QUESTION 50: OF THE SUBJECTIVE PARTS OF PRUDENCE
We must, in due sequence, consider the subjective parts of prudence. And
since we have already spoken of the prudence with which a man rules
himself (Question , seqq.), it remains for us to discuss the species of
prudence whereby a multitude is governed. Under this head there are four
points of inquiry:
(1) Whether a species of prudence is regnative?
(2) Whether political and (3) domestic economy are species of prudence?
(4) Whether military prudence is?
Article 1: Whether a species of prudence is regnative?
Objection 1: It would seem that regnative should not be reckoned a species of
prudence. For regnative prudence is directed to the preservation of
justice, since according to Ethic. v, 6 the prince is the guardian of
justice. Therefore regnative prudence belongs to justice rather than to
Objection 2: Further, according to the Philosopher (Polit. iii, 5) a kingdom
[regnum] is one of six species of government. But no species of prudence
is ascribed to the other five forms of government, which are
"aristocracy," "polity," also called "timocracy" [*Cf. Ethic. viii, 10],
"tyranny," "oligarchy" and "democracy." Therefore neither should a
regnative species be ascribed to a kingdom.
Objection 3: Further, lawgiving belongs not only to kings, but also to certain
others placed in authority, and even to the people, according to Isidore
(Etym. v). Now the Philosopher (Ethic. vi, 8) reckons a part of prudence
to be "legislative." Therefore it is not becoming to substitute regnative
prudence in its place.
On the contrary, The Philosopher says (Polit. iii, 11) that "prudence is
a virtue which is proper to the prince." Therefore a special kind of
prudence is regnative.
I answer that, As stated above (Question , Articles ,10), it belongs to prudence
to govern and command, so that wherever in human acts we find a special
kind of governance and command, there must be a special kind of prudence.
Now it is evident that there is a special and perfect kind of governance
in one who has to govern not only himself but also the perfect community
of a city or kingdom; because a government is the more perfect according
as it is more universal, extends to more matters, and attains a higher
end. Hence prudence in its special and most perfect sense, belongs to a
king who is charged with the government of a city or kingdom: for which
reason a species of prudence is reckoned to be regnative.
Reply to Objection 1: All matters connected with moral virtue belong to prudence
as their guide, wherefore "right reason in accord with prudence" is
included in the definition of moral virtue, as stated above (Question , Article , ad 1; FS, Question , Article , ad 4). For this reason also the execution of
justice in so far as it is directed to the common good, which is part of
the kingly office, needs the guidance of prudence. Hence these two
virtues---prudence and justice---belong most properly to a king,
according to Jer. 23:5: "A king shall reign and shall be wise, and shall
execute justice and judgment in the earth." Since, however, direction
belongs rather to the king, and execution to his subjects, regnative
prudence is reckoned a species of prudence which is directive, rather
than to justice which is executive.
Reply to Objection 2: A kingdom is the best of all governments, as stated in
Ethic. viii, 10: wherefore the species of prudence should be denominated
rather from a kingdom, yet so as to comprehend under regnative all other
rightful forms of government, but not perverse forms which are opposed to
virtue, and which, accordingly, do not pertain to prudence.
Reply to Objection 3: The Philosopher names regnative prudence after the
principal act of a king which is to make laws, and although this applies
to the other forms of government, this is only in so far as they have a
share of kingly government.
Article 2: Whether political prudence is fittingly accounted a part of prudence?
Objection 1: It would seem that political prudence is not fittingly accounted
a part of prudence. For regnative is a part of political prudence, as
stated above (Article ). But a part should not be reckoned a species with the
whole. Therefore political prudence should not be reckoned a part of
Objection 2: Further, the species of habits are distinguished by their various
objects. Now what the ruler has to command is the same as what the
subject has to execute. Therefore political prudence as regards the
subjects, should not be reckoned a species of prudence distinct from
Objection 3: Further, each subject is an individual person. Now each
individual person can direct himself sufficiently by prudence commonly so
called. Therefore there is no need of a special kind of prudence called
On the contrary, The Philosopher says (Ethic. vi, 8) that "of the
prudence which is concerned with the state one kind is a master-prudence
and is called legislative; another kind bears the common name political,
and deals with individuals."
I answer that, A slave is moved by his master, and a subject by his
ruler, by command, but otherwise than as irrational and inanimate beings
are set in motion by their movers. For irrational and inanimate beings
are moved only by others and do not put themselves in motion, since they
have no free-will whereby to be masters of their own actions, wherefore
the rectitude of their government is not in their power but in the power
of their movers. On the other hand, men who are slaves or subjects in any
sense, are moved by the commands of others in such a way that they move
themselves by their free-will; wherefore some kind of rectitude of
government is required in them, so that they may direct themselves in
obeying their superiors; and to this belongs that species of prudence
which is called political.
