New PDF release: Imprudence in Saint Thomas Aquinas (Aquinas Lecture 20)

By Charles J. O'Neil

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He tells us that he does. 24 In approaching his most exquisitely wrought formula for prudence Aristotle says that all men divine that virtue is in accordance with the right rule. He approves then of looking on prudence as a wisdom in which a sound discourse and judgment are involved. He approves it so far as the intellectual virtue forms the moral virtues. But this is not prudence itself. By a very careful use of language he insists that prudence is other and more than this. When we put it rather literally: ''But we must go a little further.

Affirmative answers are easy and easy answers are tempting. But prudence cannot know that whose object it does not know. The profound dichotomy of the variable versus the invariable makes this affirmative answer impossible. And an affirmative answer to the second is equally impossible. 42 What, then, is the relation and is it a relation in knowledge? Let us always remember that Aristotelian prudence knows the human good. It always knows the human good of the life which includes the Page 28 best and most end-like virtue.

If to be eye is to be true then there is no way to speak of an eye which sees falsely. There is simply a true eye which sees truly, or no eye at all. Therefore, in his very first definition of prudence Aristotle cut himself off from the technique by which he had defined art and by which he had distinguished art, the virtue, from bad-art, the vice. Aristotle was, of course, fully aware of this. In fact, he uses this difference in the manner of definition to point up the nature of prudence. There simply is not in connection with prudence that indifferent state of virtuosity which we saw in connection with art, the virtue, and bad-art, the vice.

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Imprudence in Saint Thomas Aquinas (Aquinas Lecture 20) by Charles J. O'Neil


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