Book VI

The Intellectual Virtues


We said above that what we should choose is neither too much nor too little, but “the mean,” and that “the mean” is what “right reason” prescribes. This we now have to explain.

Each of the virtues we have discussed implies (as every mental habit implies) some aim which the rational man keeps in view when he is regulating his efforts; in other words, there must be some standard for determining the several modes of moderation, which we say lie between excess and deficiency, and are in accordance with “right reason.” But though this is quite true, it is not sufficiently precise. In any kind of occupation which can be reduced to rational principles, it is quite true to say that we must brace ourselves up and relax ourselves neither too much nor too little, but “in moderation,” “as right reason orders;” but this alone would not tell one much; e.g. a man would hardly learn how to treat a case by being told to treat it as the art of medicine prescribes, and as one versed in that art would treat it.

So in the case of mental habits or types of character also it is not enough that the rule we have laid down is correct; we need further to know precisely what this right reason is, and what is the standard which it affords.

The virtues or excellences of the mind or soul, it will be remembered, we divided139 into two classes, and called the one moral and the other intellectual. The moral excellences or virtues we have already discussed in detail; let us now examine the other class, the intellectual excellences, after some preliminary remarks about the soul.140

We said before that the soul consists of two parts, the rational and the irrational part. We will now make a similar division of the former, and will assume that there are two rational faculties: (1) that by which we know those things that depend on invariable principles, (2) that by which we know those things that are variable. For to generically different objects must correspond generically different faculties, if, as we hold, it is in virtue of some kind of likeness or kinship with their objects that our faculties are able to know them.

Let us call the former the scientific or demonstrative, the latter the calculative or deliberative faculty, For to deliberate is the same as to calculate, and no one deliberates about things that are invariable. One division then of the rational faculty may be fairly called the calculative faculty.

Our problem, then, is to find what each of these faculties becomes in its full development, or in its best state; for that will be its excellence or virtue.

But its excellence will bear direct reference to its proper function.


Now, the faculties which guide us in action and in the apprehension of truth are three: sense, reason,141 and desire.

The first of these cannot originate action, as we see from the fact that brutes have sense but are incapable of action.

If we take the other two we find two modes of reasoning, viz. affirmation and negation [or assent and denial], and two corresponding modes of desire, viz. pursuit and avoidance [or attraction and repulsion].

Now, moral virtue is a habit or formed faculty of choice or purpose, and purpose is desire following upon deliberation.

It follows, then, that if the purpose is to be all it should be, both the calculation or reasoning must be true and the desire right, and that the very same things must be assented to by the former and pursued by the latter.

This kind of reasoning, then, and this sort of truth has to do with action.

But speculative reasoning that has to do neither with action nor production is good or bad according as it is true or false simply: for the function of the intellect is always the apprehension of truth; but the function of the practical intellect is the apprehension of truth in agreement with right desire.

Purpose, then, is the cause⁠—not the final but the efficient cause or origin⁠—of action, and the origin of purpose is desire and calculation of means; so that purpose necessarily implies on the one hand the faculty of reason and its exercise, and on the other hand a certain moral character or state of the desires; for right action and the contrary kind of action are alike impossible without both reasoning and moral character.

Mere reasoning, however, can never set anything going, but only reasoning about means to an end⁠—what may be called practical reasoning (which practical reasoning also regulates production; for in making anything you always have an ulterior object in view⁠—what you make is desired not as an end in itself, but only as a means to, or a condition of, something else; but what you do is an end in itself, for well-doing or right action is the end, and this is the object of desire).

Purpose, then, may be called either a reason that desires, or a desire that reasons; and this faculty of originating action constitutes a man.

No past event can be purposed; e.g. no one purposes to have sacked Troy; for no one deliberates about that which is past, but about that which is to come, and which is variable: but the past cannot be undone; so that Agathon is right when he says⁠—

“This thing alone not God himself can do⁠—
To make undone that which hath once been done.”

We have thus found that both divisions of the reason, or both the intellectual faculties, have the attainment of truth for their function; that developed state of each, then, in which it best attains truth will be its excellence or virtue.


Let us describe these virtues then, starting afresh from the beginning.