Reply to Objection 1: As stated above, regnative is the most perfect species of
prudence, wherefore the prudence of subjects, which falls short of
regnative prudence, retains the common name of political prudence, even
as in logic a convertible term which does not denote the essence of a
thing retains the name of "proper."
Reply to Objection 2: A different aspect of the object diversifies the species of
a habit, as stated above (Question , Article ). Now the same actions are
considered by the king, but under a more general aspect, as by his
subjects who obey: since many obey one king in various departments. Hence
regnative prudence is compared to this political prudence of which we are
speaking, as mastercraft to handicraft.
Reply to Objection 3: Man directs himself by prudence commonly so called, in
relation to his own good, but by political prudence, of which we speak,
he directs himself in relation to the common good.
Article 3: Whether a part of prudence should be reckoned to be domestic?
Objection 1: It would seem that domestic should not be reckoned a part of
prudence. For, according to the Philosopher (Ethic. vi, 5) "prudence is
directed to a good life in general": whereas domestic prudence is
directed to a particular end, viz. wealth, according to Ethic. i, 1.
Therefore a species of prudence is not domestic.
Objection 2: Further, as stated above (Question , Article ) prudence is only in good
people. But domestic prudence may be also in wicked people, since many
sinners are provident in governing their household. Therefore domestic
prudence should not be reckoned a species of prudence.
Objection 3: Further, just as in a kingdom there is a ruler and subject, so
also is there in a household. If therefore domestic like political is a
species of prudence, there should be a paternal corresponding to
regnative prudence. Now there is no such prudence. Therefore neither
should domestic prudence be accounted a species of prudence.
On the contrary, The Philosopher states (Ethic. vi, 8) that there are
various kinds of prudence in the government of a multitude, "one of which
is domestic, another legislative, and another political."
I answer that, Different aspects of an object, in respect of
universality and particularity, or of totality and partiality, diversify
arts and virtues; and in respect of such diversity one act of virtue is
principal as compared with another. Now it is evident that a household is
a mean between the individual and the city or kingdom, since just as the
individual is part of the household, so is the household part of the city
or kingdom. And therefore, just as prudence commonly so called which
governs the individual, is distinct from political prudence, so must
domestic prudence be distinct from both.
Reply to Objection 1: Riches are compared to domestic prudence, not as its last
end, but as its instrument, as stated in Polit. i, 3. On the other hand,
the end of political prudence is "a good life in general" as regards the
conduct of the household. In Ethic. i, 1 the Philosopher speaks of riches
as the end of political prudence, by way of example and in accordance
with the opinion of many.
Reply to Objection 2: Some sinners may be provident in certain matters of detail
concerning the disposition of their household, but not in regard to "a
good life in general" as regards the conduct of the household, for which
above all a virtuous life is required.
Reply to Objection 3: The father has in his household an authority like that of a
king, as stated in Ethic. viii, 10, but he has not the full power of a
king, wherefore paternal government is not reckoned a distinct species of
prudence, like regnative prudence.
Article 4: Whether military prudence should be reckoned a part of prudence?
Objection 1: It would seem that military prudence should not be reckoned a
part of prudence. For prudence is distinct from art, according to Ethic.
vi, 3. Now military prudence seems to be the art of warfare, according to
the Philosopher (Ethic. iii, 8). Therefore military prudence should not
be accounted a species of prudence.
Objection 2: Further, just as military business is contained under political
affairs, so too are many other matters, such as those of tradesmen,
craftsmen, and so forth. But there are no species of prudence
corresponding to other affairs in the state. Neither therefore should any
be assigned to military business.
Objection 3: Further, the soldiers' bravery counts for a great deal in
warfare. Therefore military prudence pertains to fortitude rather than to
On the contrary, It is written (Prov. 24:6): "War is managed by due
ordering, and there shall be safety where there are many counsels." Now
it belongs to prudence to take counsel. Therefore there is great need in
warfare for that species of prudence which is called "military."
I answer that, Whatever things are done according to art or reason,
should be made to conform to those which are in accordance with nature,
and are established by the Divine Reason. Now nature has a twofold
tendency: first, to govern each thing in itself, secondly, to withstand
outward assailants and corruptives: and for this reason she has provided
animals not only with the concupiscible faculty, whereby they are moved
to that which is conducive to their well-being, but also with the
irascible power, whereby the animal withstands an assailant. Therefore in
those things also which are in accordance with reason, there should be
not only "political" prudence, which disposes in a suitable manner such
things as belong to the common good, but also a "military" prudence,
whereby hostile attacks are repelled.
Reply to Objection 1: Military prudence may be an art, in so far as it has
certain rules for the right use of certain external things, such as arms
and horses, but in so far as it is directed to the common good, it
belongs rather to prudence.
Reply to Objection 2: Other matters in the state are directed to the profit of
individuals, whereas the business of soldiering is directed to the
service belongs to fortitude, but the direction, protection of the entire
Reply to Objection 3: The execution of military service belongs to fortitude, but
the direction, especially in so far as it concerns the
commander-in-chief, belongs to prudence.