Whatever else it is, it involves an absence of the virtue of prudence. Prudence, writes, Pieper, is "highest in rank among the four cardinal virtues."
Recall the other three, justice, courage, and temperance. Why would they be subordinate to prudence? Because, for example, courage without prudence is just rashness or recklessness. Justice without it is -- well, anything from tyranny to social justice, which amount to the same thing in the end. And temperance without prudence reduces to a lukewarm relativism.
So prudence "is the mother of the other three virtues" and "precondition for all that is ethically good." But why, exactly?
Because prudence first and foremost implies contact with reality. Obviously, if we don't know what reality is, then we cannot make prudent decisions about it.
For example, if I fool myself into believing that socialism is actually possible, untold destruction follows from that single error.
As Hayek and von Mises teach us, the evils of socialism don't occur because it is possible but just poorly executed, but because it is strictly impossible. It pretends to know what no human being can possibly know, so its judgments are poisoned at the source.
Clearly, "to do what in reality is right and good presupposes some knowledge about reality; if you do not know how it is with things and how they stand, you are [practically, concretely] unable to choose what is ethically good." Not only do good intentions mean nothing in this context, but an intention detached from reality can't actually be good.
The sharp ideological differences in the country are a direct consequence of differing ideas about reality. Or, one side believes reality exists, while the other maintains it is both relative and a consequence of perception; which is to say they don't believe in reality at all. So really, the debate reduces to people who believe reality exists vs. people who don't.
Thus, from our side of the fence, this insane debate about school bathrooms is... I was going to say "surreal," but it's really subreal. There is no reality to it, and yet, we are forced to pretend there is. As such, to even concede that the other side has a point is to have validated a reality that does not and cannot exist (like "homosexual marriage").
Hey, I'm a psychologist. So back off, man. I try to heal delusions, not patronize or aggravate them. Otherwise the patient will end up healing me of my contact with reality.
"The precondition for every ethical decision is the perception and examination of reality." And "prudence is the art of making the right decision based on the corresponding reality..." So there are really always two steps: 1) contact with and receptiveness to reality, and 2) deciding rightly.
But reality is messy. Just because we have contact with it, it doesn't mean the correct decision will be obvious. We are not logic machines.
Rather, organisms that metabolize living truth: prudence is "the power of our minds which transforms knowledge of reality into realization of the good."