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St. Thomas Aquinas
Summa Theologica

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  • SECOND PART
    • Aquin.: SMT SS Q[1] Out. Para. 1/4 - SECOND PART OF THE SECOND PART (SS) (QQ[1]-189)
      • Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] Out. Para. 1/3 - OF IMPRUDENCE (SIX ARTICLES)
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Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] Out. Para. 1/3 - OF IMPRUDENCE (SIX ARTICLES)

We must now consider the vices opposed to prudence. For Augustine says
(Contra Julian. iv, 3): "There are vices opposed to every virtue, not
only vices that are in manifest opposition to virtue, as temerity is
opposed to prudence, but also vices which have a kind of kinship and not
a true but a spurious likeness to virtue; thus in opposition to prudence
we have craftiness."

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] Out. Para. 2/3

Accordingly we must consider first of all those vices which are in
evident opposition to prudence, those namely which are due to a defect
either of prudence or of those things which are requisite for prudence,
and secondly those vices which have a false resemblance to prudence,
those namely which are due to abuse of the things required for prudence.
And since solicitude pertains to prudence, the first of these
considerations will be twofold: (1) Of imprudence; (2) Of negligence
which is opposed to solicitude.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] Out. Para. 3/3

Under the first head there are six points of inquiry:

(1) Concerning imprudence, whether it is a sin?

(2) Whether it is a special sin?

(3) Of precipitation or temerity;

(4) Of thoughtlessness;

(5) Of inconstancy;

(6) Concerning the origin of these vices.


Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[1] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether imprudence is a sin?

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[1] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It would seem that imprudence is not a sin. For every sin is
voluntary, according to Augustine [*De Vera Relig. xiv]; whereas
imprudence is not voluntary, since no man wishes to be imprudent.
Therefore imprudence is not a sin.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[1] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, none but original sin comes to man with his birth. But
imprudence comes to man with his birth, wherefore the young are
imprudent; and yet it is not original sin which is opposed to original
justice. Therefore imprudence is not a sin.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[1] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, every sin is taken away by repentance. But imprudence is
not taken away by repentance. Therefore imprudence is not a sin.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[1] OTC Para. 1/1
On the contrary, The spiritual treasure of grace is not taken away save
by sin. But it is taken away by imprudence, according to Prov. 21:20,
"There is a treasure to be desired, and oil in the dwelling of the just,
and the imprudent [Douay: 'foolish'] man shall spend it." Therefore
imprudence is a sin.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[1] Body Para. 1/2

I answer that, Imprudence may be taken in two ways, first, as a
privation, secondly, as a contrary. Properly speaking it is not taken as
a negation, so as merely to signify the absence of prudence, for this can
be without any sin. Taken as a privation, imprudence denotes lack of that
prudence which a man can and ought to have, and in this sense imprudence
is a sin by reason of a man's negligence in striving to have prudence.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[1] Body Para. 2/2

Imprudence is taken as a contrary, in so far as the movement or act of
reason is in opposition to prudence: for instance, whereas the right
reason of prudence acts by taking counsel, the imprudent man despises
counsel, and the same applies to the other conditions which require
consideration in the act of prudence. In this way imprudence is a sin in
respect of prudence considered under its proper aspect, since it is not
possible for a man to act against prudence, except by infringing the
rules on which the right reason of prudence depends. Wherefore, if this
should happen through aversion from the Divine Law, it will be a mortal
sin, as when a man acts precipitately through contempt and rejection of
the Divine teaching: whereas if he act beside the Law and without
contempt, and without detriment to things necessary for salvation, it
will be a venial sin.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[1] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: No man desires the deformity of imprudence, but the rash
man wills the act of imprudence, because he wishes to act precipitately.
Hence the Philosopher says (Ethic. vi, 5) that "he who sins willingly
against prudence is less to be commended."

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[1] R.O. 2 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 2: This argument takes imprudence in the negative sense. It
must be observed however that lack of prudence or of any other virtue is
included in the lack of original justice which perfected the entire soul.
Accordingly all such lack of virtue may be ascribed to original sin.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[1] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: Repentance restores infused prudence, and thus the lack of
this prudence ceases; but acquired prudence is not restored as to the
habit, although the contrary act is taken away, wherein properly speaking
the sin of imprudence consists.


Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[2] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether imprudence is a special sin?

