Tag Archives: foresight

1 May: Prudence VIII, Foresight

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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.

SJC.

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25 April, Prudence II: Prudence is Like a Dance.

 

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Saint Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica (II.II) writes at length on the virtues.  This is an unsurpassed source text for anyone wishing to make a deeper study of them.  About prudence, he says,

Prudence is love discerning rightly that which helps from that which hinders us in tending to God.

And,

Prudence is knowledge of what to seek and what to avoid.

And,

A prudent man is one who sees as it were from afar, for his sight is keen and he foresees the event of uncertainties.

These are wonderful, life-affirming statements.  Imagine for a moment substituting our name for the word prudence in the remarks above: “John is someone whose love discerns rightly that which helps from that which hinders us in tending to God.”  Or, “Amanda has the ability to know what to seek and what to avoid in the complexities of human existence.”  What a wonderful, peace-giving thing it would be to have such an ability.aquinas-carlo_crivelli_007

Saint Thomas Aquinas helps us to understand the virtue of prudence by analysing the “parts” of prudence.  Prudence isn’t simply one thing, existing as a sort of spiritual lump. As a virtue, prudence comprises other abilities.  Prudence, in Saint Thomas’s thinking, is a bit like a dance, then, with a number of different steps.  When learning a dance, we break it down into its steps, practice the steps individually, and then eventually put them all together.   And we’re dancing!  Tomorrow we will begin to learn the steps.

SJC.

Saint Thomas Aquinas by Carlo Crivelli

E.D. Dancing at her First Communion, by MMB.

 

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