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Blupete's Weekly Commentary


November 5th, 2000.

Prudence, Temperance and Fortitude.

Virtue has been defined as, "conformity of life and conduct with the principles of morality; voluntary observance of the recognized moral laws or standards of right conduct; abstention on moral grounds from any form of wrong-doing or vice." The difficulty with this definition, of course, is that we are brought into the problems of defining what is or what is not, right conduct. This is a study, which, in philosophy, we know as ethics. More simply we might define virtue as that conduct which is right and reasonable. For every human activity, there is a right and a reasonable way in which to proceed. There are enumerable human activities and the way in which we proceed in them may be virtuous, or not; it depends very much on the circumstances of the situation faced.

Specifically, there are four chief or natural virtues: justice, prudence, temperance, and fortitude; and three "theological virtues" of faith, hope, and charity. Together they are known as the "seven" cardinal virtues.1 I have touched upon the "theological virtues" in the past2, and, justice is certainly something I have dealt with on a number of occasions. Let me now touch upon the virtues of prudence, temperance, and fortitude.

Prudence is the "ability to discern the most suitable, politic, or profitable course of action." This is particularly so when it comes to the assessment of the right conduct that the prudent person undertakes in order to achieve the best, profitable result to that person. It takes practical wisdom and a considerable amount of discretion. One should always act with prudence and never by just chance.

Temperance is "the practice or habit of restraining oneself in provocation, passion, desire, etc." It is rational self-restraint. This applies to actions of all kinds; but, temperance in the expression of opinion is particularly helpful to the advocate. The moral force of any argument or case will be less for the want of temperance in the mode of making it or conducting it.

Fortitude is the ability to face with "moral strength or courage" a state of affairs or a combination of circumstances beyond fixing. It is displayed by a person in the face of pain or adversity.

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NOTES:

1 There is, of course, the Seven Deadly Sins: pride, anger, avarice, envy, sloth, gluttony and lust, which, as some wag has observed, due to Freudian theories, have been "psychiatrised away" and have been made respectable. They have become self-fulfillment, stress, incentive, insecurity, inertia, defective metabolism and emotional tension.

2 See: faith, hope and charity.

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Peter Landry

November, 2000 (2012)