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The Development of Ethics: Volume 1From Socrates to the Reformation$
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Terence Irwin

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780198242673

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198242673.001.0001

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Aquinas: The Canon of the Virtues

Aquinas: The Canon of the Virtues

(p.588) 23 Aquinas: The Canon of the Virtues
The Development of Ethics: Volume 1


Oxford University Press

Thomas Aquinas' claims about prudence commit him to a further claim about the general character of a virtue. He believes that universal prudence (reaching the specifically virtuous end by deliberation from the ultimate end) is the same virtue as particular prudence (reaching the virtuous action by deliberation from the specifically virtuous end). Hence he believes in the ‘vertical unity’ of universal and particular prudence. Moreover, he believes that the same prudence is needed for each of the virtues of character, so that he believes in the ‘horizontal unity’ of prudence. Virtuous people have the right conception of the end for the sake of which they do their different virtuous actions; the right conception of this end, as Aristotle insists, is prudence. Aquinas attributes belief in this common end to Aristotle, and takes it to underlie Aristotle's belief in the unity of prudence. Since all the virtues aim at this common end, they need a horizontally and vertically unified prudence to tell them how to achieve their aim.

Keywords:   Thomas Aquinas, particular prudence, virtue, universal prudence, vertical unity, horizontal unity, Aristotle

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