chapter  12
19 Pages

Reinhold Niebuhr and phronesis

WithTom James

Reinhold Niebuhr’s call for a more practical approach emerged out of his own understanding of the ethic of the New Testament as an ultimate or eschatological ethic. Phronesis as Niebuhr practiced it, though beholden to divine revelation, is eminently a human enterprise, resisting by its very method any claims for certainty or finality. For such critics, Niebuhrian phronesis amounts to little more than means-ends reasoning about matters of self-interest to the United States. Some go further and argue that Niebuhr’s notion of justice was proceduralist in nature – making it less about a substantive vision of justice than a liberal way of managing conflict. In supporting a modest fee for some procedures, Niebuhr reasons first from his understanding of human nature. From the perspective of contemporary American politics, Niebuhr’s practical approach may appear quaint, naive, and understated. Niebuhr continued to develop new and fruitf.