Dear Prudence, Won't You Change Your Name?
So, I'm reading a book on the virtues -- the four horizontal ones dealing with intra-mundane and intra-human relations, and the three vertical ones dealing with divine diplomacy. And I'm thinking to myself: didn't I already blog about this? And if so, is it possible that I made the subject more interesting than this guy? Because this guy is pretty boring.
Let's me find out:
Prudence is such a lousy name for the Virtue of virtues, it's no wonder no one talks about it anymore. For one thing, it's too close to "prudish," which is a great sin for those who don't believe in sin. 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 Sign on 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 cautious, risk-averse, unadventurous, tentative, and possibly even "pragmatic" in that calculating and sociopathic Clintonian way. In other words, the connotations can range from wimpy, to vaguely neutral, to crassly political.
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, "since 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."
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 is morbidly imprudent (not so mention impudent) to think otherwise.
Rather, the world itself is an emanation -- or involution -- of its 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, Proverbs 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, beginning (of creation) and end (of the human adventure). 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. 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," moral relativism, and ultimately just power, which is what the world devolves to in the absence of a truth-based human order.
To employ the symbols used in the Book of the Same Name (as the blog), 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 of vertical murmurandoms.
To put it bluntly: sit down, shut up, and know that I AM.