Prudence > Courage


In 1959 Catholic theologian Josef Pieper wrote that no claim of Christian doctrine struck contemporary ears as strangely as the idea that “the virtue of prudence is the mold and ‘mother’ of all the cardinal virtues.” Despite his valiant attempt to revive interest in the virtue, Pieper’s forthright affirmation of prudence’s superiority still strikes a rather strange note. The obligations of justice, the pursuit of charity—these are categories and terms that have common valence and moral force. But the language of “prudence” has an archaic, outmoded quality that reminds us more of Puritan naming practices than a virtue that is indispensable for our lives together.