## Virtue & Prudence

This is the main board for discussing philosophy - formal, informal and in between.

Moderator: Only_Humean

Forum rules
Forum Philosophy

### Virtue & Prudence

So this guy "von Rivers" says that morality and prudence are the same. He brings this up all the time. When I asked him why this is so important to him, he disappointed me by giving such an abstract answer, that seems to have nothing at all to do with morality, or why morality is important:

von Rivers in another thread wrote:Generally speaking, it's important for the same reason that any issue in philosophy is important---we want a better understanding of the world we live in, and removing false dichotomies, and sorting out our conceptual framework is a part of that. What's wrong with upholding a bad distinction, you ask? Well, because just look at all the confusion it causes you. You can't seem to explain what the essential distinction between the concepts is... (---And yet you're asking me why I wouldn't want to make the same distinction as the one you can't properly explain!). And then once you've made the bad distinction, you can't seem to answer questions like, "Why be moral?" to even your own satisfaction. You don't agree, you say? Well, how many times does my challenge have to go unanswered?

Here’s an introduction to the concept of prudence from Wikipedia:

The word comes from Old French prudence (14th century), from Latin prudentia (foresight, sagacity). It is often associated with wisdom, insight, and knowledge. In this case, the virtue is the ability to judge between virtuous and vicious actions, not only in a general sense, but with regard to appropriate actions at a given time and place. Although prudence itself does not perform any actions, and is concerned solely with knowledge, all virtues had to be regulated by it. Distinguishing when acts are courageous, as opposed to reckless or cowardly, for instance, is an act of prudence, and for this reason it is classified as a cardinal (pivotal) virtue.

Although prudence would be applied to any such judgment, the more difficult tasks, which distinguish a person as prudent, are those in which various goods have to be weighed against each other, as when a person is determining what would be best to give charitable donations, or how to punish a child so as to prevent repeating an offense.

This is very straightforward. The reason the distinction between prudence and virtue is a good and important one, has to do with 1) the development of, and 2) the sustainability of, a virtuous life. Consider the person who has just awakened to the fact that his own affluence could be a source of joy for others. He has just cashed his paycheck, and has, say, $1,000 in his wallet. He receives an invitation to a presentation coordinated by a group of people who are trying to raise money for disadvantaged people of some kind. His conscience assails him, and he wants to give money. But he is tormented by his sense of the act of giving as a slippery slope. Where should he stop? At what exact point can he justify his decision to give no more? Prudence suggests that he can just give a little bit – say$50 – and this is doing something rather than nothing, it saves him from being distraught with regret from giving “too much”, and it allows for training in giving, as giving goes against the grain of entrenched egoistic habit. In this case prudence has made possible the development of virtue.

The previous example also suggests how prudence makes possible the sustainability of virtue. If you give too much of your money away, you actually give your power away. You become unable to command situations in the same way, and your ability to “do good” is therefore heavily compromised. Though it is possible to imagine such a person – a person who “does good” by merely being good – a person who has nothing, is untroubled, and has the knowledge and communication skills to help others overcome their self-cherishing and various attachments – the fact is, if you imagine yourself capable of abandoning attachments, but you prove incapable, then you make things far worse – disastrous, even – for yourself and others. I know people who were 60’s idealists, who are now miserable because they “should be retired by now” but they didn’t save anything, didn’t show any sense of command over their own situation. This would be fine of course, and admirable, except that they are now miserable. And this leads to another important point:

Virtue and prudence don’t exist in easy harmony; rather, they exist in a relationship of creative conflict. Thus, they are not simply names for two different “locations” along a single spectrum. In the example I provided, prudence suggests that a limiting of generosity is morally worthwhile – but virtue constantly challenges the intrusion of prudence, suggesting that prudence has overstepped its bounds. Back to the development of virtue, it’s as if prudence is the brakes, virtue the gas pedal. Learning how to drive requires the use of both.

