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The Four Cardinal Virtues Paperback – March 31, 1966
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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.
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.
He notes with special emphasis, the primacy of the Cardinal Virtue of Prudence, as the clear eyed and humanly perfectable, effort to take a hard, and as objective as possible, look, at the entire factual context of a decision. And, in one of the most beautiful chapters among many in this wonderful book, is Pieper's elucidation of how this caluclation is aligned and informed by the Spiritual Virtue of Charity.
I find the book to be both a practical and a spiritual insight into human awareness itself.
I agree with the other reviewer who suggests that this book be followed by Joseph Pieper's Faith, Love and Hope. I imagine a great writer could not overstate the value of these wonderful books, much less a novice like myself. If you want to learn about the true nature of the timeless virtues, get and read these books!