Thursday, April 27, 2017
"Common Sense" aka "Prudence"
As an act of virtue, prudence requires three mental actions: taking counsel carefully with our self and others, judging correctly from the evidence at hand, and directing the rest of our activity based on the norms we have established. Prudence is the “charioteer” of the virtues.
Prudence is concerned with the quest of truth, and fills us with the desire of fuller knowledge.” --St. Ambrose
PRUDENCE: THE ABILITY TO JUDGE BETWEEN VIRTUOUS AND VICIOUS ACTIONS.
“Who makes quick use of the moment is a genius of prudence.” -- Johann Kaspar Lavater
”Rashness belongs to youth; prudence to old age. -- Marcus Tullius
”A smooth sea never made a skillful mariner, neither do uninterrupted prosperity and success qualify for usefulness and happiness. The storms of adversity, like those of the ocean, rouse the faculties, and excite the invention, prudence, skill and fortitude or the voyager. The martyrs of ancient times, in bracing their minds to outward calamities, acquired a loftiness of purpose and a moral heroism worth a lifetime of softness and security.” -- Author Unknown
Prudence (Lat. prudentia, contracted from providentia, seeing ahead) is the the ability to govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason. It is classically considered to be a virtue, and in particular one of the four Cardinal virtues.
The word comes from Old French prudence (14th century), from Latin prudentia (foresight, sagacity), a contraction of providentia, foresight. It is often associated with wisdom, insight, and knowledge. In this case, the virtue is the ability to judge between virtuous and vicious actions, not only in a general sense, but with regard to appropriate actions at a given time and place. Although prudence itself does not perform any actions, and is concerned solely with knowledge, all virtues had to be regulated by it. Distinguishing when acts are courageous, as opposed to reckless or cowardly, for instance, is an act of prudence, and for this reason it is classified as a cardinal (pivotal) virtue.
Although prudence would be applied to any such judgment, the more difficult tasks, which distinguish a person as prudent, are those in which various goods have to be weighed against each other, as when a person is determining what would be best to give charitable donations, or how to punish a child so as to prevent repeating an offense.
In modern English, however, the word has become increasingly synonymous with cautiousness. In this sense, prudence names a reluctance to take risks, which remains a virtue with respect to unnecessary risks, but when unreasonably extended (i.e. over-cautiousness), can become the vice of cowardice.
In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle gives a lengthy account of the virtue phronesis (Greek: ϕρονησιϛ), which has traditionally been translated as “prudence”.Prudence as the “Father” of all virtues
Prudence was considered by the ancient Greeks and later on by Christian philosophers, most notably Thomas Aquinas, as the cause, measure and form of all virtues. It is considered to be the auriga virtutum or the charioteer of the virtues.
It is the cause in the sense that the virtues, which are defined to be the “perfected ability” of man as a spiritual person (spiritual personhood in the classical western understanding means having intelligence and free will), achieve their “perfection” only when they are founded upon prudence, that is to say upon the perfected ability to make right decisions. For instance, a person can live temperance when he has acquired the habit of deciding correctly the actions to take in response to his instinctual cravings.
Prudence is considered the measure of moral virtues since it provides a model of ethically good actions. “The work of art is true and real by its correspondence with the pattern of its prototype in the mind of the artist. In similar fashion, the free activity of man is good by its correspondence with the pattern of prudence.” (Josef Pieper) For instance, a stock broker using his experience and all the data available to him decides that it is beneficial to sell stock A at 2PM tomorrow and buy stock B today. The content of the decision (e.g., the stock, amount, time and means) is the product of an act of prudence, while the actual carrying out of the decision may involve other virtues like fortitude (doing it in spite of fear of failure) and justice (doing his job well out of justice to his company and his family). The actual act’s “goodness” is measured against that original decision made through prudence.
In Greek and Scholastic philosophy, “form” is the specific characteristic of a thing that makes it what it is. With this language, prudence confers upon other virtues the form of its inner essence; that is, its specific character as a virtue. For instance, not all acts of telling the truth are considered good, considered as done with the virtue of honesty. What makes telling the truth a virtue is whether it is done with prudence. Telling a competitor the professional secrets of your company is not prudent and therefore not considered good and virtuous.Prudence versus cunning and false prudence
In the Christian understanding, the difference between prudence and cunning lies in the intent with which the decision of the context of an action is made. The Christian understanding of the world includes the existence of God, the natural law and moral implications of human actions. In this context, prudence is different from cunning in that it takes into account the supernatural good. For instance, the decision of persecuted Christians to be martyred rather than deny their faith is considered prudent. Pretending to deny their faith could be considered prudent from the point of view of a non-believer.
Judgments using reasons for evil ends or using evil means are considered to be made through “cunning” and “false prudence” and not through prudence.Integral Parts of Prudence
“Integral parts” of virtues, in Scholastic philosophy, are the elements that must be present for any complete or perfect act of the virtue. The following are the integral parts of prudence:Memoria — Accurate memory; that is, memory that is true to reality
Intelligentia — Understanding of first principlesDocilitas — The kind of open-mindedness that recognizes the true variety of things and situations to be experienced, and does not cage itself in any presumption of deceptive knowledge; the ability to make use of the experience and authority of others to make prudent decisions
Shrewdness or quick-wittedness (solertia) — sizing up a situation on one’s own quickly
Discursive reasoning (ratio) — research and compare alternative possibilities
Foresight (providentia) — capacity to estimate whether a particular action will lead to the realization of our goalCircumspection — ability to take all relevant circumstances into account
Caution — risk mitigationPrudential judgments
In ethics, a “prudential judgment” is one where the circumstances must be weighed to determine the correct action. Generally, it applies to situations where two people could weigh the circumstances differently and ethically come to different conclusions.
For instance, in Just War theory, the government of a nation must weigh whether the harms they suffer are more than the harms that would be produced by their going to war against another nation that is harming them; the decision whether to go to war is therefore a prudential judgment.
In another case, a patient who has a terminal illness with no conventional treatment may hear of an experimental treatment. To decide whether to take it would require weighing on one hand, the cost, time, possible lack of benefit, and possible pain, disability, and hastened death, and on the other hand, the possible benefit and the benefit to others of what could be learned from his case.http://virtuefirst.org/virtues/prudence/