Could the 60’s idealists that I mentioned have predicted their own future misery, and the misery they would therefore inflict on others as a result? I don’t think so. If they could have, then it could make sense to claim that their choices at that time were “immoral”. But this is not the case, so there was nothing immoral about the very admirable and moral choices they made at the time. They gave more than I would do; they seem to have lived with more conscience and more consciousness of the suffering of others than I do. This is utterly praiseworthy, and to detract from the moral worth of such a life is to do these (and “morality”) an injustice, and to teach others selfishness in the name of generosity.

Finally, it is important to point out that prudence is not about balancing the needs of the self versus the needs of others from an egoic perspective. Prudence is always in the service of virtue – it is never selfish. It is not prudent to be selfish. In general, for instance, it is not prudent to pamper yourself, to entertain yourself, to steal, lie, cheat, murder, etc. It is, however, prudent to eat good, healthy food, to get a good night’s sleep, even to simply enjoy your life (though “enjoying” stretches the meaning of prudence, with its connotation of deliberateness).

This brief account of the distinction between morality (or virtue) and prudence takes for granted that virtue is something worth cultivating, and that a virtuous life is more rewarding than an ego-oriented life. A fuller account of why this is the case will have to wait for another time. However, I’ll briefly mention two points. One, this can be explored oneself. Get some quality instruction on how to approach the whole thing (I recommend Buddhism, personally, but whatever works for you and doesn’t hurt others) and try it out in some kind of deep and extended way. Consider it an experiment, but keep in mind that you have to actually involve yourself to find out the results. Two, no man is an island. This isn’t just a saying – it is true. Anyone can investigate this and see that it is true. We are connected to others, our collective sense of well-being depends on each other. I am only here because of others. Anything I have, I couldn’t have had without the involvement of others. Thus, to think and act in contradiction to this truth will surely bring suffering, to oneself and others.

The quote by von Rivers that I began this post with was edited to remove reference to the is-ought problem. I see no reason to revisit that issue here. It was thoroughly discussed in the thread I copied it from.

Last edited by anon on Thu Jan 10, 2013 1:44 am, edited 2 times in total.
"Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for our miseries, and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries." - Blaise Pascal

- Edward Yang

"To a fly that likes the smell of putrid / Meat the fragrance of sandalwood is foul. / Beings who discard Nirvana / Covet coarse Samsara's realm." - Saraha

anon
ILP Legend

Posts: 8274
Joined: Fri Nov 09, 2007 7:59 pm
Location: In the meantime.

### Re: Virtue & Prudence

Here's the opening paragraph to my thread, "Painfully obvious statements on life and morality." viewtopic.php?f=1&t=181245

Stuartp523 wrote:We live in a world of suffering, our life may have a positive affect on many, but causally speaking are life can't help but have at least an indirect negative effect on some. We may hope the sum total of our life has more of a positive affect on others than negative, but there are always going to be those whose life is going to be adversely affected by ours. Personally, while I hope to have a net positive affect I'm not going to "quit" if I thought that I won't. Those who admit to these facts, but don't want to actually experience their reality are at least less hypocritical than those who do neither.

You speak of the ideals of virtue and prudence; I find them to be almost too abstract to even talk about, but a large part of my life was spent on asking the same questions you've asked here. Being somewhat nihilistic or I could just say cynical, I only see the smallest use in discussing morality in most ways. But, I'm fine with people holding onto these ideals and struggling to make them work. I think most people, whether you would say they made them work or not, approached them mostly on the safe side as far as their self interest went, I didn't.

If I didn't over think the results of a debate on how to be virtuous using prudence, I might agree that those results are worthwhile for people to try to use. The issue for me is how to try to teach, explain and just generally get the message across in various ways. Likely most people don't worry much about moral advice, so using a confident and simple approach of how to be virtuous would be the best hopt of getting them to listen. Some people do worry a lot about moral advice, and just because we avoided over thinking it, so as to avoid its inherent contradictions they won't necessarily do so.