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[2] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It would seem that imprudence is not a special sin. For whoever
sins, acts against right reason, i.e. against prudence. But imprudence
consists in acting against prudence, as stated above (A[1]). Therefore
imprudence is not a special sin.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[2] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, prudence is more akin to moral action than knowledge is.
But ignorance which is opposed to knowledge, is reckoned one of the
general causes of sin. Much more therefore should imprudence be reckoned
among those causes.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[2] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, sin consists in the corruption of the circumstances of
virtue, wherefore Dionysius says (Div. Nom. iv) that "evil results from
each single defect." Now many things are requisite for prudence; for
instance, reason, intelligence docility, and so on, as stated above
(QQ[48],49). Therefore there are many species of imprudence, so that it
is not a special sin.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[2] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary, Imprudence is opposed to prudence, as stated above
(A[1]). Now prudence is a special virtue. Therefore imprudence too is one
special vice.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[2] Body Para. 1/2

I answer that, A vice or sin may be styled general in two ways; first,
absolutely, because, to wit, it is general in respect of all sins;
secondly, because it is general in respect of certain vices, which are
its species. In the first way, a vice may be said to be general on two
counts: first, essentially, because it is predicated of all sins: and in
this way imprudence is not a general sin, as neither is prudence a
general virtue: since it is concerned with special acts, namely the very
acts of reason: secondly, by participation; and in this way imprudence is
a general sin: for, just as all the virtues have a share of prudence, in
so far as it directs them, so have all vices and sins a share of
imprudence, because no sin can occur, without some defect in an act of
the directing reason, which defect belongs to imprudence.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[2] Body Para. 2/2

If, on the other hand, a sin be called general, not simply but in some
particular genus, that is, as containing several species of sin, then
imprudence is a general sin. For it contains various species in three
ways. First, by opposition to the various subjective parts of prudence,
for just as we distinguish the prudence that guides the individual, from
other kinds that govern communities, as stated above (Q[48]; Q[50], A[7]
), so also we distinguish various kinds of imprudence. Secondly, in
respect of the quasi-potential parts of prudence, which are virtues
connected with it, and correspond to the several acts of reason. Thus, by
defect of "counsel" to which {euboulia} (deliberating well) corresponds,
"precipitation" or "temerity" is a species of imprudence; by defect of
"judgment," to which {synesis} (judging well according to common law) and
{gnome} (judging well according to general law) refer, there is
"thoughtlessness"; while "inconstancy" and "negligence" correspond to the
"command" which is the proper act of prudence. Thirdly, this may be taken
by opposition to those things which are requisite for prudence, which are
the quasi-integral parts of prudence. Since however all these things are
intended for the direction of the aforesaid three acts of reason, it
follows that all the opposite defects are reducible to the four parts
mentioned above. Thus incautiousness and incircumspection are included in
"thoughtlessness"; lack of docility, memory, or reason is referable to
"precipitation"; improvidence, lack of intelligence and of shrewdness,
belong to "negligence" and "inconstancy."

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[2] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: This argument considers generality by participation.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[2] R.O. 2 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 2: Since knowledge is further removed from morality than
prudence is, according to their respective proper natures, it follows
that ignorance has the nature of mortal sin, not of itself, but on
account either of a preceding negligence, or of the consequent result,
and for this reason it is reckoned one of the general causes of sin. On
the other hand imprudence, by its very nature, denotes a moral vice; and
for this reason it can be called a special sin.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[2] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: When various circumstances are corrupted for the same
motive, the species of sin is not multiplied: thus it is the same species
of sin to take what is not one's own, where one ought not, and when one
ought not. If, however, there be various motives, there are various
species: for instance, if one man were to take another's property from
where he ought not, so as to wrong a sacred place, this would constitute
the species called sacrilege, while if another were to take another's
property when he ought not, merely through the lust of possession, this
would be a case of simple avarice. Hence the lack of those things which
are requisite for prudence, does not constitute a diversity of species,
except in so far as they are directed to different acts of reason, as
stated above.


Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[3] Thes. Para. 1/1
Whether precipitation is a sin included in imprudence?

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[3] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It would seem that precipitation is not a sin included in
imprudence. Imprudence is opposed to the virtue of prudence; whereas
precipitation is opposed to the gift of counsel, according to Gregory,
who says (Moral. ii, 49) that the gift of "counsel is given as a remedy
to precipitation." Therefore precipitation is not a sin contained under
imprudence.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[3] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, precipitation seemingly pertains to rashness. Now
rashness implies presumption, which pertains to pride. Therefore
precipitation is not a vice contained under imprudence.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[3] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, precipitation seems to denote inordinate haste. Now sin
happens in counselling not only through being over hasty but also through
being over slow, so that the opportunity for action passes by, and
through corruption of other circumstances, as stated in Ethic. vi, 9.
Therefore there is no reason for reckoning precipitation as a sin
contained under imprudence, rather than slowness, or something else of
the kind pertaining to inordinate counsel.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[3] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary, It is written (Prov. 4:19): "The way of the wicked is
darksome, they know not where they fall." Now the darksome ways of
ungodliness belong to imprudence. Therefore imprudence leads a man to
fall or to be precipitate.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[3] Body Para. 1/1

