Prudence and cowardice

A good article in The Federalist about John Adams, including his thoughts on arbitrary government, why laws can never be amoral, and this analysis of prudence:
Fellow revolutionary Benjamin Rush noted to Adams that their friend Charles Lee dismissed prudence as a “rascally virtue.” Adams replied that “his meaning was good. He meant the spirit which evades danger when duty requires us to face it. This is cowardice, not prudence.” That was not prudence properly understood.
By prudence I mean that deliberation and caution, which aims at no ends but good ones, and good ones by none but fair means, and then carefully adjusts and proportions its good means to its good ends. Without this virtue there can be no other. Justice itself cannot exist without it. A disposition to render to every one his right is of no use without prudence to judge what is his right and skill to perform it.
Prudence divorced from the other virtues would become amoral pragmatism.

1 comment:

Grim said...

Prudence divorced from the other virtues is one thing; but many of the other virtues can't exist without the prudential virtue. Consider the opposites of the sins: gluttony's opposite, or greed's. The only way to get there is through a function like what they are calling prudence, which the Greeks called sophrosyne.