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Prudence. The quality or fact of being wise in practical affairs, as by providing for the future and showing caution with regard to practical matters; discretion.
To quote Edmund Burke: “Prudence is not only the first in rank of the virtues political and moral, but she is the director, the regulator, the standard of them all. Metaphysics cannot live without definition; but prudence is cautious how she defines. Our courts cannot be more fearful in suffering fictitious cases to be brought before them for eliciting their determination on a point of law, than prudent moralists are in putting extreme and hazardous cases of conscience upon emergencies not existing.”
Prudence, in both the life of the individual and the life of a society allows that society know in what degree all other virtues are necessary and in what proportion they need to be exercised. It restrains also the vices of imperfect beings.
In that connection, as regards liberty, Burke again points up the problem with making it the central virtue. "The effect of liberty to individuals is that they may do what they please. We ought see what it will please them to do before we risk congratulations."
It is the fallacy of Enlightenment rationalism that if liberty was maximized, that social harmony would follow. It is counterintuitive on its face. "Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty."
Liberty is a construct that depends upon all sorts of other virtues. In an economic context, it depends on contract law, anti-fraud laws, and much else. In a social contract, it depends upon trust between individuals and a respect for other beings as of inherent worth their own right.
Prudence is the virtue that balances and harmonizes the other virtues and makes a cohesive society possible. Without it, any other virtue, taken to its extreme, easily becomes a vice.
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