Habits in Mind

Integrating Theology, Philosophy, and the Cognitive Science of Virtue, Emotion, and Character Formation


The language of habit plays a central role in traditional accounts of the virtues, yet it has received only modest attention among contemporary scholars of philosophy, psychology, and religion. This volume explores the role of both “mere habits” and sophisticated habitus in the moral life. Beginning with an essay by Stanley Hauerwas and edited by Gregory R. Peterson, James A. Van Slyke, Michael L. Spezio, and Kevin S. Reimer, the volume explores the history of the virtues and habit in Christian thought, the contributions that psychology and neuroscience make to our understanding of habitus, freedom, and character formation, and the relation of habit and habitus to contemporary philosophical and theological accounts of character formation and the moral life.

Contributors are: Joseph Bankard, Dennis Bielfeldt, Craig Boyd, Charlene Burns, Mark Graves, Brian Green, Stanley Hauerwas, Todd Junkins, Adam Martin, Darcia Narvaez, Gregory R. Peterson, Kevin S. Reimer, Lynn C. Reimer, Michael L. Spezio, Kevin Timpe, and George Tsakiridis.

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Gregory R. Peterson, Ph.D. (1996), University of Denver/Iliff School of Theology, is Professor of Philosophy and Religion at South Dakota State University. He is the author of numerous publications on philosophy, religion, and behavioural and cognitive science.

James A. Van Slyke, Ph.D. (2008), School of Theology and Psychology, Fuller Theological Seminary, is Assistant Professor of Psychology at Fresno Pacific University. His research primarily focuses on psychology of religion, moral psychology, and religion & science.

Michael L. Spezio, Ph.D. (2002), University of Oregon, Ph.D. (1988), Case Western Reserve University, is Associate Professor of Psychology & Neuroscience at Scripps College and Visiting Researcher at the Institute for Systems Neuroscience, University of Hamburg Medical Center.

Kevin S. Reimer, Ph.D. (2001), Graduate School of Psychology, Fuller Theological Seminary, is Director of Undergraduate Programs in the UC Irvine School of Education. A development psychologist and former academic dean, his research has been profiled on NPR.
"This edited volume advances understanding of the topic of character formation significantly through sustained attention to virtue and the process of becoming virtuous. The fifteen essays found in the volume are engaging interdisciplinary explorations of the role of habit and habitus in moral formation and ethical living. The effort throughout is to bridge a divide which exists at times between the theoretical and the concrete by bringing into fruitful dialogue theology and philosophy on the subject of habit and virtue, on the one hand, and with moral psychology, on the other hand. The result is a multi-faceted study that touches on the foundations of virtue ethics in Aristotle and Aquinas but engages the evolving contributions of neuroscience in understanding dispositions and their role in early moral development." Raymond Studzinski, Catholic University of America, in: Reading Religion, Vol. 24 (2017).

Part I - Habits & Virtues: Resources in History and Religion

Introduction: From Habit to Habitus in Science, Philosophy, and Religion
Gregory R. Peterson

Chapter 1: Habit Matters: The Bodily Character of the Virtues
Stanley Hauerwas

Chapter 2: Habitus in the Roman Catholic Tradition: Context and Challenges
Brian Green

Chapter 3: Virtue is not in the Head: Contributions from the Late Medieval and Reformation Traditions for Understanding Virtue Extrinsically
Dennis Bielfeldt

Chapter 4: Habit as a Spiritual Discipline in Early Christianity
George Tsakiridis

Part II: Psychology, Habit, and the Development of Character

Chapter 5: Disposition Formation and Early Moral Development
Todd Junkins and Darcia Narvaez

Chapter 6: Faith and Imitatio for the Understanding of Habitus
Michael L. Spezio

Chapter 7: STAMINA: Character and Persistence in Youth Mentor Partnerships
Kevin S. Reimer and Lynn C. Reimer

Part III: The Limits of Habit? Situationism, Individualism, and Freedom

Chapter 8: Habit, Character, and the Situationist Challenge
Gregory R. Peterson

Chapter 9: Paying Attention to the Will: On the Neuroscience and Psychology of Self, Volition, and Character
Adam Martin

Chapter 10: Freedom as Sensitive to Reasons, Habits, and Character
Kevin Timpe

Part IV: From Habit to Virtue: Integrating Science, Philosophy, and Religion

Chapter 11: In the Image and Likeness: Theological Reflections on the Science of Habit
Charlene Burns

Chapter 12: Habit, Science, and the Virtue of Humility
Craig Boyd

Chapter 13: Cultivating a Grateful Disposition: Increasing Moral Behavior and Personal Well-Being
Joseph Bankard

Chapter 14: Habits, Tendencies, and Habitus: The Embodied Soul’s Dispositions of Mind, Body, and Person
Mark Graves

Students, scholars, and others interested in habit, philosophical and theological virtue ethics, the relation of character and free will, and the psychology and neuroscience of character formation.