Shane Clifton's Crippled Grace: Disability, Virtue Ethics, and the Good Life unfolds from a seeming paradox—that according to Aristotle, disability, for its tragedy, mental deficiency, and even ugliness, restricts virtue, thus precluding a life of happiness for people with disabilities (57). However, by drawing on disability studies, disabled voices, Christian theology, and positive psychology, Clifton foregrounds varieties and values of disabled human experience, among them interdependence, moral agency, humility, vulnerability, and acceptance, that make disability not merely compatible with thriving, but central to apprehending the human condition. Simply put, Clifton finds that "the point of the virtue tradition is to reflect on the virtues needed for a person to flourish, not overcome disability" (209), and the book succeeds in its comprehensive illustration of full, disabled lives that neither minimize pain and suffering nor mince words when it comes to sex, desire, and thriving.

The book also succeeds in treating its various sources even-handedly, carefully constructing a fruitful dialogue between experience, philosophy, psychology, and theology. This is evident in the way Clifton draws upon his own experience as a quadriplegic and the perspectives of people with disabilities to prompt frank and thorough discussions of theodicy, happiness, and sexuality, never losing sight of the human condition. Although Chapter 3 proposes a disabled reading of the virtue tradition, it is over the course of the next dense six chapters—where Clifton weighs the insights and the limits of positive psychology, the perils of independence, problems of dependence, the promise of interdependence, and the virtue of letting go—that we begin to grasp the breadth and depth that disabled lives bring to constructs of humanity and the good life.

Especially notable are Chapters 6 and 7 where Clifton uses disability studies to invigorate and innovate philosophical and theological discussions. In Chapter 6, "Profound Disability, Independence, and Friendship," Clifton's dual critique of Alasdair McIntyre's elevation of independent practical reasoning and Hans Reinders' and Eva Kittay's concepts of relational humanity is thoughtful and creative. He remains importantly attuned to the value of disabled self-determination and agency as he illuminates,

A notion of personhood determined only by the love of one of the parties (in Reinders' case, God; in Kittay's, a mother) effectively eliminates the other party altogether. Thus, relational anthropology is strengthened by retaining rather than rejecting the significance of individual reason and will. (154)

In Chapter 7, "Disability, Sexuality, and Intimacy," Clifton dispenses with common misinterpretations regarding sexual desire and activity of persons with disabilities, celebrating differences in bodies without exoticizing or minimizing challenges. By arguing against Thomas Aquinas and others that the "virtue tradition need not be set against sexual flourishing" (181), Clifton charges the Church with appreciating the full humanity of people with disabilities, which includes their sexual lives (186).

That Clifton must take such pains to dislodge the virtue tradition and Christian theology from their biases against hierarchies of human existence and hermeneutics of healing in the first place is arduous and lamentable. It speaks to the pervasive, persistent discrimination against people with disabilities, a reality the author acknowledges, but often struggles to fully contextualize. Although Clifton's self-conscious acknowledgement of his own limits to adequately addressing the diversity of race, class, and gendered experiences with respect to disability is apparent (223-5) and he notes the "danger of advocating the virtue of humility in the context of disability" (201), he would do well to further analyze the differential gendered and racialized danger of such a risk. The penultimate chapter with its emphasis on "letting go," even framed as it is in the context of a young woman's story, fails to count the cultural costs of performing vulnerability that disproportionately disadvantage women and minorities, costs that are perhaps even more magnified and complicated within communities of faith that have exploited vulnerability precisely by using it to undermine capacity and virtue. Furthermore, the book struggles to justify to a secular academic audience why faith and the lens of theology make a distinct and necessary contribution to the pursuit of happiness and flourishing. Although Clifton offers some profound analyses of theodicy and personhood, theology provides curious little substance to the quality of the good life, a concept largely outsourced to philosophy and psychology. I see glimpses of how faith is fortified in disabled lives, but scant reference to literature on joy, a distinctly Christian concept, or a clear argument for how or why Christian theology is central to human experience, let alone disabled human experience.

The strength of Clifton's work, however, remains in how forcefully the experiences and perspectives of scholars and people with disabilities refine the literature on virtue ethics, identifying formative lessons in grace, interdependence, and vulnerability that characterize and clarify human flourishing. Crippled Grace is good news not just for people with disabilities, but for the academy, as this text stands to contribute to disciplines such as medical ethics, sexual ethics, theological education, and psychology. Its broadness does not undermine its effectiveness: rather, in its breadth it makes its point emphatically: disabled lives matter, they are flourishing, and we all stand to learn from them.

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