The four cardinal virtues
Although the four cardinal virtues (Prudence, Temperance, Fortitude, and Justice) feature prominently in the apprentice lecture, the lecture itself does not go into detail about their meaning or explain their importance. This publication is intended to provide additional information on the four cardinal virtues. [Note: This post is based on a presentation given at our regular meeting in December 2018 by our Education Officer #21 at St John's Lodge]
The four cardinal virtues are deeply rooted in Western philosophy. Below is a representation in stained glass.
The illustration below shows the four cardinal virtues as depicted in stained glass windowsFreemasons Hall, Londres.
Plato's Republic(around 380 BC)
The four cardinal virtues are specifically taken from books 4, 6 and 7 ofPlato's Republic(around 380 BC)
noPlato's RepublicThe four cardinal virtues are wisdom, moderation, courage and justice. These reflect the nature of the soul, which consists of three parts:
1. Reason: Our reason thinks; if he does it well, he has wisdom.
2. Appetite: Our appetite desires; When he does well, he has moderation (control, sobriety). Think of it as "Crushes".
3. Mind: Our “exalted mind” shows emotions (fear, anger, respect, etc.); If you do it right, you have courage.
For Plato, justice consists in the right interplay of the three parts of the soul. In the just, reason rules over "arrogance" - and both rule over appetite (passions).
Plato then applies this to society as a whole:
Society reflects the individual soul. And the virtues of society reflect the virtues of the individual soul.
Plato divides society into three groups.
1. The aristocrats are the educated; they must be wise [wisdom].
2. Workers (merchants, citizens) do the work; they must be sober (have self-control) [moderation].
3. The soldiers (guards) protect the city; they must be courageous (courageous) [strength].
For Plato, justice in society is the due conformity of the three groups with their social roles. Each group has its own place according to its natural abilities. Aristocrats must rule wisely and other groups must obey and do their own work. This will promote the happiness of the city and its members.
The four cardinal virtues were established around 200 BC. Adopted by the Roman and Greek Stoics.
Stoic philosophers on the four cardinal virtues
Here is a small excerpt as an exampleCicero(106 BC – 46 BC), drama
"... there is no doubt that man has the power to be the greatest causer of good and harm to his fellow man. Consequently, it must be regarded as a vital quality to win human hearts and unite them for our own cause... our own interests, it is a task worthy of the wisdom and excellence of a superman...[Note: forCiceromeans to behave fairly]
That brings me back to moral goodness. It can be assumed that it is divided into three subdivisions.
The first is the ability to discern truth from falsehood and to understand the relationships between one phenomenon and another, and the causes and consequences of each phenomenon.[note: caution]
The second category is the ability to bridle the passions and make the appetite accessible to reason.[note: moderation]
Third...is the ability to be considerate and understanding when dealing with other people.[Note: for Cicero this was strength]…..”
Note the resemblance to the three parts of Plato's soul tempered by justice, or the interaction of the three parts of the soul.
For the Stoics, all other virtues were grouped or articulated around or under the four cardinal virtues. The word cardinal comes from the Latin cardo, meaning hinge and cardinalis, or acting like a hinge, hence the name cardinal virtues.
book of wisdom- a 200v
The four cardinal virtues appear in Jewish writings around 200 BC. in the Book of Wisdom. Although the Book of Wisdom is attributed to King Solomon, the earliest known written references date from around 200 BC. C. Alexandria.
Bible -book of wisdom- a 200v
“For [wisdom] teaches temperance and prudence, righteousness and courage, and nothing in life is more profitable to men than these” (Book of Wisdom 8:7).
[Note: Although the Book of Wisdom is said to have been written by King Solomon, it is believed to have been written around 200 B.C. was written in Alexandria by a Jewish author. At that time, Alexandria was ruled by the Ptolemaic dynasty, which was of Greek (Hellenistic) origin.]
The four cardinal virtues penetrate Christian thoughtSaint Paulin 1. Korinther 13.
