Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Dear Prudence, Won't You Change Your Name?

Prudence is such a lousy name for the Virtue of virtues -- the one that makes all the others possible -- it's no wonder that no one talks about it anymore. For one thing, it's too close to "prudish." And if we can judge by social security statistics on the most popular baby names, Prudence doesn't even make the top 1,000.

In contrast, Sophia -- which amounts to the same thing as prudence -- comes in at #4. And since it split the vote with Sofia, who knows, it might actually be the Cardinal Name for girls.

Pieper deals with this linguistic obstacle at the outset, noting that the word has become too saturated and associated with such qualities as timorousness or small-mindedness.

To which I would add cautiousness, risk-averse, unadventurous, tentative, and possibly even "pragmatic" in that calculating and sociopathic Clintonian way. In other words, the connotations can range from vaguely neutral to pejorative. Not only that, but "imprudence" can be associated with, say, "courageous sacrifice," which further muddies the waters.

A much better word would be wisdom, in-sight, or better yet, sapientia, since the latter has a nice mystical ring to it. Furthermore, it resonates with what a human being fundamentally is, which is to say, Homo sapiens sapiens.

Nevertheless, for the purposes of this post, we'll stick with prudence, which Pieper calls "the mold and 'mother' of the other cardinal virtues, of justice, fortitude, and temperence. In other words, none but the prudent man can be just, brave, and temperate, and the good man is good insofar as he is prudent.... All virtue is necessarily prudent."

Again, as mentioned in a comment or three yesterday, we must imagine a vertical hierarchy, with prudence located at the top. This is one more reason why Darwinism or any other form of materialism is so incoherent, because one simply cannot get from matter to wisdom, and it's morbidly imprudent to think otherwise.

Rather, the world itself is an emanation -- or involution -- of the Principle, which is why reality is continuous from the top down, but discontinuous from the bottom up. Only by starting at the top does the cosmos make sense in its integral totality, which is to say, high and low, interior and exterior.

Therefore, Pieper is absolutely correct in saying that prudence "is the [vertical] cause of the other virtues' being virtues at all."

Here it might be useful to remember the wisdom books of the Bible -- which again, with a less skilled marketing department, might have been called the "prudence books" -- for example, in Proverbs, which repeatedly praises the centrality of wisdom, which is at the origin of all things.

Furthermore, there are obvious parallels between wisdom and the Word, which is both alpha and omega. To say that "no one comes to the Father but through me," is another way of saying that no one comes to the Principle save through the eternal wisdom that is its first fruit. Why, the two -- Reality and Wisdom -- are related as intimately as Father and Son.

Now prudence means on the one hand "the perfected ability to make right decisions" and choices. But what is this ability founded upon?

This, I think, is the key point: that we can only make right decisions if we are 1) open to reality, 2) in conformity to reality, and 3) act in a manner consistent with that conformity. Thus, for St. Thomas, truth is "nothing other than the unveiling and revelation of reality, of both of natural [i.e., horizontal] and supernatural [vertical] reality."

In short, "the pre-eminence of prudence means that realization of the good presupposes knowledge of reality" -- which explains why there is so little wisdom on the left, since they attack the very notion of objective truth, and substitute for it such retrograde idols as multiculturalism, "diversity," and moral relativism.

To employ the symbols used in the Coonifesto, we see that one of the prerequisites of prudence is (o), or "the receptiveness of the human spirit," the latter of which must be in-formed by the Real.

In other words, we must be humbly instructed by reality, or we will surely sooner or later be righteously bitch-slapped by her. As well we should. Mama don't play.

Furthermore, (---) comes into use as well, for as Pieper notes, prudent cognition "includes above all the ability to be still in order to attain objective perception of reality."

Elsewhere he writes of cultivating "the attitude of 'silent' contemplation of reality: this is the key prerequisite for the perfection of prudence as cognition," since it is what makes (↓) possible, the "ingression of grace," or vertical reality.

You know, Be still and know that I AM.

Well, that's all we have time for today. Much more to come.

13 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

That song is going to be in my head all day now.

Good post, though. I'll try to keep it in mind if/ when I'm tempted to verbally assault anyone in the next couple of days...

6/01/2010 11:48:00 AM  
Blogger greyniffler said...

If you believe in Satan (I do, but I am reluctant to try to think too concretely about the Father of Lies) then you may believe that undermining the word Prudence is a great victory for the diabolical.

And thanks to everyone who helped me in yesterday's discussion. I think the key point is the one that Aristotle made: that the central problem of Ethics is aligning the Good particular to the individual with the Good Universal. But I'm far too unschooled to press the point very hard.

