Of Prudence, Considered in Itself (ST II-II q.47) and related texts
These notes are taken from Aquinas, ST II-II q.47. They are meant to be summaries and are based on my own current reflections.
Article 1: Prudence is in the Intellect
Basing himself on a remark by Isidore of Seville, Thomas notes that prudence gives us a way of seeing from afar, obviously speaking metaphorically. It is a cognitive activity—“to obtain knowledge of the future from knowledge of the present or past”; it is “done by a process of comparison.” Notice the fact that prudence enables us to see the future—indeed, as we will see, it enables us to COMMAND the future to come into existence by molding human liberty. (Command is the primary act of prudence, as we will see.) It is about setting human freedom in right order. (Hence too, PRUDENCE HELPS TO BRING THE NATURAL LAW INTO EXISTENCE, for ordering pertains to law.)
You will see, however, that there are VERY important ways that the will is involved in prudence
ad 1: Love moves to the act of prudence; indeed, we will see that the causality of will and intellect are related in important ways (causae sunt invicem causae); see Garrigou-Lagrange in Dieu; also, Maritain in Existence and the Existent
ad 2: Here, he discusses the relation between counsel and choice; one should go back to ST I-II to read at length what is said there in the general treatment of the acts of the practical intellect
ad 3: Prudence is not related to thought only but to action; he differentiates this from art, though we need to be careful here, for art is still in an operative habitus; however, it is more about judging than about commanding, hence it is not directly about the actual effectuation of activity. To this end, we need to visit ST I-II q.57 a.3-6
(Aside: ST I-II q.57 a.3: Art is an intellectual virtue)
Art = “the right reason about certain works to be made”; it is important to note that it is practical—it is directive of something NEW TO BE FORMED AND SHAPED IN THE WORLD
It is different from prudence because it depends upon the WORK TO BE MADE—it is the GOOD OF THE WORK that is the GOOD OF ART; hence, as Maritain well notes, there is a battle often between art and prudence; Art requires the artist to bring his or her will into line not with the fitting good of human life but the fitting good of the art in question—YET, NONETHELESS, the artist must be a GOOD MAN in addition to being a GOOD ARTIST; there are some profound things in Art and Scholasticism on this topic.
Notice, though, again: IT IS AN OPERATIVE HABIT
It is akin to SPECULATIVE HABITS in that it is primarily QUALITATIVE in nature, giving the artist an APTNESS TO WORK WELL but not RECTITUDE IN APPETITE. (Hence, a great artist can even sin against his artwork, to show his or her excellence; likewise, a great artist can bring forth great beauty and not sin against art but, nonetheless, sin against being a man.) Simon treats this well; they are also treated in ad 1 and 2, though regarding ad 1 (and the unfailingness of art as such), see Maritain in Art and Scholasticism (I believe)
Ad 3 Has some interesting points regarding liberal arts—but one must be VERY careful in these matters. Rational order is not the same as technical order. Likewise, one needs to make careful precisions regarding the mathematical disciplines. To be honest, the liberal arts are sometimes studied in an “art-ish” way and sometimes in a speculative way (i.e. by resolution to principles); this likely specifies two different formal objects. (The treatment of logica docens vs. logica utens only partially addresses this distinction; Aquinas develops on the point, but one really should consult the later Thomists to get better clarity. Notes are available to those interested.) One needs to consult numerous texts on this and also note that Aquinas just may not have given us more than a lot of little droplets on these topics. (Cf. Tedesco’s work on this in Italian and English.) Also, note Aquinas’s words: “On the other hand, those sciences which are not ordained to any such like work, are called sciences simply, and not arts. Nor, if the liberal arts be more excellent, does it follow that the notion of art is more applicable to them.”
(Aside: ST I-II q.57 a.4: The distinction of prudence and art)
This is very important. M-D Philippe, in L’Activité Artistique, vol. 2 has some excellent remarks that supplement some of the more standard accounts.
Notice—Qualitative aptness and aptness for use (Simon: Existential readiness)
Art only provides the first one; it doesn’t perfect the will.
He bases the reason on the definitions of art and prudence: The reason for this difference is that art is the "right reason of things to be made"; whereas prudence is the "right reason of things to be done." Prudence is immanent in a way that art is not—art passes out into the thing that is made. (This is important in discussions of esse morale, which is first executively in the will so directed, then derivatively in the external reality enveloped in the various acts, though prior in apprehension—causae sunt invicem causae; one must parse these matters very carefully. One should see ST I-II q.19 and 20; Ripperger’s treatment; Sokolowsk’s reflections are helpful in Moral Action; Woodbury’s notes deserve to be published—YET AGAIN; Lehu summarizes)
Okay, now returning to the article in question—THIS IS AN IMPORTANT TEXT REGARDING THE NEED FOR RECTITUDE OF WILL FOR PRUDENCE TO FUNCTION. THIS IS BECAUSE THE ENDS ARE NEEDED, AND AS WE WILL SEE, THEY WILL COME FROM THE MORAL VIRTUES
BECAUSE THE THING ITSELF TO BE MADE is the measure of art, the will need not be rectified. Hence, the standard example of sinning against art willingly.