Let us assume that the modes in which the mind arrives at truth, either in the way of affirmation or negation, are five in number, viz. art, science, prudence, wisdom, reason;142 for conception and opinion may be erroneous.

What science is we may learn from the following considerations (for we want a precise account, and must not content ourselves with metaphors). We all suppose that what we know with scientific knowledge is invariable; but of that which is variable we cannot say, so soon as it is out of sight, whether it is in existence or not. The object of science, then, is necessary. Therefore it is eternal: for whatever is of its own nature necessary is eternal: and what is eternal neither begins nor ceases to be.

Further, it is held that all science can be taught, and that what can be known in the way of science can be learnt. But all teaching starts from something already known, as we have explained in the Analytics; for it proceeds either by induction or by syllogism. Now, it is induction that leads the learner up to universal principles, while syllogism starts from these. There are principles, then, from which syllogism starts, which are not arrived at by syllogism, and which, therefore, must be arrived at by induction.143

Science, then, may be defined as a habit or formed faculty of demonstration, with all the further qualifications which are enumerated in the Analytics. It is necessary to add this, because it is only when the principles of our knowledge are accepted and known to us in a particular way, that we can properly be said to have scientific knowledge; for unless these principles are better known to us than the conclusions based upon them, our knowledge will be merely accidental.144

This, then, may be taken as our account of science.


That which is variable includes that which man makes and that which man does: but making or production is different from doing or action (here we adopt the popular distinctions). The habit or formed faculty of acting with reason or calculation, then, is different from the formed faculty of producing with reason or calculation. And so the one cannot include the other; for action is not production, nor is production action.

Now, the builder’s faculty is one of the arts, and may be described as a certain formed faculty of producing with calculation; and there is no art which is not a faculty of this kind, nor is there any faculty of this kind which is not an art: an art, then, is the same thing as a formed faculty of producing with correct calculation.

And every art is concerned with bringing something into being, i.e. with contriving or calculating how to bring into being some one of those things that can either be or not be, and the cause of whose production lies in the producer, not in the thing itself which is produced. For art has not to do with that which is or comes into being of necessity, nor with the products of nature; for these have the cause of their production in themselves.

Production and action being different, art of course has to do with production, and not with action. And, in a certain sense, its domain is the same as that of chance or fortune, as Agathon says⁠—

“Art waits on fortune, fortune waits on art.”

Art, then, as we said, is a certain formed faculty or habit of production with correct reasoning or calculation, and the contrary of this (ἀτεχνία) is a habit of production with incorrect calculation, the field of both being that which is variable.


In order to ascertain what prudence is, we will first ask who they are whom we call prudent.

It seems to be characteristic of a prudent man that he is able to deliberate well about what is good or expedient for himself, not with a view to some particular end, such as health or strength, but with a view to well-being or living well.

This is confirmed by the fact that we apply the name sometimes to those who deliberate well in some particular field, when they calculate well the means to some particular good end, in matters that do not fall within the sphere of art. So we may say, generally, that a man who can deliberate well is prudent.

But no one deliberates about that which cannot be altered, nor about that which it is not in his power to do.

Now science, we saw, implies demonstration; but things whose principles or causes are variable do not admit of demonstration; for everything that depends upon these principles or causes is also variable; and, on the other hand, things that are necessarily determined do not admit of deliberation. It follows, therefore, that prudence cannot be either a science or an art: it cannot be a science, because the sphere of action is that which is alterable; it cannot be an art, because production is generically different from action.

It follows from all this that prudence is a formed faculty that apprehends truth by reasoning or calculation, and issues in action, in the domain of human good and ill; for while production has another end than itself, this is not so with action, since good action or well doing is itself the end.

For this reason Pericles and men who resemble him are considered prudent, because they are able to see what is good for themselves and for men; and this we take to be the character of those who are able to manage a household or a state.

