Calvin's Ephesians Sermons: The Sixth Sermon on the First Chapter

John Calvin, one of the Reformation's key figures and interpreters of scripture, delivered this sermon in Geneva, Switzerland. He spoke about St. Paul's letter to the Ephesians and the spreading of God's Word.

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Library Topic: What is Prudence?

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"Ironically the pragmatic meaning of prudence is exactly the opposite of its traditional meaning. Traditionally prudence was not considered contrary to virtue; it was the highest virtue: It meant the wisdom to practice all the virtues in the right time and circumstance."

"In the place of 'true judgment' or prudence, the defenders of international justice satisfy their hunger for rational certitude and analytical specificity with mere 'competence'. The 'adherents of techno-politics' understand competence as a kind of 'administrative rationality' that expresses itself in the 'the clarity of its reasons' and 'knows no murky waters'. Competence attempts to reduce...

"Because we live in a world of constraints, prudence tells us that if we cannot prohibit a social evil entirely, we can limit it through appropriate fences. Building fences around a social evil, as part of a larger strategy to secure justice, precludes what can be prohibited now without admitting the legitimacy of what remains unprohibited. By limiting the harm done or lessening the negative...

In this article, Russell Kirk seeks to describe the components and benefits of a liberal education. According to Kirk, "True education is meant to develop the individual human being, the person, rather than to serve the state." Kirk opines that giving students a...

"If we take seriously what is said by Plato and Aristotle, then we must also pay attention to what is being said by the likes of Taylor Swift and Kanye West."

"Much as Lincoln was a grass-roots, up-from-the-ranks politician, he was perfectly at ease in speaking the role of virtue in political life. Lincoln insisted that he 'regarded prudence in all respect as one of the cardinal virtues,' and he hoped, as president, that “it will appear that we have practiced prudence” in the management of public affairs. Even in the midst of the Civil War, he...

Birzer describes both the classic and Christian understanding of virtue.

McCloskey draws upon ancient and medieval sources to argue that prudence is a cardinal virtue worth caring about.

Strang argues that the revival of virtue ethics and the way scholars think about practical wisdom has altered the legal philosophy of originalism, with judges now asked to practice more discretion.

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In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle dissects the arenas in which man acts and explores the vices (either a deficiency or an excess) and virtues of each normal human action or feeling (i.e. "Fear and Confidence," "Pleasure and Pain," etc.). This chart presents Aristotle's conclusions in a compact manner.

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Prudence is, of course, worthy of Smith's pluralist system of virtues, but not just because it achieves results--economic or otherwise. A person must also be judged by what he is and not merely by the useful purposes he serves; by what his motives are, and not only by what his actions achieve.

The ethical and legal thought of Thomas Aquinas and F. A. Hayek emerged out of distinct philosophical traditions. Aquinas, following the Aristotelian tradition, emphasized the inexact character of ethics and hence the mutability of law due to the contingency of particular circumstances.

For Thomas Aquinas, as for Aristotle, doing moral philosophy is thinking as generally as possible about what I should choose to do (and not to do), considering my whole life as a field of opportunity (or misuse of opportunity).

Situated historically at the beginning of the medieval period, Augustine’s thought expresses itself as one of the most influential metaphysical systems of the entire history of philosophy. Such a privileged status has often served to occlude some of the more radical implications of Augustinian thought.

This lecture examines the continuing influence of St. Augustine's writings.

This author argues that Augustine founded a form of political realism rooted in the idea of original sin: because humans were capable of evil, they needed government, but they fail to achieve perfection through it.

The classical economist McCloskey discusses the pagan virtues of Odysseus and the plebeian virtues of St. Paul and then argues for a third category: modern bourgeois virtues.

In this essay, I suggest introducing an element of Aristotelian or Thomistic prudence into the Catholic conversation about liberty, especially its economic element.

John Kilcullen's description of medieval political philosophy. His encyclopedic entry tracks medieval political philosophy's growth and progression from the Bible through Francisco Suárez.

Prudence to the modern mind suggests caution. The prudent man is the man who takes no risks. He is a conservative who will neither raise his head above the crowd nor stand out from it. If such prudence is associated with morality at all, it is with a kind of moral mediocrity.