When explaining or teaching our moral views to people we don't know how seriously they are going to take them. So this becomes a moral problem in itself. Do we teach morality in a simple way and let the worriers end up obsessed with those ideas, which when taken literally are self destructive, just so that the majority will at least make some effort at being moral?
Stuart
Philosopher

Posts: 3027
Joined: Thu Oct 04, 2012 8:32 am
Location: California

### Re: Virtue & Prudence

Virtue and prudence don’t exist in easy harmony; rather, they exist in a relationship of creative conflict. Thus, they are not simply names for two different “locations” along a single spectrum. In the example I provided, prudence suggests that a limiting of generosity is morally worthwhile – but virtue constantly challenges the intrusion of prudence, suggesting that prudence has overstepped its bounds. Back to the development of virtue, it’s as if prudence is the brakes, virtue the gas pedal. Learning how to drive requires the use of both.

This idea that prudence limits virtue is extremely odd to me. When virtue is taken beyond prudence, it is no longer virtue. One can be so generous as to be foolish in giving away all of his resources, for example. That sort of generosity ceases to be a virtue at that point though. I don't think your example suffices in showing that an act can be prudent without being virtuous or vice versa.

Finally, it is important to point out that prudence is not about balancing the needs of the self versus the needs of others from an egoic perspective. Prudence is always in the service of virtue – it is never selfish. It is not prudent to be selfish.

Why not? I think selfishness can be quite prudent in some circumstances. One of the definitions of prudence is "regard for one's own interests".

In general, for instance, it is not prudent to pamper yourself, to entertain yourself, to steal, lie, cheat, murder, etc.

Why not? I can think of scenarios in which all of those acts might be prudent.
"Man is the animal that laughs at himself."
—Robert A Heinlein

statiktech
SonOfABitchBastard

Posts: 5413
Joined: Thu May 17, 2007 8:53 pm
Location: Atlanta, GA

### Re: Virtue & Prudence

statiktech wrote:This idea that prudence limits virtue is extremely odd to me. When virtue is taken beyond prudence, it is no longer virtue. One can be so generous as to be foolish in giving away all of his resources, for example. That sort of generosity ceases to be a virtue at that point though. I don't think your example suffices in showing that an act can be prudent without being virtuous or vice versa.

Take the case of having sex with sheep. Most everyone would say it's immoral (barring certain regional prejudices ), but imprudent? She won't get pregnant, I don't know of any ovine-human vectors for STDs... It's imprudent if other people find out about it, of course, or perhaps it's imprudent because other people might find out about it, but that is certainly not why one would say it's immoral.

As another example, it might be considered prudent to marry the daughter of a powerful family, to ensure your wealth and your family's security. That's not why it would be moral to marry her - it might be prudent yet immoral, if she is besotted with you and you only have your eye on her family status.

They often overlap. Prudence, having an informed eye to the consequences, is a significant concern within a moral decision, as you point out in your example - it's a useful guide to finding a golden mean, for one thing - but it's not the *only* moral concern.

Why not? I think selfishness can be quite prudent in some circumstances. One of the definitions of prudence is "regard for one's own interests".

Self-interest is not the same as selfishness. See: thousands of tedious discussions as to why everyone is "selfish" all the time because they choose what they want. Selfishness is harming others through your self-centredness.

The biology of purpose keeps my nose above the surface.
- Brian Eno

Only_Humean
ILP Legend

Posts: 6194
Joined: Mon Jun 22, 2009 10:53 am
Location: Right here

### Re: Virtue & Prudence

Only_Humean wrote:Take the case of having sex with sheep. Most everyone would say it's immoral (barring certain regional prejudices ), but imprudent? She won't get pregnant, I don't know of any ovine-human vectors for STDs... It's imprudent if other people find out about it, of course, or perhaps it's imprudent because other people might find out about it, but that is certainly not why one would say it's immoral.