This, too, is the reason why we call temperance σωφροσύνη, signifying thereby that it is the virtue which preserves prudence. But what temperance preserves is this particular kind of judgment. For it is not any kind of judgment that is destroyed or perverted by the presentation of pleasant or painful objects (not such a judgment, for instance, as that the angles of a triangle are equal to two right angles), but only judgments about matters of practice. For the principles of practice [or the causes which originate action]145 are the ends for the sake of which acts are done; but when a man is corrupted by pleasure or pain, he straightway loses sight of the principle, and no longer sees that this is the end for the sake of which, and as a means to which, each particular act should be chosen and done; for vice is apt to obliterate the principle.

Our conclusion then is that prudence is a formed faculty which apprehends truth by reasoning or calculation, and issues in action, in the field of human good.

Moreover, art [or the artistic faculty] has its excellence [or perfect development] in something other than itself, but this is not so with prudence. Again, in the domain of art voluntary error is not so bad as involuntary, but it is worse in the case of prudence, as it is in the case of all the virtues or excellences. It is plain, then, that prudence is a virtue or excellence, and not an art.

And the rational parts of the soul or the intellectual faculties being two in number, prudence will be the virtue of the second, [the calculative part or] the faculty of opinion; for opinion deals with that which is variable, and so does prudence.

But it is something more than “a formed faculty of apprehending truth by reasoning or calculation;” as we see from the fact that such a faculty may be lost, but prudence, once acquired, can never be lost.146


Science is a mode of judging that deals with universal and necessary truths; but truths that can be demonstrated depend upon principles, and (since science proceeds by demonstrative reasoning) every science has its principles. The principles, then, on which the truths of science depend cannot fall within the province of science, nor yet of art or prudence; for a scientific truth is one that can be demonstrated, but art and prudence have to do with that which is variable.

Nor can they fall within the province of wisdom; for it is characteristic of the wise man to have a demonstrative knowledge of certain things.

But the habits of mind or formed faculties by which we apprehend truth without any mixture of error, whether in the domain of things invariable or in the domain of things variable, are science, prudence, wisdom, and reason.147 If then no one of the first three (prudence, science, wisdom) can be the faculty which apprehends these principles, the only possible conclusion is that they are apprehended by reason.


The term σοφία (wisdom148) is sometimes applied in the domain of the arts to those who are consummate masters of their art: e.g. it is applied to Phidias as a master of sculpture, and to Polyclitus for his skill in portrait-statues; and in this application it means nothing else than excellence of art or perfect development of the artistic faculty.

But there are also men who are considered wise, not in part nor in any particular thing (as Homer says in the Margites⁠—

“Him the gods gave no skill with spade or plough.
Nor made him wise in aught”),

but generally wise. In this general sense, then, wisdom plainly will be the most perfect of the sciences.

The wise man, then, must not only know what follows from the principles of knowledge, but also know the truth about those principles. Wisdom, therefore, will be the union of [intuitive] reason with [demonstrative] scientific knowledge, or scientific knowledge of the noblest objects with its crowning perfection, so to speak, added to it. For it would be absurd to suppose that the political faculty or prudence is the highest of our faculties, unless indeed man is the best of all things in the universe.

Now, as the terms wholesome and good mean one thing in the case of men and another in the case of fishes, while white and straight always have the same meaning, we must all allow that wise means one thing always, while prudent means different things; for we should all say that those who are clear-sighted in their own affairs are prudent, and deem them fit to be entrusted with those affairs. (And for this reason we sometimes apply the term prudent even to animals, when they show a faculty of foresight in what concerns their own life.)

Moreover, it is plain that wisdom cannot be the same as statesmanship. If we apply the term wisdom to knowledge of what is advantageous to ourselves, there will be many kinds of wisdom; for the knowledge of what is good will not be one and the same for all animals, but different for each species. It can no more be one than the art of healing can be one and the same for all kinds of living things.

Man may be superior to all other animals, but that will not make any difference here; for there are other things of a far diviner nature than man, as⁠—to take the most conspicuous instance⁠—the heavenly bodies.

It is plain, then, after what we have said, that wisdom is the union of scientific [or demonstrative] knowledge and [intuitive] reason about objects of the noblest nature.

And on this account people call Anaxagoras and Thales and men of that sort wise, but not prudent, seeing them to be ignorant of their own advantage; and say that their knowledge is something out of the common, wonderful, hard of attainment, nay superhuman, but useless, since it is no human good that they seek.

