The Forgotten Virtue: Prudence

October 20, 2020 Updated: October 20, 2020

When we think of prudence, the word caution may come to mind. Some may even associate it with “prude,” meaning a person who is overly modest or priggish in their behavior.

To the ancients, however, prudence was one of the four cardinal virtues, the “auriga virtutum,” the charioteer of all virtues. Derived from the Latin “providentia”—looking ahead, sagacity—prudence involves listening to ourselves and to others, seeking advice and wisdom, and then making a righteous judgment for a course of action and laying plans for the future. 

Most of us, especially when we were young, often ignore this charioteer. We leap into a situation without considering all the consequences, or we spurn a parent’s advice and land not on our feet but on our face. A lack of prudence can have consequences on a national level as well. 

We live in an age when prudence takes a back seat to spontaneity, when feeling and emotion push aside reason and sobriety.

Prudence needs resuscitation. By reviving the practice of that virtue, both publicly and privately, we will give the reins of our runaway horses back to the charioteer. 

Jeff Minick has four children and a growing platoon of grandchildren. For 20 years, he taught history, literature, and Latin to seminars of homeschooling students in Asheville, N.C., Today, he lives and writes in Front Royal, Va. See to follow his blog.