QUESTION 55: OF VICES OPPOSED TO PRUDENCE BY WAY OF RESEMBLANCE
We must now consider those vices opposed to prudence, which have a
resemblance thereto. Under this head there are eight points of inquiry:
(1) Whether prudence of the flesh is a sin?
(2) Whether it is a mortal sin?
(3) Whether craftiness is a special sin?
(4) Of guile;
(5) Of fraud;
(6) Of solicitude about temporal things;
(7) Of solicitude about the future;
(8) Of the origin of these vices.
Article 1: Whether prudence of the flesh is a sin?
Objection 1: It would seem that prudence of the flesh is not a sin. For
prudence is more excellent than the other moral virtues, since it governs
them all. But no justice or temperance is sinful. Neither therefore is
any prudence a sin.
Objection 2: Further, it is not a sin to act prudently for an end which it is
lawful to love. But it is lawful to love the flesh, "for no man ever
hated his own flesh" (Eph. 5:29). Therefore prudence of the flesh is not
Objection 3: Further, just as man is tempted by the flesh, so too is he
tempted by the world and the devil. But no prudence of the world, or of
the devil is accounted a sin. Therefore neither should any prudence of
the flesh be accounted among sins.
On the contrary, No man is an enemy to God save for wickedness according
to Wis. 14:9, "To God the wicked and his wickedness are hateful alike."
Now it is written (Rm. 8:7): "The prudence [Vulg.: 'wisdom'] of the flesh
is an enemy to God." Therefore prudence of the flesh is a sin.
I answer that, As stated above (Question , Article ), prudence regards things which are directed to the end of life as a whole. Hence prudence of the flesh signifies properly the prudence of a man who looks upon carnal goods as the last end of his life. Now it is evident that this is a sin, because it involves a disorder in man with respect to his last end, which does not consist in the goods of the body, as stated above (FS, Question , Article ). Therefore prudence of the flesh is a sin.
Reply to Objection 1: Justice and temperance include in their very nature that
which ranks them among the virtues, viz. equality and the curbing of
concupiscence; hence they are never taken in a bad sense. On the other
hand prudence is so called from foreseeing [providendo], as stated above
(Question , Article ; Question , Article ), which can extend to evil things also.
Therefore, although prudence is taken simply in a good sense, yet, if
something be added, it may be taken in a bad sense: and it is thus that
prudence of the flesh is said to be a sin.
Reply to Objection 2: The flesh is on account of the soul, as matter is on
account of the form, and the instrument on account of the principal
agent. Hence the flesh is loved lawfully, if it be directed to the good
of the soul as its end. If, however, a man place his last end in a good
of the flesh, his love will be inordinate and unlawful, and it is thus
that the prudence of the flesh is directed to the love of the flesh.
Reply to Objection 3: The devil tempts us, not through the good of the appetible
object, but by way of suggestion. Wherefore, since prudence implies
direction to some appetible end, we do not speak of "prudence of the
devil," as of a prudence directed to some evil end, which is the aspect
under which the world and the flesh tempt us, in so far as worldly or
carnal goods are proposed to our appetite. Hence we speak of "carnal" and
again of "worldly" prudence, according to Lk. 16:8, "The children of this
world are more prudent [Douay: 'wiser'] in their generation," etc. The
Apostle includes all in the "prudence of the flesh," because we covet the
external things of the world on account of the flesh.
We may also reply that since prudence is in a certain sense called
"wisdom," as stated above (Question , Article , ad 1), we may distinguish a
threefold prudence corresponding to the three kinds of temptation. Hence
it is written (James 3:15) that there is a wisdom which is "earthly,
sensual and devilish," as explained above (Question , Article , ad 1), when we
were treating of wisdom.
Article 2: Whether prudence of the flesh is a mortal sin?