Prudence, on the other hand, deals with human affairs, and with matters that admit of deliberation: for the prudent man’s special function, as we conceive it, is to deliberate well; but no one deliberates about what is invariable, or about matters in which there is not some end, in the sense of some realizable good. But a man is said to deliberate well (without any qualifying epithet) when he is able, by a process of reasoning or calculation, to arrive at what is best for man in matters of practice.

Prudence, moreover, does not deal in general propositions only, but implies knowledge of particular facts also; for it issues in action, and the field of action is the field of particulars.

This is the reason why some men that lack [scientific] knowledge are more efficient in practice than others that have it, especially men of wide experience; for if you know that light meat is digestible and wholesome, but do not know what meats are light, you will not be able to cure people so well as a man who only knows that chicken is light and wholesome.

But prudence is concerned with practice; so that it needs knowledge both of general truths and of particular facts, but more especially the latter.

But here also [i.e. in the domain of practice] there must be a supreme form of the faculty [which we will now proceed to consider].


And in fact statesmanship and prudence are the same faculty, though they are differently manifested.

Of this faculty in its application to the state the supreme form is the legislative faculty, but the special form which deals with particular cases is called by the generic name statesmanship. The field of the latter is action and deliberation; for a decree directly concerns action, as the last link in the chain.149 And on this account those engaged in this field are alone said to be statesmen, for they alone act like handicraftsmen.

But it is when applied to the individual and to one’s own affairs that this faculty is especially regarded as prudence, and this is the form which receives the generic name prudence or practical wisdom (the other forms being (1) the faculty of managing a household, (2) the legislative faculty, (3) statesmanship [in the narrower sense], which is subdivided into (a) the deliberative, (b) the judicial faculty).

Knowing one’s own good, then, would seem to be a kind of knowledge (though it admits of great variety),150 and, according to the general opinion, he who knows and attends to his own affairs is prudent, while statesmen are busybodies, as Euripides says⁠—

“What? was I wise, who might without a care
Have lived a unit in the multitude
Like any other unit?⁠ ⁠…
For those who would excel and do great things⁠—”

For men generally seek their own good, and fancy that is what they should do; and from this opinion comes the notion that these men are prudent.

And yet, perhaps, it is not possible for a man to manage his own affairs well without managing a household and taking part in the management of a state.

Moreover, how a man is to manage his own affairs is not plain and requires consideration. And this is attested by the fact that a young man may become proficient in geometry or mathematics and wise151 in these matters, but cannot possibly, it is thought, become prudent. The reason of this is that prudence deals with particular facts, with which experience alone can familiarize us; but a young man must be inexperienced, for experience is the fruit of years.

Why again, we may ask, can a lad be a mathematician but not wise, nor proficient in the knowledge of nature? And the answer surely is that mathematics is an abstract science, while the principles of wisdom and of natural science are only to be derived from a large experience;152 and that thus, though a young man may repeat propositions of the latter kind, he does not really believe them, while he can easily apprehend the meaning of mathematical terms.

Error in deliberation, again, may lie either in the universal or in the particular judgment; for instance, you may be wrong in judging that all water that weighs heavy is unwholesome, or in judging that this water weighs heavy. But prudence [in spite of its universal judgments] plainly is not science; for, as we said,153 it deals with the ultimate or particular fact [the last link in the chain], for anything that can be done must be of this nature.

And thus it is in a manner opposed to the intuitive reason also: the intuitive reason deals with primary principles which cannot be demonstrated, while prudence deals with ultimate [particular] facts which cannot be scientifically proved, but are perceived by sense⁠—not one of the special senses, but a sense analogous to that by which we perceive in mathematics that this ultimate [particular] figure is a triangle;154 for here too our reasoning must come to a stand. But this faculty [by which we apprehend particular facts in the domain of practice] should, after all, be called sense rather than prudence; for prudence cannot be defined thus,155


Inquiry and deliberation are not the same; for deliberation is a particular kind of inquiry. But we must ascertain what good deliberation is⁠—whether it is a kind of science or opinion, or happy guessing, or something quite different.