Ad 1 is interesting and potentially problematic; it must be referring to art IN GENERAL; however, it should be read as leaving room for specific kinds of art. There are MANY, MANY formal objects…
Ad 2 According to subject and matter, they are like. Indeed, they are “about things that may be otherwise than they are.” (Indeed, the inventiveness of man shines in art and prudence.) However, AS VIRTUES, art is more speculative. (This has some profound implications, as Maritain has shown.)
Ad 3—Read this in conjunction with discussions of imperfect prudence; in particular, notice how he moves back and forth between art and “prudence” when considering these kinds of non-ultimate ends; the ambiguity is important though
(Aside: ST I-II q.57 a.5: Prudence is a most necessary virtue for human life)
He focuses here on choice; command is most important. Here, though note this—two things needed for choice’s rectitude:
1. Due end
2. Something ordered to that end
Virtue provides the first—This is why it is a TRAVESTY that Thomists don’t just play out this dynamic carefully. We’ll see the same point when we get to ST II-II q.47 a.6-7. The interplay of LOVE OF THE FITTING GOOD and the DIRECTION TO THAT GOOD is very profound. Here is the heart of Thomas’s treatment of the moral life if rightly treated.
Ad 1: Notice again the focus on the fact that the good of art is found IN THE WORK MADE. We have such deep respect for the man who sacrifices himself for art, even if that respect is not moral.
Notice the immanent activity of prudence; some other things in here that are standard but good reiterations on the distinction between art and prudence
ad 2 Remarks about receiving counsel from others; One should write an entire study just on the psychology of counsel and judgment in moral learning / development
INDEED—AS MORAL REASONING PASSES MORE AND MORE TOWARD THE AFFECTIVE ELECTION AND COMMANDING OF ACTS TO BE DONE, ONE INTERIORIZES THE CONSEL OF OTHERS. THE PEDAGOGY OF LAW IS SAVED FROM BEING EXTRINSIC PRECISELY BECAUSE A PRUDENT MAN WILL ASK FOR COUNSEL WHEN HE KNOWS THAT HE DOES NOT HAVE ALL THE DETAILS, SO TO SPEAK.
Ad 3: This is an utterly important locus for the discussion for PRACTICAL TRUTH AND SPECULATIVE TRUTH. Indeed, one could make related remarks regarding PRACTICAL SIGNS and SPECULATIVE SIGNS. Note, that the TRUTH OF DIRECTING is different also for ART and PRUDENCE.
Speculative truth: Conformity between intellect and thing (read Simon / Maritain / esp. Woodbury if you want to understand this correctly)
(Because of contingent matters involved in practical intellection…; few ever felt this point as did Maritain, Simon, and also, Garrigou-Lagrange; cf. Cajetan, also, various commentaries on this point in Cajetan, who felt these problems deeply against Scotist pressures)
Practical truth = Conformity with right appetite
And it is primarily DIRECTIVE; only then do we quasi-reflectively explain it in signified act. A full phenomenology of this would help to eliminate many problems experienced by Thomists regarding practical knowledge and moral science.
More could be said regarding the relationship between artistic-truth and moral-truth; As always, see Simon in particular
(Aside: ST I-II q.57 a.6: Euboulia, synesis, and gnome)
Here, we have an important inkling regarding the role of command in prudence; indeed it is command that gives the fullest character to the nature of prudence. To understand prudence, you must understand that it is always undertaking an inquiry into a command. Notice how St. Thomas makes counsel and judgment matters of the speculative intellect (since counsel is a kind of inquiry); however, command is “proper to the practical intellect, insofar as this is ordained to operation”—an interesting point; yet, nonetheless, counsel and judgment ARE concerned with things to be commanded, so the rectitude of will involved in the latter flows over the first two acts. Perhaps, we could say: counsel and judgment / choice pertain to practical INTELLECT whereas command pertains to PRACTICAL intellect
But that is me interpreting this interesting passage.
Eubolia: Perfecting counsel; deliberating well
Synesis: Judges on a common law (akin to how dialectics—cf. Topics—inquires into all matters)
Gnome: Bases its judgment on Natural Law (as proper principles)—We will revisit this in ST II-II q.51 a.4; it will have some VERY important implications regarding our KNOWLEDGE OF THE NATURAL LAW, a topic with which Maritian struggled valiantly though only coming to the edges of the full solution, I think.
The treatment of Synesis and Gnome is taken from ad 3
Ad 2: As regards my interpretation of the relation of the various acts (and being careful about the “speculative” component), this complete response should be read: “Judgment about what is to be done is directed to something further: for it may happen in some matter of action that a man's judgment is sound, while his execution [i.e. command] is wrong. The matter does not attain to its final complement until the reason has commanded aright in the point of what has to be done.”