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Practices, Particulars, and Virtues

Practices, Particulars, and Virtues

What Mules Taught Wendell Berry

(p.9) Chapter 1 Practices, Particulars, and Virtues
The Achievement of Wendell Berry
Fritz Oehlschlaeger
University Press of Kentucky

This chapter shows how the roots of Wendell Berry's ideas may lie in his learning the discipline of the teamster. It highlights the centrality of practices, particulars, and virtues to Berry's thinking, connecting these terms to a host of matters in his essays. It begins by investigating a way of entering Berry's world through a language of practices, particulars, and virtues. It uses Alasdair MacIntyre's analysis of practices as a way to clarify the concept and focus particularly on Berry's understanding of farming as a practice. It then covers the virtues Berry espouses in both his nonfiction and his fiction. It includes prudence, courage, justice, equity, friendship, and the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and love or charity, along with humility and patience. It examines three additional matters related to his decisions to return to Kentucky from New York in 1964. It also looks at his decision to use draft animals—horses, not mules—in the early 1970s. Finally, it develops the idea that even Berry's religious understanding may have its roots in his earliest experiences with Grandfather Berry's mules.

Keywords:   Wendell Berry, practices, particulars, virtues, farming, horses, mules, nonfiction, fiction

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