I answer that, Precipitation is ascribed metaphorically to acts of the
soul, by way of similitude to bodily movement. Now a thing is said to be
precipitated as regards bodily movement, when it is brought down from
above by the impulse either of its own movement or of another's, and not
in orderly fashion by degrees. Now the summit of the soul is the reason,
and the base is reached in the action performed by the body; while the
steps that intervene by which one ought to descend in orderly fashion are
"memory" of the past, "intelligence" of the present, "shrewdness" in
considering the future outcome, "reasoning" which compares one thing with
another, "docility" in accepting the opinions of others. He that takes
counsel descends by these steps in due order, whereas if a man is rushed
into action by the impulse of his will or of a passion, without taking
these steps, it will be a case of precipitation. Since then inordinate
counsel pertains to imprudence, it is evident that the vice of
precipitation is contained under imprudence.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[3] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: Rectitude of counsel belongs to the gift of counsel and to
the virtue of prudence; albeit in different ways, as stated above (Q[52],
A[2]), and consequently precipitation is opposed to both.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[3] R.O. 2 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 2: Things are said to be done rashly when they are not
directed by reason: and this may happen in two ways; first through the
impulse of the will or of a passion, secondly through contempt of the
directing rule; and this is what is meant by rashness properly speaking,
wherefore it appears to proceed from that root of pride, which refuses to
submit to another's ruling. But precipitation refers to both, so that
rashness is contained under precipitation, although precipitation refers
rather to the first.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[3] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: Many things have to be considered in the research of
reason; hence the Philosopher declares (Ethic. vi, 9) that "one should be
slow in taking counsel." Hence precipitation is more directly opposed to
rectitude of counsel than over slowness is, for the latter bears a
certain likeness to right counsel.


Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[4] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether thoughtlessness is a special sin included in prudence?

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[4] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It would seem that thoughtlessness is not a special sin included
in imprudence. For the Divine law does not incite us to any sin,
according to Ps. 18:8, "The law of the Lord is unspotted"; and yet it
incites us to be thoughtless, according to Mt. 10:19, "Take no thought
how or what to speak." Therefore thoughtlessness is not a sin.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[4] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, whoever takes counsel must needs give thought to many
things. Now precipitation is due to a defect of counsel and therefore to
a defect of thought. Therefore precipitation is contained under
thoughtlessness: and consequently thoughtlessness is not a special sin.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[4] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, prudence consists in acts of the practical reason, viz.
"counsel," "judgment" about what has been counselled, and "command" [*Cf.
Q[47], A[8]]. Now thought precedes all these acts, since it belongs also
to the speculative intellect. Therefore thoughtlessness is not a special
sin contained under imprudence.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[4] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary, It is written (Prov. 4:25): "Let thy eyes look straight
on, and let thine eye-lids go before thy steps." Now this pertains to
prudence, while the contrary pertains to thoughtlessness. Therefore
thoughtlessness is a special sin contained under imprudence.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[4] Body Para. 1/1

I answer that, Thought signifies the act of the intellect in considering
the truth about. something. Now just as research belongs to the reason,
so judgment belongs to the intellect. Wherefore in speculative matters a
demonstrative science is said to exercise judgment, in so far as it
judges the truth of the results of research by tracing those results back
to the first indemonstrable principles. Hence thought pertains chiefly
to judgment; and consequently the lack of right judgment belongs to the
vice of thoughtlessness, in so far, to wit, as one fails to judge rightly
through contempt or neglect of those things on which a right judgment
depends. It is therefore evident that thoughtlessness is a sin.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[4] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: Our Lord did not forbid us to take thought, when we have
the opportunity, about what we ought to do or say, but, in the words
quoted, He encourages His disciples, so that when they had no opportunity
of taking thought, either through lack of knowledge or through a sudden
call, they should trust in the guidance of God alone, because "as we know
not what to do, we can only turn our eyes to God," according to 2 Paral
20:12: else if man, instead of doing what he can, were to be content with
awaiting God's assistance, he would seem to tempt God.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[4] R.O. 2 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 2: All thought about those things of which counsel takes
cognizance, is directed to the formation of a right judgment, wherefore
this thought is perfected in judgment. Consequently thoughtlessness is
above all opposed to the rectitude of judgment.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[4] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: Thoughtlessness is to be taken here in relation to a
determinate matter, namely, that of human action, wherein more things
have to be thought about for the purpose of right judgment, than in
speculative matters, because actions are about singulars.


Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[5] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether inconstancy is a vice contained under prudence?

