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Book: Four Cardinal Virtues
Author: Josef Pieper
Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., New York, pp. 206


Excerpt from Preface:

It is true that the classic origins of the doctrine of virtue later made Christian critics suspicious of it. They warily regarded it as too philosophical and not Scriptural enough. Thus, they preferred to talk about commandments and duties rather than about virtues. To define the obligations of man is certainly a legitimate, even estimable, and no doubt necessary undertaking. With a doctrine of commandments or duties, however, there is always the danger of arbitrarily drawing up a list of requirements and losing sight of the human person who "ought" to do this or that. The doctrine of virtue, on the other hand, has things to say about this human person; it speaks both of the kind of being which is his when he enters the world, as a consequence of his createdness, and the kind of being he ought to strive toward and attain to by being prudent, just, brave, and temperate. The doctrine of virtue, that is, is one form of the doctrine of obligation; but one by nature free of regimentation and restriction. On the contrary, its aim is to clear a trail, to open a way.

Excerpt from Book:

No dictum in traditional Christian doctrine strikes such a note of strangeness to the ears of contemporaries, even contemporary Christians, as this one: that the virtue of prudence is the mold and "mother" of all the other cardinal virtues, of justice, fortitude, and temperance. In other words, none but the prudent man can be just, brave, and temperate, and the good man is good in so far as he is prudent. . . .

The pre-eminence of prudence means that realization of the good presupposes knowledge of reality. He alone can do good who knows what things are like and what their situation is. The pre-eminence of prudence means that so-called "good intentions" and so-called "meaning well" by no means suffice. Realization of the good presupposes that our actions are appropriate to the real situation, that is to the concrete realities which form the "environment" of a concrete human action; and that we therefore take this concrete reality seriously, with clear-sighted objectivity.

Table of Contents:

Prudence
1. The first of the cardinal virtues
2. Knowledge of reality and the realization of the good
3. Delimitations and contrasts
4. Prudence and charity

Justice
1. On rights
2. Duty in relation to the "other"
3. The rank of justice
4. The three basic forms of justice
5. Recompense and restitution
6. Distributive justice
7. The limits of justice

Fortitude
1. Readiness to fall in battle
2. Fortitude must not trust itself
3. Endurance and attack
4. Vital, moral, mystic fortitude

Temperance
1. Temperance and moderation
2. Selfless self-preservation
3. Chastity and unchasity
4. Virginity
5. On fasting
6. The sense of touch
7. Humility
8. The power of wrath
9. Disciplining the eyes
10. The fruits of temperance