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The Four Cardinal Virtues Paperback – March 31, 1966


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: University of Notre Dame Press; 1 edition (March 31, 1966)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0268001030
  • ISBN-13: 978-0268001032
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.6 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #78,552 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"[A]ttempts . . . a human quest for the wisdom that enables one to become the kind of person one strives to be." -- Studies in Formative Spirituality, November 1984

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Customer Reviews

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I read this book over and over again.
Tina Bell
Pieper is particularly good at showing how counterfeits of these virtues are in fact manichaeistic in nature, often showing disdain of the body.
Aquinas
I suggest reading it alongside Budziszewski's book Written on the Heart.
William P. Cunningham

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

101 of 103 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on December 21, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I first came into contact with this work because it was a required text for my seminary class on ethics. Pieper is a first rate German philosopher and expert on the works of St. Thomas Aquinas.
If you study this book, The Four Cardinal Virtues (fortitude, temperance, justice, and prudence), along with his other book, Faith, Hope, Love (the three theological virtues), you will have a wonderful primer on ethics.
One word of warning. Philosophy is not light reading. I know, it was one of my majors. Philosophy written in German and translated into English produces a book not for the timid. If you are willing to take on the challenge, more power to you. It is worth the effort, but you should know what you are getting into before you put down your money. This is a book for those who want to think and wrestle with ethics. It is not for everyone.
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45 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Tina Bell on February 12, 2003
Format: Paperback
I read this book over and over again. Pieper is a great antidote to the vagueness of some modern Catholic writers who tend to use a feel-good approach to virtue and write vaguely about sharing, caring, and being nice to people. This book tells you what the virtues really are and what they have meant to the Church for two thousand years.
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39 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Neri on November 6, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Simply brilliant reading. Living naturally is what the crux of this book is all about.

The book delves into ethics, civics, justice, philosophy, psychology, and I think it is a healthy tool for understanding classical literature: Shakespeare, for example, and the inner psychology of his characters as this moral plain, that Pieper describes, is so much closer to his than most of what we hear in our modernity.

Pieper, here, spends time defining what the classic moral compass is, taken primarily from the last officially sanctioned church doctor St. Thomas Aquinas. Pieper brings Aquinas and other philosophers' language up to date, for the ears of the modern mind. Christianityfs definition has too much to do with how it's enemies, or alterior users, wish to define it and Pieper spends a short time correcting this in places.

If you liked this you might like Pieper's Virtues of the Human Heart which is a bit less discriptive but more powerful.

Pieper also makes the point that the most important stuggle is the internal struggle for meaning and direction in any organization or person.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
The four cardinal virtues are the most important of the "stable dispositions of the soul which direct men to do good" (a loose paraphrase of Aristotle's definition of moral virtue), and which all moralists prior to the modern age considered necessary for man's happiness. Virtue Ethics is a topic du jour in philosophical circles, and many books have appeared on the topic in recent years. Pieper's book on the cardinal virtues, first published in 1954, could be read with profit by today's 'experts.' It is especially useful for its responses to some modern (Christian as well as secular) misconceptions about the nature of ethics. By the way, as everyone ought to know, the fourth cardinal virtue is not Mercy, but Temperance. How typical of our age to make the mistake the reviewer below has made! Let us hope that all those people who found his review 'helpful' went on to buy and read Pieper's book.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Aquinas on July 5, 2008
Format: Paperback
Of the three Josef Pieper books I have read (namely i) the anthology and ii) Faith, Hope and Charity and this present one), this has been the best for me. Pieper excels in crystalline clarity of thought; he exudes the wisdom of St Thomas. The brilliance of this book lies in Pieper's ability to see the depth of meaning in things, how we human being are configured towards right order and that when we damage and destroy this order, such as by committing an injustice, we not only damage others but counterintuitively harm ourselves more. Pieper examines Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance, shows their ranking in the order of virtues and shows how they interrelate.

Pieper has shown me something I would simply never have come to know myself, namely that prudence (as classically understood, not the cunning of the tactician, as understood in modern times) is the pre-eminent virtue. But, not only that, he shows clearly the true nature of the virtues and distinguishes them from the counterfeit virtues which society labels by the same name. Pieper is particularly good at showing how counterfeits of these virtues are in fact manichaeistic in nature, often showing disdain of the body. Thus, he cites St Thomas as saying that in paradise the pleasure which man derived from the sexual act would have been greater rather than impaired by an over-spiritualism. He is also excellent on anger. The tendency towards an overly spiritualist attitude with disdain for the body has resurfaced in recent years (see, for example, the talks of Anthony de Mello SJ where he indicates that Christ's manifestation of the natual passions, such as anger, is indeed a short coming!).
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By William P. Cunningham on June 17, 2000
Format: Paperback
If you are looking for a book you can't put down, a fast read you devour with complete comprehension, look elsewhere. Pieper's tome on the cardinal virtues is an exquisite, carefully thought out exposition of nuances of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance that not only explains them, but elucidates their relationship to each other and to the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity.
Pieper is a superb moral thinker, but one firmly grounded in the Gospel. He says "Growth in love is the legitimate avenue and the one and only justification for 'contempt for the world.'" The Unibomber should have read that line first.
This is a book to read every six months profitably, to make marginal notes in and underline. I suggest reading it alongside Budziszewski's book Written on the Heart.
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