Saint Thomas Aquinas says that it is important for prudence that a person be “an apt reasoner” (Summa Theologica 49.5). We have just said that we must not be thinking forever about what to do, but still, we must think enough. We know, for example, the exasperation we feel when someone flip-flops from one decision on one side of the problem to the opposite decision on the opposite side with very little rational explanation for the change of mind.
Today, pop psychology has placed a rather inordinate stress on the so called “gut feeling,” as though our gut somehow has access to a truth that the mind and the reason cannot find. Saint Thomas thinks more highly of our powers of reason than that. He says that reason is the faculty that researches, weighs and evaluates. Going off on tangents, or taking quantum leaps isn’t really the way to attain prudence, in his thinking. Rather, he says,
‘The work of reason is research proceeding from certain things to other things.’
Eminently reasonable himself, Thomas would have us take a step by step approach to discovering the most prudent course of action:
‘It is proper to the rational creature to be moved through the research of reason to perform any particular action.’