Instigator / Pro

Prudence is the highest virtue.


The debate is finished. The distribution of the voting points and the winner are presented below.

Winner & statistics
Better arguments
Better sources
Better legibility
Better conduct

After 4 votes and with 16 points ahead, the winner is...

Publication date
Last updated date
Number of rounds
Time for argument
Three days
Max argument characters
Voting period
One month
Point system
Multiple criterions
Voting system
Contender / Con

Prudence as defined by Aristotle is simply practical wisdom. Others have defined prudence as the practice of utilizing reason to govern and discipline oneself. In this debate I will argue that prudence is the highest virtue that a man can possess.

Round 1
Before I begin I would like to thank my opponent for accepting this debate and say that I look forward to a productive discussion.

First, I would like to define a few key terms for the debate

1. Virtue:  A virtue is a trait or quality that is deemed to be morally good and thus is valued as a foundation of principle and good moral being.
2. Prudence: the practice of utilizing reason to govern and discipline oneself; practical wisdom.

My main argument as to why prudence is the highest virtue is this:

Absent prudence, other virtues may be misapplied or otherwise turned from the good.

Consider the virtue of kindness. In his treatise on duty, Cicero tells us: " we must, in the first place, see to it that our act of kindness shall not prove an injury either to the object of our beneficence or to others; in the second place, that it shall not be beyond our means; and finally, that it shall be proportioned to the worthiness of the recipient; for this is the corner-stone of justice; and by the standard of justice all acts of kindness must be measured." 

In a court of law for example, without prudence and the reason and practical wisdom it entails kindness towards the guilty may produce injustice. But also the correct feeling of the need to punish the guilty may also be turned to injustice without prudent consideration. This is, I think, a clear example of my point. Prudence, at its core, governs the application of virtue. And what is the importance of virtue if not its application? Is it good to be courageous if you are fighting for an evil cause? I think not.  the fact that prudence issues in, say, acts that are also the object of the virtue of temperance with respect to food or drink does not in itself show that prudence is a merely general condition found in all such acts of temperance. The fact is that the moral virtues, seated in appetite, need prudence as a special intellectual virtue in order to participate in reason, where such participation is necessary for their status as moral virtues. So even though the moral virtues are habits in their own right with their own distinct subjects, they can operate as virtues only insofar as they are guided by rectified practical reason, the habit with respect to which is prudence.

An imprudent but charitable man may give beyond his means diminishing his ability to tend to his higher responsibilities.

An imprudent but patient man may let himself be taken advantage of too often.

An imprudent but diligent man may expend effort beyond his means to the detriment of his health and the quality of his work. Or he may turn his efforts towards ignoble ends.

I could go on but the point is this. Unlike other virtues, prudence is not a choice. Prudence governs our choices. and as such rests at the core of what makes other virtues virtuous. The place of prudence at the helm of virtue makes it prerequisite to the other virtues. Just as a ship without a navigator is sure to get lost, so too is virtue sure to turn to vice without prudence.
Round 2
Extend my arguments.

In this debate, it is very difficult to definitively know what selection pool I am allowed or disallowed to choose the competing virtues from.

The term 'virtue' can seemingly refer to anything that comes under this:

A trait or quality that is deemed to be morally good and thus is valued as a foundation of principle and good moral being.
^ Pro forgot to accredit his definition to Wikipedia.

So I could pick out a variety of traits that I see as foundations for moral beings to base their principles upon and wager all against prudence at once.

I shall first deconstruct the resolution and defeat Pro's raw capacity to meet his burden of proof before proceeding to push patience, temperance and kindness as 'higher' virtues.


Kritik: Prudence is not a virtue.

I am certain that Pro will rebuke with linking to websites that back Prudence being identified as an official virtue by I presume Plato but certainly Aristotle.

This is accepted as being wrong, to me. As in I do not support the four cardin virtues as all being traits that are the foundation for principles of moral beings.

To understand this Kritik, we need to see the difference between a catalyst and a deeply fundamental reactant in a chemical experiment. On top of a catalyst, we ought to identify safety protocols and why adhering to them is important even when our momentary impulses would push us to experiment in a dangerous way.

The primary/main catalyst for virtues totreact and turn into the product of morally correct decisions is empathy, I would argue. This is actually why a psychopath, sociopath and narcissist will consistently need to have a very counterintuitive and frictioned way of drawing their morals, since they lack the most necessary catalyst for the reaction.

If empathy is the catalyst, prudence is the basis for the protocols. Without prudence, the virtues do not safely and securely result in consistent co version to the desired end-product.

Empathy without prudence is too impulsive and unstable. Prudence without empathy is a compulsive, unpleasant and very friction-prone journey for one to end up thriving as a moral being with sound principles coming to fruition.