“To live well is nothing but to love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your effort; it follows that love is preserved whole and unspoilt (through temperance). No misfortune can disturb you (and that is strength). Just obey [God] (and that is justice) and be careful to discern things lest you be caught unawares by deceit or cunning (and that is prudence)…”.
Saint Thomas Aquinas(1225-1274) ranked the four cardinal virtues according to what he saw as their priority or primacy.
Saint Thomas AquinasHe classified prudence as the first cardinal virtue because it is related to the intellect. Aristotle defined prudence asthe right action system, "correct reason applied in practice". It is virtue that enables us to judge correctly what is right and what is wrong in any situation. If we confuse evil with good, we are not exercising prudence; in fact, we show our lack of it.
noSaint Thomas AquinasIn my opinion, it is so easy to fall into error that prudence demands that we seek the advice of others, especially those we know to be good judges of morality. Ignoring advice or warnings from others whose judgment differs from ours is a sign of recklessness.
justice secondSaint Thomas Aquinas, is the second cardinal virtue because it concerns the will. like the p John A. Hardon observes in hisModern Catholic Dictionary, is “the constant and enduring determination to give to everyone what is theirs”. We say that "justice is blind" because it shouldn't matter what we think of any particular person. If we owe you anything, we must pay exactly what we owe you.
justice, wroteSaint Thomas Aquinas, is also related to the idea of rights. While the term "justice" has a negative connotation ("he got what he deserved"), justice is actually positive. Injustice occurs when we, as individuals or by law, deprive someone of their entitlement. According to S. Thomas, legal rights can never trump natural rights, a concept enshrined in the United States Declaration of Independence, among others.
The third cardinal virtue accSaint Thomas Aquinas, is fortress. Although this virtue is commonly calledMut, differs from what we mean by courage today. Strength allows us to overcome fear and keep our will steadfast in the face of obstacles, but it is always rational and reasonable; Those who exercise strength do not seek danger for danger's sake. Prudence and justice are the virtues by which we decide what to do; Courage gives us the strength to do it.
Moderation,Holy Tomesaid, is the fourth and final cardinal virtue. While strength is about holding back fear so we can act, temperance holds back our desires or passions. Eating, drinking and sex are necessary for our survival, individually and as a species; However, an excessive desire for any of these goods can have disastrous physical and moral consequences.
Temperance is the virtue that seeks to avoid excess and as such requires a balance between legitimate goods and our excessive desire for them. Our legitimate use of such goods may differ at different times; temperance is theGolden middle’, which helps us determine the extent to which we can respond to our desires.
Some articles for future research.
- Masonic Library
- Josef Pieper, The Four Cardinal Virtues(full text)
- perfect entry points
- Saint Thomas Aquinas - Four Cardinal Virtues
- Philo of Alexandria - On Dreams(interpretations of Jacob's ladder)
- Saint John Climacus - Chief of Divine Ascension– (Interpretations of Jacob's Ladder) Download
- Virtue and the City– an overview of the philosophical development of these ideas.
Some videos for future research
Here are some videos for research and informational purposes. Please note that while we have included these videos here for research purposes only, some of them come from specific religious viewpoints, and their inclusion here should in no way be construed as promoting any particular religious or theological viewpoint. :
Here is a video about Plato's vision of the four cardinal virtues in Book 4 of the Republic (note: the audio is not good):
Here is a video about the Stoic philosophers view of the four cardinal virtues
Cicero, On duties and general questions about duty
Here is a short video on the four cardinal virtues from a Roman Catholic perspective:
Here is a short video on the three theological virtues from a Roman Catholic perspective:
Here is a video about the 4 cardinal virtues from an Islamic point of view:
Faith, Hope and Charity / Faith, Hope and Love a.k.a. The theological virtues
They are associated with the four cardinal virtues
Here are two videos on the theological virtues from a Roman Catholic perspective:
Here is a video about The Ladder of Ascent based on Jacob's Ladder:
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