It is not science; for we do not inquire about that which we know: but good deliberation is a kind of deliberation, and when we deliberate we inquire and calculate.

Nor is it happy guessing; for we make happy guesses without calculating and in a moment, but we take time to deliberate, and it is a common saying that execution should be swift, but deliberation slow.

Good deliberation, again, is different from sagacity, which is a kind of happy guessing.

Nor is it any kind of opinion.

But since in deliberating ill we go wrong, and in deliberating well we go right, it is plain that good deliberation is a kind of rightness, but a rightness or correctness neither of science nor opinion; for science does not admit of correctness (since it does not admit of error), and correctness of opinion is simply truth; and, further, that concerning which we have an opinion is always something already settled.

Good deliberation, however, is impossible without calculation.

We have no choice left, then, but to say that it is correctness of reasoning (διάνοια); for reasoning is not yet assertion: and whereas opinion is not an inquiry, but already a definite assertion, when we are deliberating, whether well or ill, we are inquiring and calculating.

But as good deliberation is a kind of correctness in deliberation, we must first inquire what deliberation means, and what its field is.156

Now, there are various kinds of correctness, and it is plain that not every kind of correctness in deliberation is good deliberation; for the incontinent man or the vicious man may duly arrive, by a process of calculation, at the end which he has in view,157 so that he will have deliberated correctly, though what he gains is a great evil. But to have deliberated well is thought to be a good thing; for it is only a particular kind of correctness in deliberation that is called good deliberation⁠—that, namely, which arrives at what is good.

But, further, what is good may be arrived at by a false syllogism; I mean that a right conclusion as to what is to be done may be arrived at in a wrong way or upon wrong grounds⁠—the middle term being wrong158 so that what leads to a right conclusion as to what should be done is not good deliberation, unless the grounds also be right.

A further difference is that one may arrive at the right conclusion slowly, another rapidly. So we must add yet another condition to the above, and say that good deliberation means coming to a right conclusion as to what is expedient or ought to be done, and coming to it in the right manner and at the right time.

Again, we speak of deliberating well simply, and of deliberating well with a view to a particular kind of end. So good deliberation simply [or without any qualifying epithet] is that which leads to right conclusions as to the means to the end simply; a particular kind of good deliberation is that which leads to right conclusions as to the means to a particular kind of end. And so, when we say that prudent men must deliberate well, good deliberation in this case will be correctness in judging what is expedient to that end of which prudence has a true conception.


The faculty of intelligence or sound intelligence, in respect of which we say a man is intelligent or of sound intelligence, is not the same as science generally, nor as opinion (for then all men would be intelligent), nor is it identical with any particular science, such as medicine, which deals with matters of health, and geometry, which deals with magnitudes; for intelligence has not to do with what is eternal and unchangeable, nor has it to do with events of every kind, but only with those that one may doubt and deliberate about. And so it has to do with the same matters as prudence; but they are not identical: prudence issues orders, for its scope is that which is to be done or not to be done; while intelligence discerns merely (intelligence being equivalent to sound intelligence, and an intelligent man to a man of sound intelligence).

Intelligence, in fact, is equivalent neither to the possession nor to the acquisition of prudence; but just as the learner in science is said to show intelligence when he makes use of the scientific knowledge which he hears from his teacher, so in the domain of prudence a man is said to show intelligence when he makes use of the opinions which he hears from others in judging, and judging fitly⁠—for soundly [when we speak of sound intelligence] means fitly.

And from this use of the term with regard to learning comes its employment to denote that faculty which we imply when we call a man intelligent; for we often speak of the intelligence of a learner.


Judgment (what we mean when we speak of a man of kindly judgment, or say a man has judgment) is a correct discernment of that which is equitable. For the equitable man is thought to be particularly kindly in his judgments, and to pass kindly judgments on some things is considered equitable. But kindly judgment (συγγνώμη) is judgment (γνώμη) which correctly discerns that which is equitable⁠—correctly meaning truly.