However, what you mix together to actually be the foundations for morally correct decisions are virtues such as kindness, temperance, patience, generosity, gratitude and such.

I even kritik fortitude being a valid virtue, it is akin to having the sufficient resources and available facilities to keep an experiment running for the reactants to end up as the desired product in moral reactions.

The metaphor is chemical reactions, in case you have been confused while reading this.

Pro actually agrees to this:

Unlike other virtues, prudence is not a choice. Prudence governs our choices. and as such rests at the core of what makes other virtues virtuous. The place of prudence at the helm of virtue makes it prerequisite to the other virtues. Just as a ship without a navigator is sure to get lost, so too is virtue sure to turn to vice without prudence.
However, I earnestly disavow the idea that prudence makes virtues virtuous.

The virtuous nature of virtues is not in the protocols but in the very self-contained nature of them. Without them, one is less successfully morally founded, period/full-stop.

Psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists that are beyond moderate in the severity of what they are will struggle to grasp it, others innately have at least some. Empathy does also not make the virtues virtuous, it catalyses how smoothly, fast and effortlessly the virtues come to one at any moment when weighing moral decisions alongside the other catalyst; the urge to do good in and of itself.


Kindness, temperance and patience as 'higher' virtues.

If virtues held a standardexecutive meeting as a business, empathy would ironically be greed and financial intuition, the urge to do good would be ambition and prudence would be the board of directors not present, that act as trustees of sorts on behalf of the shareholders, ready to keep everyone, even the CEO, in check. They would be ready to show up and put any in their place in the name of what is best for the bottom line (profit and good enough reputation).

However, this debate is about who the CEO would be... the head honcho, the alpha male/female/genderqueer company, highest ranking executive member...
Well, I argue that temperance and patience are ultimately automatic contenders for that role but that kindness is a feisty alternative.

Temperance and patience come down to a very similar concept: stay calm, wait for the right opportunities, pace oneself.

Throughout our lives, we will all have struggles against temptations for what we know to be detrimental to ourselves and others. Temperance is the virtue which counteracts these temptations. Temperance enables us to keep from doing what is wrong, even when we have strong feelings for it. In other words, temperance is what keeps us from sinning, even when we want to.

Definition of temperance
1moderation in action, thought, or feeling RESTRAINT
2a: habitual moderation in the indulgence of the appetites or passions

I intentionally left out Aristitle's definition. I l primarily did this because it has very odd overlap with prudence's definition (despite it being a separate virtue in the 4 cardinal ones in his theory that he built from Plato by adding a fourth). Alrernatively, I did it as I critiques the theory/ies of Plato and Aristitle on virtues in a couple ways already.

You will notice parallels between fortitude and patuence now, I again insist they are jot ide tical and reject Aristotle's theory. Lasting ling is fortitude, waiting while lasting without resentment and enduring without a severe emotional rage or unrest (good temper, see how that works?) is the essence of patience:

Definition of patient
 (Entry 1 of 2)
1bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint
2manifesting forbearance under provocation or strain
3not hasty or impetuous
4steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity

noun [ U ]
patience noun [U] (QUALITY)
the ability to wait, or to continue doing something despite difficulties, or to suffer without complaining or becoming annoyed:

I know I defined 'patient'and not 'patience' from the Webster dictionary but it defines the latter as the quality of being (or having the quality of) the former...

Then there comes kindness. It is so simple, the obvious choice, that feisty yet generous boss that makes all the other execs and employees buzz inside. Kindness... the raw, most fundamental, deepest virtue of all. There is no moral act that is not either short-term or long-term kind.

That is an obvious contender here. Temperance leads well but passionlessly, patience knows when to grab risks hard and when to let go, it knows when to assert as CEO virtue and let go but Kindess?...

Kindness walks up to the front of the table and everyone anticipates the wonderful meeting ahead, ready for a leader that does not just listen but makes them happy and feel respected.

Temperance stops you lashing out at a toxic friend that has negative feelings, patience tells you to stay their loyal friend a bit longer, tolerate them a bit more and kindness makes you gamble and overtly do a good thing for them, unprompted that makes them want to hate the world and themselves less.

Kindness is the highest virtue and all three of those mentioned are higher than prudence if there even is a hierarchy.

the quality of being generoushelpful, and caring about other people, or an act showing this quality:

Generosity is not the same virtue but they are similar/related.generosity is directly giving whi)le kindness can be withholding too, (white lies, merciful lack of punishment at the right moment on a struggling underling coupled with asking them about their wellbeing, 1-on-1 when others are not around and saying 'you can tell me if you are not' with a friendly smile when they say 'I am good/fine').
Round 3
Come on now, let me show you some kindness.

Get up off the floor after the ass whooping I just gave you and face me.
Round 4
The prudence if my opponent told him to turn tail and flee!