Say the word prudence to the ancients, and it would be a virtue; say the word prudence to the faculties of the American colleges of the 19th century, and it would be a part of the curriculum in moral philosophy; say the word prudence today, and it would be part of a joke.

From Plato and Aristotle to Cicero, we observe a radical change in the understanding of classical natural right. By contrast to his two predecessors, Cicero doesn't seem to harbor any doubt about the salutary character of some philosophical doctrine of natural right for the political community.

"In The Four Cardinal Virtues, Josef Pieper delivers a stimulating quartet of essays on the four cardinal virtues. He demonstrates the unsound overvaluation of moderation that has made contemporary morality a hollow convention and points out the true significance of the Christian virtues."

In many works Deirdre McCloskey criticizes professional economics for too readily representing man as a maximizing agent—Mr. Maximum Utility, or Max U. McCloskey says that economic activities are not the machinations of robots or mathematical functions, but rather affairs among human beings.

Aeschliman explains how the famous Catholic theologian John Henry Newman's defense of the moral order is an example of prudence.

[Prudence] is defined as the intellectual virtue which rightly directs particular human acts, through rectitude of the appetite, toward a good end. Emotional well-being, we will argue, comes about through a certain structuring of the entire network of human emotions, one that results from a proper disposing of the emotions by the virtues.

Virtue ethics is currently one of three major approaches in normative ethics. It may, initially, be identified as the one that emphasizes the virtues, or moral character, in contrast to the approach which emphasizes duties or rules (deontology) or that which emphasizes the consequences of actions (consequentialism).

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"In modern times, prudence has become a bad word. In the second in a series on the virtues, Chuck Colson explains why prudence, or wisdom, is something we've been sorely lacking."

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"Hume’s first major work of philosophy published in 1739 when he was just 29 yeas old. It is made up of three books entitled 'Of the Understanding', 'Of the Passions', and 'Of Morals'. In the book he uses his sceptical rationalism to create an ambitious 'science of man'."

The Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes is the written autobiography of Koheleth, the "Teacher." He warns against the "transitory" nature of life and reflects on the lives of both the wise and the foolish.

John Calvin, one of the Reformation's key figures and interpreters of scripture, delivered this sermon in Geneva, Switzerland. He spoke about St. Paul's letter to the Ephesians and the spreading of God's Word.

In Catholicism, prudence is considered one of the "four virtues," alongside justice, fortitude, and temperance.

"THIS WORK is called the 'Critical Examination of Practical Reason,' not of the pure practical reason, although its parallelism with the speculative critique would seem to require the latter term. The reason of this appears sufficiently from the treatise itself. Its business is to show that there is pure practical reason, and for this purpose it criticises the entire practical faculty of...

Predominantly written by Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration of Independence formally and eloquently justified the independence of the United States from British monarch King George III.

"Volume 1 (with 9 dialogues) of a 5 volume edition of Plato by the great English Victorian Greek scholar, Benjamin Jowett. The scholarly apparatus is immense and detailed. The online version preserves the marginal comments of the printed edition and has links to all the notes and comments provided by Jowett."

Niccolò Machiavelli's defense of republican principles. He argues for governments of the people because they are better than those of princes. His arguments have had great influence across the centuries and deeply influenced the American Founders.

The Scottish philosopher Thomas Reid argues how the doctrine of Common Sense guides moral judgment and action.

Kant explores morality, duty, and what autonomy and freedom truly mean. He explains the central concept of his moral philosophy: the Categorical Imperative, which demands people be treated with dignity, and always as ends and never as a means to an end. Kant insists for something to be moral, it must correspond to a universal duty and never be merely a matter of...

"I had the honor of writing to you the 2d instant, with a postscript the 4th. I there informed you of the enemy having evacuated the Jerseys and of the intelligence received from Ticonderoga, which induced me to suppose it highly probable the next operation of General Howe would be up the North River."

"Greek ethics has had a kind of renaissance in the last few years. A number of authors, tired, perhaps, of debates about forms of utilitarianism or technicalities of metaethics, have pointed to the classical Greek theories as offering a wider perspective. Three points in particular have been singled out for praise. First, Greek authors were usually concerned to provide an account of the good...