Now, all these four formed faculties which we have enumerated not unnaturally tend in the same direction. We apply all these terms⁠—judgment, intelligence, prudence, and reason⁠—to the same persons, and talk of people as having, at a certain age, already acquired judgment and reason, and as being prudent and intelligent. For all these four faculties deal with ultimate and particular159 facts, and it is in virtue of a power of discrimination in the matters with which prudence deals that we call a person intelligent, or a man of sound judgment, or kindly judgment; for equitable is a common term that is applicable to all that is good in our dealings with others.

But that which is to be done is always some particular thing, something ultimate. As we have seen, it is the business of the prudent man to know it, and intelligence and judgment also have to do with that which is to be done, which is something ultimate.

And the intuitive reason [the last of the four faculties above enumerated] also deals with ultimate truths, in both senses of the word;160 for both primary principles and ultimate facts [in the narrower sense of the word ultimate = particular] are apprehended by the intuitive reason, and not by demonstration: on the one hand, in connection with deductions [of general truths in morals and politics],161 reason apprehends the unalterable first principles; on the other hand, in connection with practical calculations, reason apprehends the ultimate [particular] alterable fact which forms the minor premise [in the practical syllogism]. These particular judgments, we may say, are given by reason, as they are the source of our conception of the final cause or end of man; the universal principle is elicited from the particular facts: these particular facts, therefore, must be apprehended by a sense or intuitive perception; and this is reason.162

And so it is thought that these faculties are natural, and that while nature never makes a man wise, she does endow men with judgment and intelligence and reason. This is shown by the fact that these powers are believed to accompany certain periods of life, and that a certain age is said to bring reason and judgment, implying that they come by nature.

(The intuitive reason, then, is both beginning and end; for demonstration both starts from and terminates in these ultimate truths.)

And on this account we ought to pay the same respect to the undemonstrated assertions and opinions of men of age and experience and prudence as to their demonstrations. For experience has given them a faculty of vision which enables them to see correctly.163

We have said, then, what prudence is, and what wisdom is, and what each deals with, and that each is the virtue of a different part of the soul.


But here an objection may be raised. “What is the use of them?” it may be asked. Wisdom does not consider what tends to make man happy (for it does not ask how anything is brought about). Prudence indeed does this, but why do we need it? Prudence is the faculty which deals with what is just and noble and good for man, i.e. with those things which it is the part of the good man to do; but the knowledge of them no more makes us apter to do them, if (as has been said) the [moral] virtues are habits, than it does in the case of what is healthy and wholesome⁠—healthy and wholesome, that is, not in the sense of conducing to, but in the sense of issuing from, a healthy habit; for a knowledge of medicine and gymnastics does not make us more able to do these things.

“But if it be meant that a man should be prudent, not in order that he may do these acts, but in order that he may become able to do them, then prudence will be no use to those who are good, nor even to those who are not. For it will not matter whether they have prudence themselves, or take the advice of others who have it. It will be enough to do in these matters as we do in regard to health; for if we wish to be in health, we do not go and learn medicine.

“Again, it seems to be a strange thing that prudence, though inferior to wisdom, must yet govern it, since in every field the practical faculty bears sway and issues orders.”

We must now discuss these points; for hitherto we have been only stating objections.

First, then, we may say that both prudence and wisdom must be desirable in themselves, since each is the virtue of one of the parts of the soul, even if neither of them produces anything.

Next, they do produce something.

On the one hand, wisdom produces happiness, not in the sense in which medicine produces health, but in the sense in which health produces health;164 that is to say, wisdom being a part of complete virtue, its possession and exercise make a man happy.

On the other hand [in the sphere of action], man performs his function perfectly when he acts in accordance with both prudence and moral virtue; for while the latter ensures the rightness of the end aimed at, the former ensures the rightness of the means thereto.

The fourth165 part of the soul, the vegetative part, or the faculty of nutrition, has no analogous excellence; for it has no power to act or not to act.

But as to the objection that prudence makes us no more apt to do what is noble and just, let us take the matter a little deeper, beginning thus:⁠—

We allow, on the one hand, that some who do just acts are not yet just; e.g. those who do what the laws enjoin either unwillingly or unwittingly, or for some external motive and not for the sake of the acts themselves (though they do that which they ought and all that a good man should do). And, on the other hand, it seems that when a man does the several acts with a certain disposition he is good; i.e. when he does them of deliberate purpose, and for the sake of the acts themselves.

