The Imprint of Prudence

During the 2010 Lenten season, I studied Josef Pieper’s book The Four Cardinal Virtues. I specifically meditated on the first two virtues: Prudence and Justice.

During the 2011 Lenten season, I will meditate on the virtues of Fortitude and Temperance.

Quotes from Josef Pieper’s The Four Cardinal Virtues:

The First of the Cardinal Virtues…

“No dictum in traditional Christian doctrine strikes such a note of strangeness to the ears of contemporaries, even contemporary Christians, as this one: the virtue of prudence is the mold and “mother” of all the other cardinal virtues, of justice, fortitude, and temperance. In other words, none but the prudent man can be just, brave, and temperate, and the good man is good in so far as he is prudent.”

“To the contemporary mind, then, the concept of the good rather excludes than includes prudence. Modern man cannot conceive of a good act which might not be imprudent, nor of a bad act which might not be prudent. He will often call lies and cowardice prudent, truthfulness and courageous sacrifice imprudent.”

“Prudence is the “measure” of justice, of fortitude, of temperance. This means simply the following: as in the creative cognition of God all created things are pre-imaged and pre-formed; as, therefore, the immanent essences of all reality dwell in God as ‘ideas”, as “preceding images” …; and as man’s perception of realty is a receptive transcript of the objective world of being; and as the artist’s works are transcripts of a living prototype already within his creative cognition – so the decree of prudence is the prototype and the pre-existing form of which all ethically good action is the transcript.”

“Prudence “informs” the other virtues; it confers on them the form of their inner essence…And so prudence imprints the inward seal of goodness upon all free activity of man.”

“The intrinsic goodness of man – and that is the same as saying his true humanness – consists in this, that “reason perfected in cognition of truth” shall inwardly shape and imprint his volition and action.”

“Certainly prudence is the standard of volition and action; but the standard of prudence, on the other hand, is the ipsa res, the “thing itself”, the objective reality of being. And therefore the pre-eminence of prudence signifies first of all the direction of volition and action toward truth; but finally it signifies the directing of volition and action toward objective reality. The good is prudent beforehand; but that is prudent which is in keeping with reality.”

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