Objection 1: It would seem that prudence of the flesh is a mortal sin. For it
is a mortal sin to rebel against the Divine law, since this implies
contempt of God. Now "the prudence [Douay: 'wisdom'] of the flesh . . .
is not subject to the law of God" (Rm. 8:7). Therefore prudence of the
flesh is a mortal sin.
Objection 2: Further, every sin against the Holy Ghost is a mortal sin. Now
prudence of the flesh seems to be a sin against the Holy Ghost, for "it
cannot be subject to the law of God" (Rm. 8:7), and so it seems to be an
unpardonable sin, which is proper to the sin against the Holy Ghost.
Therefore prudence of the flesh is a mortal sin.
Objection 3: Further, the greatest evil is opposed to the greatest good, as
stated in Ethic. viii, 10. Now prudence of the flesh is opposed to that
prudence which is the chief of the moral virtues. Therefore prudence of
the flesh is chief among mortal sins, so that it is itself a mortal sin.
On the contrary, That which diminishes a sin has not of itself the
nature of a mortal sin. Now the thoughtful quest of things pertaining to
the care of the flesh, which seems to pertain to carnal prudence,
diminishes sin [*Cf. Prov. 6:30]. Therefore prudence of the flesh has not
of itself the nature of a mortal sin.
I answer that, As stated above (Question , Article , ad 1; Article ), a man is said
to be prudent in two ways. First, simply, i.e. in relation to the end of
life as a whole. Secondly, relatively, i.e. in relation to some
particular end; thus a man is said to be prudent in business or something
else of the kind. Accordingly if prudence of the flesh be taken as
corresponding to prudence in its absolute signification, so that a man
place the last end of his whole life in the care of the flesh, it is a
mortal sin, because he turns away from God by so doing, since he cannot
have several last ends, as stated above (FS, Question , Article ).
If, on the other hand, prudence of the flesh be taken as corresponding
to particular prudence, it is a venial sin. For it happens sometimes that
a man has an inordinate affection for some pleasure of the flesh, without
turning away from God by a mortal sin; in which case he does not place
the end of his whole life in carnal pleasure. To apply oneself to obtain
this pleasure is a venial sin and pertains to prudence of the flesh. But
if a man actually refers the care of the flesh to a good end, as when one
is careful about one's food in order to sustain one's body, this is no
longer prudence of the flesh, because then one uses the care of the flesh
as a means to an end.
Reply to Objection 1: The Apostle is speaking of that carnal prudence whereby a
man places the end of his whole life in the goods of the flesh, and this
is a mortal sin.
Reply to Objection 2: Prudence of the flesh does not imply a sin against the Holy
Ghost. For when it is stated that "it cannot be subject to the law of
God," this does not mean that he who has prudence of the flesh, cannot be
converted and submit to the law of God, but that carnal prudence itself
cannot be subject to God's law, even as neither can injustice be just,
nor heat cold, although that which is hot may become cold.
Reply to Objection 3: Every sin is opposed to prudence, just as prudence is
shared by every virtue. But it does not follow that every sin opposed to
prudence is most grave, but only when it is opposed to prudence in some
very grave matter.
Article 3: Whether craftiness is a special sin?
Objection 1: It would seem that craftiness is not a special sin. For the words
of Holy Writ do not induce anyone to sin; and yet they induce us to be
crafty, according to Prov. 1:4, "To give craftiness [Douay: 'subtlety']
to little ones." Therefore craftiness is not a sin.
Objection 2: Further, it is written (Prov. 13:16): "The crafty [Douay:
'prudent'] man doth all things with counsel." Therefore, he does so
either for a good or for an evil end. If for a good end, there is no sin
seemingly, and if for an evil end, it would seem to pertain to carnal or
worldly prudence. Therefore craftiness is not a special sin distinct from
prudence of the flesh.