I'd argue that it would be considered immoral for the same reasons it would be considered imprudent. Why do you think a utilitarian might find such an act immoral?

As another example, it might be considered prudent to marry the daughter of a powerful family, to ensure your wealth and your family's security. That's not why it would be moral to marry her

That's exactly why it would be moral—for the sake of my family. If we could get by without me being married, then the act is unnecessary and isn't prudent.

it might be prudent yet immoral, if she is besotted with you and you only have your eye on her family status.

Then it isn't prudent. It would be prudent for me to seek status in a way that doesn't obligate me to a person or family that I have no concern for. It is rather imprudent to waste the families' time and resources in needlessly seeking status. It's prudent if I need the security for some reason, in which case I'd make sure the relationship worked for all of our sakes.

They often overlap. Prudence, having an informed eye to the consequences, is a significant concern within a moral decision, as you point out in your example - it's a useful guide to finding a golden mean, for one thing - but it's not the *only* moral concern.

I don't know if I'd say it's the only moral concern. I do think morality and prudence are very much the same, or they inevitably overlap. I'm still trying to decide if they are one in the same as I think Rivers is arguing [correct me if I'm wrong, Mo].

Self-interest is not the same as selfishness. See: thousands of tedious discussions as to why everyone is "selfish" all the time because they choose what they want. Selfishness is harming others through your self-centredness.

I think that's a little hyperbolic. Selfishness is just thinking only of oneself, maybe at the expense of others. I think that can be prudent.
"Man is the animal that laughs at himself."
—Robert A Heinlein

statiktech
SonOfABitchBastard

Posts: 5413
Joined: Thu May 17, 2007 8:53 pm
Location: Atlanta, GA

### Re: Virtue & Prudence

statiktech wrote:
Only_Humean wrote:Take the case of having sex with sheep. Most everyone would say it's immoral (barring certain regional prejudices ), but imprudent? She won't get pregnant, I don't know of any ovine-human vectors for STDs... It's imprudent if other people find out about it, of course, or perhaps it's imprudent because other people might find out about it, but that is certainly not why one would say it's immoral.

I'd argue that it would be considered immoral for the same reasons it would be considered imprudent.

Which are?

Why do you think a utilitarian might find such an act immoral?

As long as the sheep's enjoying herself, I'm sure the utilitarian's all for it.

As another example, it might be considered prudent to marry the daughter of a powerful family, to ensure your wealth and your family's security. That's not why it would be moral to marry her

That's exactly why it would be moral—for the sake of my family. If we could get by without me being married, then the act is unnecessary and isn't prudent.

I disagree. I think the advantage gained is prudence; I'm not postulating a family starving on the breadline.

it might be prudent yet immoral, if she is besotted with you and you only have your eye on her family status.

Then it isn't prudent. It would be prudent for me to seek status in a way that doesn't obligate me to a person or family that I have no concern for. It is rather imprudent to waste the families' time and resources in needlessly seeking status. It's prudent if I need the security for some reason, in which case I'd make sure the relationship worked for all of our sakes.

So you'd say it's moral to marry someone you're not that into, but will give it a go for the sake of the security?

I don't think this is resolvable, because I'd disagree with that, but one could theoretically just insist that prudence and morality are the same thing and use the words interchangeably (not saying you are, but one could). As I see it, prudence is more or less the consequentialist part of morality - the wisdom to see the consequences. The less one has moral scruples about treating others as a means to an end, or no conceptions of virtues that are worth accepting suboptimal outcomes for the sake of upholding, the closer they will probably be.

They often overlap. Prudence, having an informed eye to the consequences, is a significant concern within a moral decision, as you point out in your example - it's a useful guide to finding a golden mean, for one thing - but it's not the *only* moral concern.

I don't know if I'd say it's the only moral concern. I do think morality and prudence are very much the same, or they inevitably overlap. I'm still trying to decide if they are one in the same as I think Rivers is arguing [correct me if I'm wrong, Mo].

