we are what we habitually do

Like the prophets of old, today's addicts may remind us that our desire for God is trivial and weak, and our horizons of hope and expectancy are  limited and mundane. We recoil at the presence of the addict, for we fear that the addict's life is an indictment of the insufficiency of our own lives. The addict has rejected the life of respectable and proximate contentment and demanded instead a life of complete purpose and ecstasy. We recognize that our own lives are not interesting and beautiful enough to offer a genuine alternative to the addict, and we fear that a gospel powerful enough to redeem the addict would also threaten our own lives of decent and decorous mediocrity. 

Kent Dunnington, Addiction and Virtue

This is a brilliant book, which in itself has justified my purchase of a Kindle in my last week with my mother.  (I saw the book on Amazon just after proposing a review to a magazine; the book looked relevant to the review, so a more prudent would-be reviewer would have waited for a free copy --but I could have it in seconds on my Kindle!)  The reason I subjected my credit card to further abuse was that Dunnington addresses a startling gap in discussions of addiction, one I was particularly struck by in Gene Heyman's (generally excellent) Addiction: A Disorder of Choice

Reading avidly along in Heyman, I had been baffled by the complete absence of discussion of Aristotle on voluntary and involuntary action, on the role of habit in the virtues and vices, all treated so extensively in the Nicomachean Ethics.  And here is Dunnington, bringing Aristotle and Aquinas to bear on the subject! (When I say the book is brilliant, I do not mean that I have finished it; I mean that I am just getting into the thick of a discussion of Aristotle and Aquinas. )

Dunnington, as will be obvious from the quotation, is writing from a Christian perspective; it's rare for authors of  "mainstream" works of scholarship to thank a supervisor for praying with the advisee. Radicalism is not necessarily the norm among Christian writers any more than it is among scholars, but part of the power of the book lies in the challenge it offers the non-addict: Du muß dein Leben ändern.

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