Objection 3: Further, Gregory expounding the words of Job 12, "The simplicity
of the just man is laughed to scorn," says (Moral. x, 29): "The wisdom of
this world is to hide one's thoughts by artifice, to conceal one's
meaning by words, to represent error as truth, to make out the truth to
be false," and further on he adds: "This prudence is acquired by the
young, it is learnt at a price by children." Now the above things seem to
belong to craftiness. Therefore craftiness is not distinct from carnal or
worldly prudence, and consequently it seems not to be a special sin.
On the contrary, The Apostle says (2 Cor. 4:2): "We renounce the hidden
things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor adulterating the
word of God." Therefore craftiness is a sin.
I answer that, Prudence is "right reason applied to action," just as
science is "right reason applied to knowledge." In speculative matters
one may sin against rectitude of knowledge in two ways: in one way when
the reason is led to a false conclusion that appears to be true; in
another way when the reason proceeds from false premises, that appear to
be true, either to a true or to a false conclusion. Even so a sin may be
against prudence, through having some resemblance thereto, in two ways.
First, when the purpose of the reason is directed to an end which is good
not in truth but in appearance, and this pertains to prudence of the
flesh; secondly, when, in order to obtain a certain end, whether good or
evil, a man uses means that are not true but fictitious and counterfeit,
and this belongs to the sin of craftiness. This is consequently a sin
opposed to prudence, and distinct from prudence of the flesh.
Reply to Objection 1: As Augustine observes (Contra Julian. iv, 3) just as
prudence is sometimes improperly taken in a bad sense, so is craftiness
sometimes taken in a good sense, and this on account of their mutual
resemblance. Properly speaking, however, craftiness is taken in a bad
sense, as the Philosopher states in Ethic. vi, 12.
Reply to Objection 2: Craftiness can take counsel both for a good end and for an
evil end: nor should a good end be pursued by means that are false and
counterfeit but by such as are true. Hence craftiness is a sin if it be
directed to a good end.
Reply to Objection 3: Under "worldly prudence" Gregory included everything that
can pertain to false prudence, so that it comprises craftiness also.
Article 4: Whether guile is a sin pertaining to craftiness?
Objection 1: It would seem that guile is not a sin pertaining to craftiness.
For sin, especially mortal, has no place in perfect men. Yet a certain
guile is to be found in them, according to 2 Cor. 12:16, "Being crafty I
caught you by guile." Therefore guile is not always a sin.
Objection 2: Further, guile seems to pertain chiefly to the tongue, according
to Ps. 5:11, "They dealt deceitfully with their tongues." Now craftiness
like prudence is in the very act of reason. Therefore guile does not
pertain to craftiness.
Objection 3: Further, it is written (Prov. 12:20): "Guile [Douay: 'Deceit'] is
in the heart of them that think evil things." But the thought of evil
things does not always pertain to craftiness. Therefore guile does not
seem to belong to craftiness.
On the contrary, Craftiness aims at lying in wait, according to Eph.
4:14, "By cunning craftiness by which they lie in wait to deceive": and
guile aims at this also. Therefore guile pertains to craftiness.
I answer that, As stated above (Article ), it belongs to craftiness to adopt
ways that are not true but counterfeit and apparently true, in order to
attain some end either good or evil. Now the adopting of such ways may be
subjected to a twofold consideration; first, as regards the process of
thinking them out, and this belongs properly to craftiness, even as
thinking out right ways to a due end belongs to prudence. Secondly the
adopting of such like ways may be considered with regard to their actual
execution, and in this way it belongs to guile. Hence guile denotes a
certain execution of craftiness, and accordingly belongs thereto.
Reply to Objection 1: Just as craftiness is taken properly in a bad sense, and
improperly in a good sense, so too is guile which is the execution of
Reply to Objection 2: The execution of craftiness with the purpose of deceiving,
is effected first and foremost by words, which hold the chief place among
those signs whereby a man signifies something to another man, as
Augustine states (De Doctr. Christ. ii, 3), hence guile is ascribed
chiefly to speech. Yet guile may happen also in deeds, according to Ps.