Now, the rightness of the purpose is secured by [moral] virtue, but to decide what is proper to be done in order to carry out the purpose belongs not to [moral] virtue, but to another faculty. But we must dwell a little on this point and try to make it quite clear.

There is a faculty which we call cleverness (δεινότης)⁠—the power of carrying out the means to any proposed end, and so achieving it. If then the end be noble, the power merits praise; but if the end be base, the power is the power of the villain. So we apply the term clever both to the prudent man and the villain.166

Now, this power is not identical with prudence, but is its necessary condition. But this power, the “eye of the soul” as we may call it, does not attain its perfect development167 without moral virtue, as we said before, and as may be shown thus:⁠—

All syllogisms or deductive reasonings about what is to be done have for their starting point [principle or major premise] “the end or the supreme good is so-and-so” (whatever it be; any definition of the good will do for the argument). But it is only to the good man that this presents itself as the good; for vice perverts us and causes us to err about the principles of action. So it is plain, as we said, that it is impossible to be prudent without being morally good.


This suggests a further consideration of moral virtue; for the case is closely analogous to this⁠—I mean that just as prudence is related to cleverness, being not identical with it, but closely akin to it, so is fully developed moral virtue related to natural virtue.

All admit that in a certain sense the several kinds of character are bestowed by nature. Justice, a tendency to temperance, courage, and the other types of character are exhibited from the moment of birth, Nevertheless, we look for developed goodness as something different from this, and expect to find these same qualities in another form. For even in children and brutes these natural virtues are present, but without the guidance of reason they are plainly hurtful. So much at least seems to be plain⁠—that just as a strong-bodied creature devoid of sight stumbles heavily when it tries to move, because it cannot see, so is it with this natural virtue; but when it is enlightened by reason it acts surpassingly well; and the natural virtue (which before was only like virtue) will then be fully developed virtue.

We find, then, that just as there are two forms of the calculative faculty, viz. cleverness and prudence, so there are two forms of the moral qualities, viz. natural virtue and fully developed virtue, and that the latter is impossible without prudence.

On this account some people say that all the virtues are forms of prudence, and in particular Socrates held this view, being partly right in his inquiry and partly wrong⁠—wrong in thinking that all the virtues are actually forms of prudence, but right in saying that they are impossible without prudence.

This is corroborated by the fact that nowadays everyone in defining virtue would, after specifying its field, add that it is a formed faculty or habit in accordance with right reason, “right” meaning “in accordance with prudence.”

Thus it seems that everyone has a sort of inkling that a formed habit or character of this kind (i.e. in accordance with prudence) is virtue.

Only a slight change is needed in this expression. Virtue is not simply a formed habit in accordance with right reason, but a formed habit implying right reason.168 But right reason in these matters is prudence.

So whereas Socrates held that the [moral] virtues are forms of reason (for he held that they are all modes of knowledge), we hold that they imply reason.

It is evident, then, from what has been said that it is impossible to be good in the full sense without prudence, or to be prudent without moral virtue. And in this way we can meet an objection which may be urged. “The virtues,” it may be said, “are found apart from each other; a man who is strongly predisposed to one virtue has not an equal tendency towards all the others, so that he will have acquired this virtue while he still lacks that,” We may answer that though this may be the case with the natural virtues, yet it cannot be the case with those virtues for which we call a man good without any qualifying epithet. The presence of the single virtue of prudence implies the presence of all the moral virtues.

And thus it is plain, in the first place, that, even if it did not help practice, we should yet need prudence as the virtue or excellence of a part of our nature; and, in the second place, that purpose cannot be right without both prudence and moral virtue; for the latter makes us desire the end, while the former makes us adopt the right means to the end.

Nevertheless, prudence is not the mistress of wisdom and of the better part of our nature [the reason], any more than medicine is the mistress of health. Prudence does not employ wisdom in her service, but provides means for the attainment of wisdom⁠—does not rule it, but rules in its interests. To assert the contrary would be like asserting that statesmanship rules the gods, because it issues orders about all public concerns [including the worship of the gods.]