I think that's a little hyperbolic. Selfishness is just thinking only of oneself, maybe at the expense of others. I think that can be prudent.

I think only of myself when I choose to brush my teeth and floss every night. I'm not keeping these teeth warm for someone else, you know

The biology of purpose keeps my nose above the surface.
- Brian Eno

Only_Humean
ILP Legend

Posts: 6194
Joined: Mon Jun 22, 2009 10:53 am
Location: Right here

### Re: Virtue & Prudence

Only_Humean wrote:Which are?

I don't know, that's why I asked you. I mean, if you're harming the animal, for example, it isn't prudent. Would you say it's prudent to harm anything for sex?

As long as the sheep's enjoying herself, I'm sure the utilitarian's all for it.

Exactly. I mean, just because it's repulsive doesn't mean it's immoral.

I disagree. I think the advantage gained is prudence; I'm not postulating a family starving on the breadline.

Then I think it's excessive and unnecessary and therefore imprudent. Especially if I'm feigning a relationship with some poor woman.

So you'd say it's moral to marry someone you're not that into, but will give it a go for the sake of the security?

Yes, under the right circumstances; like if my family genuinely needed that security. In other words, if the benefit to my family was greater than the cost to me and my bride, I think I'd be obligated.

I don't think this is resolvable, because I'd disagree with that, but one could theoretically just insist that prudence and morality are the same thing and use the words interchangeably (not saying you are, but one could). As I see it, prudence is more or less the consequentialist part of morality - the wisdom to see the consequences. The less one has moral scruples about treating others as a means to an end, or no conceptions of virtues that are worth accepting suboptimal outcomes for the sake of upholding, the closer they will probably be.

I do think we've arrived at a fundamental disagreement. What you seem to be saying here is that prudence and morality are very much the same for a consequentialist, but not so much for a deontologist, which I agree with. My contention is that deontic morality goes wrong in separating virtue and prudence.

I think only of myself when I choose to brush my teeth and floss every night. I'm not keeping these teeth warm for someone else, you know

Exactly. And that's prudent; no? Say I'm a recovering drug addict going through rehab. My parents are paying for it, I'm sucking up time and resources from counselors and psychiatrists et al. But I have to focus on getting myself better before I can begin to repay any of them. I'm thinking only of myself for a time at the expense of others because it's prudent.
"Man is the animal that laughs at himself."
—Robert A Heinlein

statiktech
SonOfABitchBastard

Posts: 5413
Joined: Thu May 17, 2007 8:53 pm
Location: Atlanta, GA

### Re: Virtue & Prudence

Yes, under the right circumstances; like if my family genuinely needed that security. In other words, if the benefit to my family was greater than the cost to me and my bride, I think I'd be obligated.
Your position is that anything is moral if you demonstrate a greater benefit to you than the loss to someone else?
That's odd.
And when making the decision to perform an act, you are the sole judge of the benefit and loss. Doesn't that automatically skew everything in your favor?
phyllo
ILP Legend

Posts: 10963
Joined: Thu Dec 16, 2010 1:41 am

### Re: Virtue & Prudence

Your position is that anything is moral if you demonstrate a greater benefit to you than the loss to someone else?

No. Greater aggregate benefit or greater benefit to the greatest number of people.

And when making the decision to perform an act, you are the sole judge of the benefit and loss. Doesn't that automatically skew everything in your favor?

No and no.
"Man is the animal that laughs at himself."
—Robert A Heinlein

statiktech
SonOfABitchBastard

Posts: 5413
Joined: Thu May 17, 2007 8:53 pm
Location: Atlanta, GA

### Re: Virtue & Prudence

If you steal from a rich guy who doesn't need the money and it benefits you and your family, then your action is morally correct.
phyllo
ILP Legend

Posts: 10963
Joined: Thu Dec 16, 2010 1:41 am

### Re: Virtue & Prudence

If you steal from a rich guy who doesn't need the money and it benefits you and your family, then your action is morally correct.