104:25, "And to deal deceitfully with his servants." Guile is also in the
heart, according to Ecclus. 19:23, "His interior is full of deceit," but
this is to devise deceits, according to Ps. 37:13: "They studied deceits
all the day long."
Reply to Objection 3: Whoever purposes to do some evil deed, must needs devise
certain ways of attaining his purpose, and for the most part he devises
deceitful ways, whereby the more easily to obtain his end. Nevertheless
it happens sometimes that evil is done openly and by violence without
craftiness and guile; but as this is more difficult, it is of less
Article 5: Whether fraud pertains to craftiness?
Objection 1: It would seem that fraud does not pertain to craftiness. For a
man does not deserve praise if he allows himself to be deceived, which is
the object of craftiness; and yet a man deserves praise for allowing
himself to be defrauded, according to 1 Cor. 6:1, "Why do you not rather
suffer yourselves to be defrauded?" Therefore fraud does not belong to
Objection 2: Further, fraud seems to consist in unlawfully taking or receiving
external things, for it is written (Acts 5:1) that "a certain man named
Ananias with Saphira his wife, sold a piece of land, and by fraud kept
back part of the price of the land." Now it pertains to injustice or
illiberality to take possession of or retain external things unjustly.
Therefore fraud does not belong to craftiness which is opposed to
Objection 3: Further, no man employs craftiness against himself. But the
frauds of some are against themselves, for it is written (Prov. 1:18)
concerning some "that they practice frauds [Douay: 'deceits'] against
their own souls." Therefore fraud does not belong to craftiness.
On the contrary, The object of fraud is to deceive, according to Job
13:9, "Shall he be deceived as a man, with your fraudulent [Douay:
'deceitful'] dealings?" Now craftiness is directed to the same object.
Therefore fraud pertains to craftiness.
I answer that, Just as "guile" consists in the execution of craftiness,
so also does "fraud." But they seem to differ in the fact that "guile"
belongs in general to the execution of craftiness, whether this be
effected by words, or by deeds, whereas "fraud" belongs more properly to
the execution of craftiness by deeds.
Reply to Objection 1: The Apostle does not counsel the faithful to be deceived in
their knowledge, but to bear patiently the effect of being deceived, and
to endure wrongs inflicted on them by fraud.
Reply to Objection 2: The execution of craftiness may be carried out by another
vice, just as the execution of prudence by the virtues: and accordingly
nothing hinders fraud from pertaining to covetousness or illiberality.
Reply to Objection 3: Those who commit frauds, do not design anything against
themselves or their own souls; it is through God's just judgment that
what they plot against others, recoils on themselves, according to Ps.
7:16, "He is fallen into the hole he made."
Article 6: Whether it is lawful to be solicitous about temporal matters?
Objection 1: It would seem lawful to be solicitous about temporal matters.
Because a superior should be solicitous for his subjects, according to
Rm. 12:8, "He that ruleth, with solicitude." Now according to the Divine
ordering, man is placed over temporal things, according to Ps. 8:8, "Thou
hast subjected all things under his feet," etc. Therefore man should be
solicitous about temporal things.
Objection 2: Further, everyone is solicitous about the end for which he works.
Now it is lawful for a man to work for the temporal things whereby he
sustains life, wherefore the Apostle says (2 Thess. 3:10): "If any man
will not work, neither let him eat." Therefore it is lawful to be
solicitous about temporal things.
Objection 3: Further, solicitude about works of mercy is praiseworthy,
according to 2 Tim. 1:17, "When he was come to Rome, he carefully sought
me." Now solicitude about temporal things is sometimes connected with
works of mercy; for instance, when a man is solicitous to watch over the
interests of orphans and poor persons. Therefore solicitude about
temporal things is not unlawful.
On the contrary, Our Lord said (Mt. 6:31): "Be not solicitous . . .
saying, What shall we eat, or what shall we drink, or wherewith shall we
be clothed?" And yet such things are very necessary.
