Have you ever given thought to what takes place when you make a decision? You take stock of your choices and evaluate them as either good or bad, for yourself, and for the common good. You determine your level of interest and/or desire regarding the choices. Your conscience weighs in on the decision making process. It is here, at this point, that prudence plays its role, informing you, via your conscience, of what is morally right and morally wrong. Prudence “assists man in interpreting data of experience and the signs of the times.”1
Let’s use an example: A man needs to get to work, but does not have transportation. He must make a decision – get a ride from someone, take public transportation, or steal a car. He takes stock of his choices, and with the virtue of prudence, understands that it is morally wrong to steal. Yet his desire for his own form of transportation is strong. A properly formed conscience of a virtuous man would make the decision to either get a ride from someone, or take public transportation. To command a virtuous action remains an act of the intellect. One must use one’s power of reasoning, in conjunction with one’s conscience, to determine what is best for oneself and the common good. Prudence requires that the action conform to the preference of right reason; 2 any other action would be imprudent.
How does prudence do its job? We’ll discuss that question in our next reflection on the virtue of Prudence. Don’t miss it!
1 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd. Ed. paragraph 1788, Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997. Print.
2 Cessario, Romano. The Moral and Virtues and Theological Ethics. 2nd. Ed. p. 80. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2009. Print.