It could be, sure. It's not necessarily immoral.
"Man is the animal that laughs at himself."
—Robert A Heinlein

statiktech
SonOfABitchBastard

Posts: 5413
Joined: Thu May 17, 2007 8:53 pm
Location: Atlanta, GA

### Re: Virtue & Prudence

Dear friends and neighbors,

Be very careful when reading an OP whose first steps are to quote from Wikipedia, and then to follow it with the words, “This is all very straightforward”. There’s only two possibilities at such a point: (1) either that statement is true, and thus everything that follows is dull and not needed to be written; or else the person making the statement is full of shit, possibly because of Wikipedia.

Wikipedia has made everyone here dumber---in direct proportion to the amount you read and use it. In English when we’re talking about prudence, we’re really talking about the Greek ‘phronesis’—the virtue of practical thought. (‘Prudence’ is just how we translate ‘phronesis’). Prudence doesn’t make virtue possible---it just is a virtue, an intellectual one, among others (art and science).

For those who think there is an essential distinction between morality and prudence… I’ve challenged them to explain that distinction, just as I’ve explained how it arose, and why it is a false and bad distinction. No one has even tried. They cling to a distinction that confuses them about what exactly morality is, and why you should even be moral. They’re lobotomizing themselves.

The best you get is a supposed example, like: “Yo, giving away all of your money is moral, but not prudent”. (As if giving away all of your money to some worthy cause only to make yourself a worthy cause was moral. Or that if the cause really was deserving, then fighting for it would not be prudent---as if it’s not prudent to fight for worthy causes).

They have stupefied themselves with a false distinction. ---A distinction without a difference. Well, we have a new OP with a similar example…

anon wrote:In the example I provided, prudence suggests that a limiting of generosity is morally worthwhile – but virtue constantly challenges the intrusion of prudence, suggesting that prudence has overstepped its bounds. Back to the development of virtue, it’s as if prudence is the brakes, virtue the gas pedal. Learning how to drive requires the use of both.

Yes, limiting your generosity is probably worthwhile sometimes. Why are we supposed to think that limiting your generosity is not also required by virtue or morality?? It’s an excess, which tilts the Golden Mean and becomes a vice. (And why does that question not strike anon as obvious enough that he would need to answer it in the OP?)

anon wrote: Prudence is always in the service of virtue

It’s about time that someone admitted that I’m right. It’s just a matter now of getting the person who wrote this to agree with what he said.

In any case, I saw no distinction in the entire OP. A simple definition of each term, and an example of how they are separate would have sufficed…

FOR THOSE interested in the longer case, read this: viewtopic.php?f=31&t=180441#p2349405

von Rivers
ILP Legend

Posts: 5792
Joined: Sun May 09, 2004 4:24 am

### Re: Virtue & Prudence

It could be, sure. It's not necessarily immoral.
This is agreed to and codified by society? Is it also clearly specified what constitutes 'rich' and what constitutes a legitimate 'benefit'?

As far as I know, most human societies don't consider stealing to be moral. (When it's 'moral stealing' it's called taxation.)
phyllo
ILP Legend

Posts: 10963
Joined: Thu Dec 16, 2010 1:41 am

### Re: Virtue & Prudence

Only_Humean wrote:Take the case of having sex with sheep. Most everyone would say it's immoral (barring certain regional prejudices ), but imprudent? She won't get pregnant, I don't know of any ovine-human vectors for STDs... It's imprudent if other people find out about it, of course, or perhaps it's imprudent because other people might find out about it, but that is certainly not why one would say it's immoral.

This is a bad example, but even if it was a better example, it would at best show that prudence and morality are different ways of talking about the same thing. In other words, it's not an example of an act that is moral but not prudent (or vice versa).

Frankly, I would say this is imprudent for the same reason it is immoral. It's not imprudent because others might find out about it---it's imprudent because of what they'll think if they do. And what they'll think if they do find out about it is the same reason it is immoral. That's my suspicion.

