In Praise of ‘Prudentia’


The virtue of ‘Prudentia’
In Aquinas’s teaching,
Is ‘practical wisdom’ in
Choice and decision.

It’s a Bayesian thing,
Not just logical stages.
Which a life of experience
And virtue engages.

Grounded in reason
But felt in the boots,
You can’t teach Pudentia,
We must find our own routes

Each person’s is different,
Our wisdom’s our own.
When we try to describe it
The words struggle to form.

But don’t deconstruct it,
The details mislead.
If you try to explain it,
Confidence bleeds.

Invest in Prudentia.
Your gut’s not often wrong.
Thought, experience, emotion
In symphony belong.

I’ve spoken in praise of ‘Prudentia’ twice today. The first time was inviting someone to really use their ‘practical reason’ in designing something. That meant acknowledging complexity, personalities and what we’re trying to do – and really, based on their experience and judgement, coming up with something that has a fighting chance of working.

The second was in acknowledging and appreciating a way forward I’d not thought of. On the face of it I had ruled it out, but on reflection it had a good deal to commend it.

Not everything in life is rational, simple or binary. As someone said to me yesterday, probability is rarely 0 or 1. ‘Prudentia’ is our Bayesian gift for dealing with complexity – practical wisdom.

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