I answer that, Solicitude denotes an earnest endeavor to obtain
something. Now it is evident that the endeavor is more earnest when there
is fear of failure, so that there is less solicitude when success is
assured. Accordingly solicitude about temporal things may be unlawful in
three ways. First on the part of the object of solicitude; that is, if we
seek temporal things as an end. Hence Augustine says (De Operibus Monach.
xxvi): "When Our Lord said: 'Be not solicitous,' etc. . . . He intended
to forbid them either to make such things their end, or for the sake of
these things to do whatever they were commanded to do in preaching the
Gospel." Secondly, solicitude about temporal things may be unlawful,
through too much earnestness in endeavoring to obtain temporal things,
the result being that a man is drawn away from spiritual things which
ought to be the chief object of his search, wherefore it is written (Mt. 13:22) that "the care of this world . . . chokes up the word." Thirdly,
through over much fear, when, to wit, a man fears to lack necessary
things if he do what he ought to do. Now our Lord gives three motives for
laying aside this fear. First, on account of the yet greater favors
bestowed by God on man, independently of his solicitude, viz. his body
and soul (Mt. 6:26); secondly, on account of the care with which God
watches over animals and plants without the assistance of man, according
to the requirements of their nature; thirdly, because of Divine
providence, through ignorance of which the gentiles are solicitous in
seeking temporal goods before all others. Consequently He concludes that
we should be solicitous most of all about spiritual goods, hoping that
temporal goods also may be granted us according to our needs, if we do
what we ought to do.
Reply to Objection 1: Temporal goods are subjected to man that he may use them
according to his needs, not that he may place his end in them and be over
solicitous about them.
Reply to Objection 2: The solicitude of a man who gains his bread by bodily labor
is not superfluous but proportionate; hence Jerome says on Mt. 6:31, "Be
not solicitous," that "labor is necessary, but solicitude must be
banished," namely superfluous solicitude which unsettles the mind.
Reply to Objection 3: In the works of mercy solicitude about temporal things is
directed to charity as its end, wherefore it is not unlawful, unless it
Article 7: Whether we should be solicitous about the future?
Objection 1: It would seem that we should be solicitous about the future. For
it is written (Prov. 6:6-8): "Go to the ant, O sluggard, and consider her
ways and learn wisdom; which, although she hath no guide, nor master . .
. provideth her meat for herself in the summer, and gathereth her food in
the harvest." Now this is to be solicitous about the future. Therefore
solicitude about the future is praiseworthy.
Objection 2: Further, solicitude pertains to prudence. But prudence is chiefly
about the future, since its principal part is "foresight of future
things," as stated above (Question , Article , ad 1). Therefore it is virtuous to
be solicitous about the future.
Objection 3: Further, whoever puts something by that he may keep it for the
morrow, is solicitous about the future. Now we read (Jn. 12:6) that
Christ had a bag for keeping things in, which Judas carried, and (Acts 4:34-37) that the Apostles kept the price of the land, which had been
laid at their feet. Therefore it is lawful to be solicitous about the
On the contrary, Our Lord said (Mt. 6:34): "Be not . . . solicitous for
tomorrow"; where "tomorrow" stands for the future, as Jerome says in his
commentary on this passage.
I answer that, No work can be virtuous, unless it be vested with its due
circumstances, and among these is the due time, according to Eccles. 8:6,
"There is a time and opportunity for every business"; which applies not
only to external deeds but also to internal solicitude. For every time
has its own fitting proper solicitude; thus solicitude about the crops
belongs to the summer time, and solicitude about the vintage to the time
of autumn. Accordingly if a man were solicitous about the vintage during
the summer, he would be needlessly forestalling the solicitude belonging
to a future time. Hence Our Lord forbids such like excessive solicitude,
saying: "Be . . . not solicitous for tomorrow," wherefore He adds, "for
the morrow will be solicitous for itself," that is to say, the morrow
will have its own solicitude, which will be burden enough for the soul.