As another example, it might be considered prudent to marry the daughter of a powerful family, to ensure your wealth and your family's security. That's not why it would be moral to marry her - it might be prudent yet immoral, if she is besotted with you and you only have your eye on her family status.

This is an example that does not work. Why are you assuming it is immoral to marry the girl to secure your family? Why are you assuming marrying someone is immoral if the reasons why you're marrying are different from your partner's? This doesn't even work at an intuitive level, particularly if he treats her like a princess and she is delighted by it.

There's a general trend in what's wrong with these examples... they never really attempt or want to say precisely why something is or isn't "moral". ---I know why that is..........
Last edited by von Rivers on Thu Jan 10, 2013 3:04 am, edited 2 times in total.

von Rivers
ILP Legend

Posts: 5792
Joined: Sun May 09, 2004 4:24 am

### Re: Virtue & Prudence

Mo, thanks for admitting I was right.
Stuart
Philosopher

Posts: 3027
Joined: Thu Oct 04, 2012 8:32 am
Location: California

### Re: Virtue & Prudence

von Rivers
ILP Legend

Posts: 5792
Joined: Sun May 09, 2004 4:24 am

### Re: Virtue & Prudence

von Rivers, I misread your post. I went to your link and just quickly looked through it, you seem to be the first person I've ever met who believes in moral objectivity and is willing to go to great lengths to defend that view. I think sometime I'll read through that thread and then see what I have to say.
Stuart
Philosopher

Posts: 3027
Joined: Thu Oct 04, 2012 8:32 am
Location: California

### Re: Virtue & Prudence

phyllo wrote:
It could be, sure. It's not necessarily immoral.
This is agreed to and codified by society? Is it also clearly specified what constitutes 'rich' and what constitutes a legitimate 'benefit'?

Whether or not it is agreed to by everyone else is irrelevant. By "rich", I took you to mean having excess. What constitutes a legitimate benefit is—you guessed it—prudence.

As far as I know, most human societies don't consider stealing to be moral. (When it's 'moral stealing' it's called taxation.)

Again, irrelevant.
"Man is the animal that laughs at himself."
—Robert A Heinlein

statiktech
SonOfABitchBastard

Posts: 5413
Joined: Thu May 17, 2007 8:53 pm
Location: Atlanta, GA

### Re: Virtue & Prudence

The difference between morality and prudence?

First, let's consider the evaluation of an action in a legal context:
There is a a set of laws covering correct legal action. If you act within the law, then you cannot be legally punished. However, there may be circumstances in which breaking a law is considered justified by reasonable people. For example, driving the wrong way on a one-way street in order to take someone to the hospital in an emergency. The prudent action is illegal but judged to be correct by reasonable people.

Similarly, morality is a code of conduct which spells out correct behavior. It cannot cover every possible situation, so again prudent action is judged to be right even when it goes against the established code.
It should be noted that prudence and legal laws and moral codes will usually be in agreement since the laws and codes are derived from what was in the past considered prudent.

One can conclude that prudence is synonymous with 'natural' law or 'natural' morality. And what is considered 'natural' is decided by wise and virtuous men and women.

The problem with prudence is that imprudent people don't have it. Aristotle mentions this:
Gaining phronesis requires maturation, in Aristotle's thought:
“ Whereas young people become accomplished in geometry and mathematics, and wise within these limits, prudent young people do not seem to be found. The reason is that prudence is concerned with particulars as well as universals, and particulars become known from experience, but a young person lacks experience, since some length of time is needed to produce it (Nicomachean Ethics 1142 a). ”

Phronesis is concerned with particulars, because it is concerned with how to act in particular situations. One can learn the principles of action, but applying them in the real world, in situations one could not have foreseen, requires experience of the world.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phronesis
So a young person is at least amoral and possibly immoral until he gains sufficient prudence. Clearly it is useful to codify morality and use it.

