Foresight – or looking into the future – might seem to be a bit strange here in our survey of the virtue of prudence. How can we see what has not happened yet? How can we control that? Isn’t foresight God’s affair? And our part is simply to accept what he disposes? Not quite, according to Aquinas (Summa Theologica II.II: 49:6). It is true, he says, that certain things about the future are subject to divine providence. But the virtue of prudence is about the ‘means to an end’; it is about setting things in order in the present so as to attain a desirable end in the future. Foresight is directed to the future, and to something distant, but is brought to bear on things in the present, that are within our power to regulate.
This sounds a bit airy-fairy, so let’s go back to our friend, Jack, with the bookshop. He wants his bookshop to be successful. He therefore needs to hire people who will be trustworthy and will help him to attain that end. He knows now that if he is soft-hearted about hiring unreliable people with poor references, they will probably not help him to succeed in business. Foresight tells him what will probably happen if he hires the right kind of person. He cannot know everything about the future, and cannot guarantee absolutely that the person he has hired with the good references will work out fine. But, he can set things in order by doing as much as he can do, checking the references well, and divine providence will have to do the rest.
Foresight looks ahead and evaluates the present according to the goal that exists in the future.