This is what He means by adding: "Sufficient for the day is the evil
thereof," namely, the burden of solicitude.
Reply to Objection 1: The ant is solicitous at a befitting time, and it is this
that is proposed for our example.
Reply to Objection 2: Due foresight of the future belongs to prudence. But it
would be an inordinate foresight or solicitude about the future, if a man
were to seek temporal things, to which the terms "past" and "future"
apply, as ends, or if he were to seek them in excess of the needs of the
present life, or if he were to forestall the time for solicitude.
Reply to Objection 3: As Augustine says (De Serm. Dom. in Monte ii, 17), "when we
see a servant of God taking thought lest he lack these needful things, we
must not judge him to be solicitous for the morrow, since even Our Lord
deigned for our example to have a purse, and we read in the Acts of the
Apostles that they procured the necessary means of livelihood in view of
the future on account of a threatened famine. Hence Our Lord does not
condemn those who according to human custom, provide themselves with such
things, but those who oppose themselves to God for the sake of these
Article 8: Whether these vices arise from covetousness?
Objection 1: It would seem that these vices do not arise from covetousness. As
stated above (Question , Article ) lust is the chief cause of lack of rectitude
in the reason. Now these vices are opposed to right reason, i.e. to
prudence. Therefore they arise chiefly from lust; especially since the
Philosopher says (Ethic. vii, 6) that "Venus is full of guile and her
girdle is many colored" and that "he who is incontinent in desire acts
Objection 2: Further, these vices bear a certain resemblance to prudence, as
stated above (Question , Article ). Now, since prudence is in the reason, the
more spiritual vices seem to be more akin thereto, such as pride and
vainglory. Therefore the aforesaid vices seem to arise from pride rather
than from covetousness.
Objection 3: Further, men make use of stratagems not only in laying hold of
other people's goods, but also in plotting murders, the former of which
pertains to covetousness, and the latter to anger. Now the use of
stratagems pertains to craftiness, guile, and fraud. Therefore the
aforesaid vices arise not only from covetousness, but also from anger.
On the contrary, Gregory (Moral. xxxi, 45) states that fraud is a
daughter of covetousness.
I answer that, As stated above (Article ; Question , Article ), carnal prudence and
craftiness, as well as guile and fraud, bear a certain resemblance to
prudence in some kind of use of the reason. Now among all the moral
virtues it is justice wherein the use of right reason appears chiefly,
for justice is in the rational appetite. Hence the undue use of reason
appears chiefly in the vices opposed to justice, the chief of which is
covetousness. Therefore the aforesaid vices arise chiefly from
Reply to Objection 1: On account of the vehemence of pleasure and of
concupiscence, lust entirely suppresses the reason from exercising its
act: whereas in the aforesaid vices there is some use of reason, albeit
inordinate. Hence these vices do not arise directly from lust. When the
Philosopher says that "Venus is full of guile," he is referring to a
certain resemblance, in so far as she carries man away suddenly, just as
he is moved in deceitful actions, yet not by means of craftiness but
rather by the vehemence of concupiscence and pleasure; wherefore he adds
that "Venus doth cozen the wits of the wisest man" [*Cf. Iliad xiv,
Reply to Objection 2: To do anything by stratagem seems to be due to
pusillanimity: because a magnanimous man wishes to act openly, as the
Philosopher says (Ethic. iv, 3). Wherefore, as pride resembles or apes
magnanimity, it follows that the aforesaid vices which make use of fraud
and guile, do not arise directly from pride, but rather from
covetousness, which seeks its own profit and sets little by excellence.
Reply to Objection 3: Anger's movement is sudden, hence it acts with
precipitation, and without counsel, contrary to the use of the aforesaid
vices, though these use counsel inordinately. That men use stratagems in
plotting murders, arises not from anger but rather from hatred, because
the angry man desires to harm manifestly, as the Philosopher states
(Rhet. ii, 2,3) [*Cf. Ethic. vii, 6].