Prudence = the application of practical wisdom to particular situations
Morality = the general principles for action in all situations
phyllo
ILP Legend

Posts: 10963
Joined: Thu Dec 16, 2010 1:41 am

### Re: Virtue & Prudence

By "rich", I took you to mean having excess.
That will be a subjective judgement made by people.
What constitutes a legitimate benefit is—you guessed it—prudence.
Again, prudence is a judgement.
As far as I know, most human societies don't consider stealing to be moral. (When it's 'moral stealing' it's called taxation.)

Again, irrelevant.

I don't understand why you try to remove people out of everything.
Either 'what is moral' is established by God - which you don't believe. Even in this case, people decide who is a true prophet of God and who is not.
Or it is discovered by people (like universal gravitation) - in which case people write it down in a book and pass it on.
Or it is fabricated by people for what they believe is a practical purpose - in which case they write it down in a book and pass it on.

On none of these cases is 'moral' floating around without context or reference to people. People are the judges of what is moral.
phyllo
ILP Legend

Posts: 10963
Joined: Thu Dec 16, 2010 1:41 am

### Re: Virtue & Prudence

Stuartp523 wrote:von Rivers, I misread your post. I went to your link and just quickly looked through it, you seem to be the first person I've ever met who believes in moral objectivity and is willing to go to great lengths to defend that view. I think sometime I'll read through that thread and then see what I have to say.

Cool. I am a river to my people.

von Rivers
ILP Legend

Posts: 5792
Joined: Sun May 09, 2004 4:24 am

### Re: Virtue & Prudence

phyllo wrote:
By "rich", I took you to mean having excess.
That will be a subjective judgement made by people.
What constitutes a legitimate benefit is—you guessed it—prudence.
Again, prudence is a judgement.
As far as I know, most human societies don't consider stealing to be moral. (When it's 'moral stealing' it's called taxation.)

Again, irrelevant.

I don't understand why you try to remove people out of everything.
Either 'what is moral' is established by God - which you don't believe. Even in this case, people decide who is a true prophet of God and who is not.
Or it is discovered by people (like universal gravitation) - in which case people write it down in a book and pass it on.
Or it is fabricated by people for what they believe is a practical purpose - in which case they write it down in a book and pass it on.

On none of these cases is 'moral' floating around without context or reference to people. People are the judges of what is moral.

...what? How am I trying to remove people out of everything? Morality is about how people should act. Yes, people make judgments. And?

What I'm trying to tell you is that the number of people who disagree with my position is not an argument against it. That's an argumentum ad populum.
"Man is the animal that laughs at himself."
—Robert A Heinlein

statiktech
SonOfABitchBastard

Posts: 5413
Joined: Thu May 17, 2007 8:53 pm
Location: Atlanta, GA

### Re: Virtue & Prudence

What I'm trying to tell you is that the number of people who disagree with my position is not an argument against it. That's an argumentum ad populum.
I didn't say anything about the 'number of people'. I said wise and virtuous people decide. Presumably they guide the direction that societies take and therefore most societies consider stealing to be immoral.

Are you suggesting that there is some other process for adopting moral codes?
phyllo
ILP Legend

Posts: 10963
Joined: Thu Dec 16, 2010 1:41 am

### Re: Virtue & Prudence

No, I'm suggesting that wise and virtuous people can be mistaken and what most societies consider isn't an argument against my position.
"Man is the animal that laughs at himself."
—Robert A Heinlein

statiktech
SonOfABitchBastard

Posts: 5413
Joined: Thu May 17, 2007 8:53 pm
Location: Atlanta, GA

### Re: Virtue & Prudence

statiktech wrote:No, I'm suggesting that wise and virtuous people can be mistaken and what most societies consider isn't an argument against my position.
If wise and virtuous people are wrong and dumb people are wrong then how can you know what is moral? There is no longer any reference point to use for calibrating moral action.
phyllo
ILP Legend

Posts: 10963
Joined: Thu Dec 16, 2010 1:41 am

Next