Front Page Titles (by Subject) QUESTION XLVII.: OF PRUDENCE. 1 - Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 2 (Summa Theologica - Secunda Secundae Pt.2)
Return to Title Page for Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 2 (Summa Theologica - Secunda Secundae Pt.2)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
QUESTION XLVII.: OF PRUDENCE. 1 - St. Thomas Aquinas, Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 2 (Summa Theologica - Secunda Secundae Pt.2) 
Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas. A Translation of the Principal Portions of the Second part of the Summa Theologica, with Notes by Joseph Rickaby, S.J. (London: Burns and Oates, 1892).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
Article XII.—Is prudence in subjects or only in superiors?
R. Prudence lies in the reason. Now reason’s proper office is to rule and govern; and therefore it is proper to every one to have reason and prudence, in so far as he has any part in ruling and governing. But to rule and govern is not the office of the subject, inasmuch as he is a subject, but rather to be ruled and governed; and therefore prudence is not the virtue of the subject as such. But because every man, inasmuch as he is reasonable, has some share in governing according to the free choice of his reason, to that extent it is proper to him to have prudence. Hence it is manifest that prudence is in the superior after the manner of a mastercraft, but in the subject after the manner of a handicraft.
§ 3. By prudence a man not only commands others, but also commands himself in the sense in which reason is said to command the lower powers.
Article XIII.—Can there be any prudence in those who live in sin?
R. Prudence may be understood in three senses. There is a false prudence, or a prudence metaphorically so called. For whereas he is prudent who arranges well what has to be done in order to a good end, he who with an evil end in view makes suitable arrangements for that end has a false prudence, inasmuch as what he takes for an end is not really good, but only has the likeness of good. In this sense, that man may be metaphorically styled a prudent burglar, who finds out suitable ways for committing burglary. Of this sort is the prudence of which the Apostle says: “The prudence of the flesh is death,”1 that, namely, which places its last end in the delight of the flesh. There is a second prudence, true indeed, because it finds out ways adapted to an end that is truly good, but withal an imperfect prudence, because the good which this prudence takes for its end in view is not the common end and aim of all human life, but of some special department of business; as when one discovers fit and suitable methods of trade or navigation, he is called a prudent trader or seaman. But the third prudence is at once true and perfect, rightly counselling, judging and commanding in view of the end and aim of all human life; and this alone is absolutely called prudence; and it cannot be in those who live in sin: whereas the first-mentioned prudence is in sinners only, and the imperfect sort of prudence is common to good and bad.
§ 3.Acquired prudence is caused by the exercise of acts; hence experience and time are needed to create it; and therefore it cannot be in young people either in habit or in act. But gratuitous prudence is caused by divine infusion: hence in baptized children that have not come to the use of reason, this prudence is found in habit, but not in act, as also is the case in idiots. But in such as have attained to the use of reason, this prudence is found in act also, for the things that are of necessity to salvation, but by exercise it merits increase until it is perfect, like the other infused virtues.1
[1 ]See Ethics and Natural Law, pp. 87—90. (Trl.)
[1 ]Romans viii. 6.
[1 ]See I-II. q. 92, art. i. § 1. (Trl.)