"Of the remaining works of Machiavelli the most important is the History of Florence written between 1521 and 1525, and dedicated to Clement VII. The first book is merely a rapid review of the Middle Ages, the history of Florence beginning with Book II. Machiavelli's method has been censured for adhering at times too closely to the chroniclers like Villani, Cambi, and Giovanni...

"I received on the 19th your letter of the 11th instant. The diminution of my health since I left you leaves me very little reason to expect a return of such a degree of it as would enable me to attend to any business like that in question. To undertake a task without a prospect and probability of performing it properly, is to deviate from the path of prudence."

"Yet even this must be understood with certain Limitations, for there are Times, when the Cause of Religion, of Government, of Liberty, the Interest of the present Age and of Posterity, render it a necessary Duty for a Man to make known his Sentiments and Intentions boldly and publickly. So that it is difficult to establish any certain Rule, to determine what Things a Man may and what he may...

"One great Advantage of the Christian Religion is that it brings the great Principle of the Law of Nature and Nations, Love your Neighbour as yourself, and do to others as you would that others should do to you, to the Knowledge, Belief and Veneration of the whole People."

Part of Bastiat's Selected Essays on Political Economy, this work focuses on the issue of justice and its compatibility with the idea of fraternity. Bastiat declares the following about the balance between these two concepts:

"When a great number of families, all of whom, whether in isolation or in association, need to work in order to live, to prosper, and to better themselves...

"I received your kind Letter, at New York, and it is not easy for you to imagine the Pleasure it has given me. I have not found a single Opportunity to write since I left Boston, excepting by the Post and I dont choose to write by that Conveyance, for fear of foul Play. But as We are now within forty two Miles of Philadelphia, I hope there to find some private Hand by which I can convey this...

Burke describes the principles of liberty and the British response to the American Revolution.

"As to morality, which, I take it, is the first in those things you enquire after; that is best to be found in the book that I have already commended to you. But because you may perhaps think that the better to observe those rules, a little warning may not be inconvenient, and some method of ranging them be useful for the memory; I recommend to you the 'Whole Duty of Man,' as a methodical...

Hobbes argued that a state of nature (an environment without a government imposing order) would be "the war of all against all" and life in such an environment would be "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."

"Human activities aim at some end that we consider good. Most activities are a means to a higher end. The highest human good, then, is that activity that is an end in itself. That good is happiness. When we aim at happiness, we do so for its own sake, not because happiness helps us realize some other end. The goal of the Ethics is to determine how best to achieve happiness."

In his final philosophical work, Marcus Tullius Cicero, the great Roman statesman and admirer of Greek culture, writes to his son of Roman virtues and responsibilities during the chaos following the assassination of Julius Caesar. Amongst the wisdom that Cicero calls his son to recognize and embody, the orator discusses the cardinal virtues.

This New Testament Book, attributed to the apostle Paul, was addressed to the people of Corinth in Greece. Not only does the book contain some of the most noted verses in Christianity, it is also an early example of Paul's evangelism and the spread of Christianity after the death of Jesus.

"By way of preface (for custom says there must be a preface to every almanack) I present thee with an essay wrote by a celebrated naturalist of our country, which, if duly attended to, may be of more service to the publick, than 375 prefaces of my own writing: Take it as follows, viz. An Essay for the improvement of estates, by raising a durable...

Proverb 8 urges a life of prudence and righteousness.

"WHAT right have I to write on Prudence, where of I have little, and that of the negative sort? My prudence consists in avoiding and going without, not in the inventing of means and methods, not in adroit steering, not in gentle repairing. I have no skill to make money spend well, no genius in my economy, and whoever sees my garden discovers that I must have some other garden. Yet I love facts...

An attack against the revolution in France by Edmund Burke. Burke argues that the French Revolution will end disastrously because its abstract foundations, purportedly rational, ignore the complexities of human nature and society.

This page collects a number of his writings on political significance.

"The fabric of the human mind is curious and wonderful, as well as that of the human body. The faculties of the one are with no less wisdom adapted to their several ends than the organs of the other. Nay, it is reasonable to think, that, as the mind is a nobler work and of a higher order than the body, even more of the wisdom and skill of the divine Architect hath been employed in its...