6/01/2010 12:53:00 PM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

To Gagdad re:

"Therefore, Pieper is absolutely correct in saying that prudence "is the [vertical] cause of the other virtues' being virtues at all."

Read yesterdays post concerning prudence being the first among the virtures and again today. My immediate thought was that mercy should be the first virture, simply because it is mercy that caused God to create the whole shebang.

Agree that prudence has lost some of its appeal as word over the last two thousand years.

Weird WV: fleasub

6/01/2010 02:39:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I don't know, even the Kabbalah balances divine mercy with severity, otherwise all hell would break loose worse than it already has.

6/01/2010 02:50:00 PM  
Blogger greyniffler said...

When mercy degrades to mere leniency, it ceases to be merciful and risks harm that the broken law was meant to prevent.

6/01/2010 02:59:00 PM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

To greyniffle re:

"When mercy degrades to mere leniency, it ceases to be merciful and risks harm that the broken law was meant to prevent."

Not talking about being a bleeding heart but merely the "tie goes to the runner" rule with regards to mercy. When in doubt be slow to judge. BTW, do not follow this advice in combat or the stock market.

6/01/2010 05:47:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"Prudence is such a lousy name for the Virtue of virtues... it's too close to "prudish." ... cautiousness, risk-averse, unadventurous, tentative, and possibly even "pragmatic" in ..."

Not to mention being way too close to Dana Carvey's impression of Bush 41 "woodunt be proodint"

6/01/2010 06:43:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"... we'll stick with prudence, which Pieper calls "the mold and 'mother' of the other cardinal virtues, of justice, fortitude, and temperence. In other words, none but the prudent man can be just, brave, and temperate, and the good man is good insofar as he is prudent.... All virtue is necessarily prudent.""

Bingo.

(Never let it be said that we commentators don't you your money's worth in incisive commentary.)

I don't have any statistics, but anyone care to bet how frequently (if at all (I'm leaning towards not at all)) the word Prudent is correctly used in any history or social studies textbook?

6/01/2010 06:50:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"This, I think, is the key point: that we can only make right decisions if we are 1) open to reality, 2) in conformity to reality, and 3) act in a manner consistent with that conformity. Thus, for St. Thomas, truth is "nothing other than the unveiling and revelation of reality, of both of natural [i.e., horizontal] and supernatural [vertical] reality."

In short, "the pre-eminence of prudence means that realization of the good presupposes knowledge of reality" -- which explains why there is so little wisdom on the left, since they attack the very notion of objective truth, and substitute for it such retrograde idols as multiculturalism, "diversity," and moral relativism. "

Wow.

(Yeah... I'm on a roll)

Short post today, but exceedingly distilled and potent.

6/01/2010 07:07:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Tigtog said "Not talking about being a bleeding heart but merely the "tie goes to the runner" rule with regards to mercy. When in doubt be slow to judge. BTW, do not follow this advice in combat or the stock market."

Without prudence, without wisdom, reflection and the habit of contemplation, the "tie goes to the runner" rule doesn't come up, the 'beat the crap out of the guy who's trying to take your prize' rule does.

Which demonstrates why Prudence comes before Mercy, Mercy can only come as a result of it, and can only be properly given as a result of it... saying otherwise puts the Proverbial cart before the horse, as I think Proverbs 8, picking up at line 17, makes clear,

I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me.
Riches and honour are with me; yea, durable riches and righteousness.
My fruit is better than gold, yea, than fine gold; and my revenue than choice silver.
I lead in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of judgment:
That I may cause those that love me to inherit substance; and I will fill their treasures.
The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old.
I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.
When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water.
Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth:
While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world.
When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth:
When he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep:
When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth:
Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him;
Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men.
Now therefore hearken unto me, O ye children: for blessed are they that keep my ways.
Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not.
Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.
For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the LORD.
But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.

6/01/2010 07:09:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Elsewhere he writes of cultivating "the attitude of 'silent' contemplation of reality: this is the key prerequisite for the perfection of prudence as cognition," since it is what makes (↓) possible, the "ingression of grace," or vertical reality.

You know, Be still and know that I AM."

Or, as Skully is fond of sayin' in his rather...unique interpretation:

"Hold still...this'll really hurt like the beJesus but only for a minnit."

6/02/2010 12:55:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"BTW, do not follow this advice in combat..."

Therein lies the answer. So you do concur that prudence should come first afterall. :^)

6/02/2010 01:00:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

And what Van said. I never argue with Proverbs. :^)

6/02/2010 01:02:00 AM  

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