Prudence about Ends

John Finnis

in Reason in Action

Published in print April 2011 | ISBN: 9780199580057
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191729379 | DOI:
Prudence about Ends

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This chapter resolves an apparent contradiction in Aquinas's discussions of the intellectual and moral virtue of prudentia (practical reasonableness), a textual puzzle articulated by his great 16th-century commentator Cajetan and taken up in 1990 by Terence Irwin. But also, especially in sections III and V, the chapter directly considers the truth about practical reason, human ends (goods), and virtue (right and wrong judgments, choices, actions and character). All ends except the very most ultimate are also means; no end, even the most ultimate, can be actually intended without being understood in its relation to means; and even the most ultimate end involves a complex of constituent intelligible goods. So Aristotle's thesis, adopted by Aquinas, that phronêsis (prudentia) concerns the means (rather than the end) is consistent with Aquinas's thesis that prudential directs the (other) moral virtues not only in the choosing of means but also the settling of end(s).

Keywords: Aquinas; Aristotle; Terence Irwin; prudentia; phronêsis; ends; means; Cajetan; virtue

Chapter.  7603 words. 

Subjects: Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law

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