In the eyes of John Locke, the education of a child includes more than books and schooling. Indeed, Locke’s thoughts on education cover the whole physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional being of the...

Saint Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica. Although unfinished, it provided a foundation for many religious and secular institutions and proved very influential throughout the Middle Ages.

This ancient Chinese text, written anywhere between the 4th and 6th century B.C.E delineates the philosophical and legal tenets of Taoism.

Kirk examines ten general principles of conservatism expressed in America today. The first of these is that “there exists an enduring moral order. That order is made for man, and man is made for it: human nature is a constant, and moral truths are permanent.”

“This word order signifies harmony. There are two aspects or...

The Analects are a collection of sayings and actions attributed to Confucius and his disciples.

"The Apology is one of the founding documents of Western philosophy, portraying the work of the philosopher, the 'lover of knowledge or wisdom,' as the use of human reason to seach for the truth. Imagine a courtroom scene in which Socrates rises to the witness stand to make his defense, no holds barred. Imagine the shouts from the audience, and even the assembled judges, as Socrates explains...

"Although these pieces may appear fully to express their own real intrinsic value, as bearing the image and inscription of that great man Mr. Hobbes; yet since common usage has rendered a preface to a book as necessary as a porch to a church, and that in all things some ceremonies cannot be avoided, mode and custom in this point is dutifully to be obeyed.

That they are genuine, credible...

"'The Classical Moralists' is a companion volume in the field of ethics, to the author's 'Modern Classical Philosophers' in the domain of philosophy. The book is virtually a history of ethics, based not upon the ordinary description of systems, but upon selections from the original sources and upon translations of the authors themselves. It is sought, so far as is practicable, to present by...

The Confessions are St. Augustine's 13 book account of his conversion to the Christian faith. Augustine reckons with what should constitute right Christian actions. His work provides scholars a mirror into the early Church and a Christian reflection in the late Roman Empire.

"The book called 'The Consolation of Philosophy' was throughout the Middle Ages, and down to the beginnings of the modern epoch in the sixteenth century, the scholar's familiar companion. Few books have exercised a wider influence in their time. It has been translated into every European tongue, and into English nearly a dozen times, from King Alfred's paraphrase to the translations of Lord...

In this classic work of ancient Chinese philosophy, Confucius describes the values of moderation, rectitude, objectivity, sincerity, honesty and propriety.

"I. BY that which is self-caused, I mean that of which the essence involves existence, or that of which the nature is only conceivable as existent.

II. A thing is called finite after its kind, when it can be limited by another thing of the same nature; for instance, a body is called finite because we always conceive another greater body. So, also, a thought is limited...

"The 15th century treatise Of the Imitation of Christ is one of the most popular Christian books of all time. Although its authorship was disputed for a long time, it is generally now regarded as the product of Thomas a Kempis. The work is a manual of devotion assisting the soul in its pursuit of holiness and communion with God. Written as it was for the monastic life, it presents a high...

Homer's famous work details the aftermath of the Trojan War and war hero Odysseus' journey home to his wife and son.

Niccolò Machiavelli's famous work discussing the proper role of a ruler within society. He presents purely practical solutions to maintaining power and control without limiting himself to morality.

This volume, written in dialogue format, is the original work of political idealism by one of the best-known Western philosophers.

"Smith expresses his general system of morals, exploring the propriety of action, reward and punishment, sense of duty, and the effect of numerous factors on moral sentiment.

In so doing, Smith devised innovative theories on virtues, conscience, and moral judgment that are still relevant and accessible today. Though somewhat surprising to find a philosopher of Smith's abilities...

"The writer says that his object is to impress upon those whom he has ordained the lessons which he had previously taught them. Like Cicero, he treats of that which is right, becoming, or honourable [decorum], and what is expedient [utile]; but with reference not to this life but to that which is to come, teaching in the first book that which is becoming or honourable; in the second, what is...

"Reason and prudence naturally dictate to every man of common sense the thing that is right; and you might have rested assured, that so fast as I could make remittances without distressing myself too much, my inclinations would have prompted me to it: because, in the first place, it is but an irksome thing to a free mind to be any ways hampered in debt; and in the next place I think I have...

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