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[5] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It would seem that inconstancy is not a vice contained under
imprudence. For inconstancy consists seemingly in a lack of perseverance
in matters of difficulty. But perseverance in difficult matters belongs
to fortitude. Therefore inconstancy is opposed to fortitude rather than
to prudence.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[5] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, it is written (James 3:16): "Where jealousy [Douay:
'envy'] and contention are, there are inconstancy and every evil work."
But jealousy pertains to envy. Therefore inconstancy pertains not to
imprudence but to envy.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[5] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, a man would seem to be inconstant who fails to persevere
in what he has proposed to do. Now this is a mark of "incontinency" in
pleasurable matters, and of "effeminacy" or "squeamishness" in unpleasant
matters, according to Ethic. vii, 1. Therefore inconstancy does not
pertain to imprudence.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[5] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary, It belongs to prudence to prefer the greater good to
the lesser. Therefore to forsake the greater good belongs to imprudence.
Now this is inconstancy. Therefore inconstancy belongs to imprudence.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[5] Body Para. 1/1

I answer that, Inconstancy denotes withdrawal from a definite good
purpose. Now the origin of this withdrawal is in the appetite, for a man
does not withdraw from a previous good purpose, except on account of
something being inordinately pleasing to him: nor is this withdrawal
completed except through a defect of reason, which is deceived in
rejecting what before it had rightly accepted. And since it can resist
the impulse of the passions, if it fail to do this, it is due to its own
weakness in not standing to the good purpose it has conceived; hence
inconstancy, as to its completion, is due to a defect in the reason. Now
just as all rectitude of the practical reason belongs in some degree to
prudence, so all lack of that rectitude belongs to imprudence.
Consequently inconstancy, as to its completion, belongs to imprudence.
And just as precipitation is due to a defect in the act of counsel, and
thoughtlessness to a defect in the act of judgment, so inconstancy arises
from a defect in the act of command. For a man is stated to be inconstant
because his reason fails in commanding what has been counselled and
judged.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[5] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: The good of prudence is shared by all the moral virtues,
and accordingly perseverance in good belongs to all moral virtues,
chiefly, however, to fortitude, which suffers a greater impulse to the
contrary.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[5] R.O. 2 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 2: Envy and anger, which are the source of contention, cause
inconstancy on the part of the appetite, to which power the origin of
inconstancy is due, as stated above.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[5] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: Continency and perseverance seem to be not in the
appetitive power, but in the reason. For the continent man suffers evil
concupiscences, and the persevering man suffers grievous sorrows (which
points to a defect in the appetitive power); but reason stands firm, in
the continent man, against concupiscence, and in the persevering man,
against sorrow. Hence continency and perseverance seem to be species of
constancy which pertains to reason; and to this power inconstancy
pertains also.


Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[6] Thes. Para. 1/1

Whether the aforesaid vices arise from lust?

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[6] Obj. 1 Para. 1/1

OBJ 1: It would seem that the aforesaid vices do not arise from lust.
For inconstancy arises from envy, as stated above (A[5], ad 2). But envy
is a distinct vice from lust.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[6] Obj. 2 Para. 1/1

OBJ 2: Further, it is written (James 1:8): "A double-minded man is
inconstant in all his ways." Now duplicity does not seem to pertain to
lust, but rather to deceitfulness, which is a daughter of covetousness,
according to Gregory (Moral. xxxi, 45). Therefore the aforesaid vices do
not arise from lust.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[6] Obj. 3 Para. 1/1

OBJ 3: Further, the aforesaid vices are connected with some defect of
reason. Now spiritual vices are more akin to the reason than carnal
vices. Therefore the aforesaid vices arise from spiritual vices rather
than from carnal vices.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[6] OTC Para. 1/1

On the contrary, Gregory declares (Moral. xxxi, 45) that the aforesaid
vices arise from lust.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[6] Body Para. 1/1

I answer that, As the Philosopher states (Ethic. vi, 5) "pleasure above
all corrupts the estimate of prudence," and chiefly sexual pleasure which
absorbs the mind, and draws it to sensible delight. Now the perfection of
prudence and of every intellectual virtue consists in abstraction from
sensible objects. Wherefore, since the aforesaid vices involve a defect
of prudence and of the practical reason, as stated above (AA[2],5), it
follows that they arise chiefly from lust.

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[6] R.O. 1 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 1: Envy and anger cause inconstancy by drawing away the reason
to something else; whereas lust causes inconstancy by destroying the
judgment of reason entirely. Hence the Philosopher says (Ethic. vii, 6)
that "the man who is incontinent through anger listens to reason, yet not
perfectly, whereas he who is incontinent through lust does not listen to
it at all."

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[6] R.O. 2 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 2: Duplicity also is something resulting from lust, just as
inconstancy is, if by duplicity we understand fluctuation of the mind
from one thing to another. Hence Terence says (Eunuch. act 1, sc. 1) that
"love leads to war, and likewise to peace and truce."

Aquin.: SMT SS Q[53] A[6] R.O. 3 Para. 1/1

Reply OBJ 3: Carnal vices destroy the judgment of reason so much the
more as they lead us away from reason.





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