Archive E.J. Hutchinson Natural Law Philosophy Reformed Irenicism

Pertinacity and Prudence

Believe me, I know it’s been too long without a Hemmingsen post. And I intend to give the people what they want.

Late in his treatise On the Law of Nature, Hemmingsen discusses the four cardinal virtues (prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance). He further divides these virtues into their component virtues (and regularly discusses the vicious extremes betwixt which the virtues sit).

So, for example, fortitude has four parts: magnanimity, confidence, endurance, perseverance.

The last of these, perseverance, is the mean between stubbornness and fickleness. His definition of stubbornness (which could also perhaps be called rabies theologorum), with its Aeschylean “proof-text,” is worth reading:

STUBBORNNESS, αὐθάδεια, is that which is indeed hostile to deliberation, for it stands too fixedly in its own opinions. It arises, moreover, from love of oneself and an honorable belief about oneself. Those who labor under this vice are too pleasing to themselves, and think too highly of their own [qualities], and thence are generally ἰδιογνώμονες [those who are attached to their own opinions], for they do not allow for the judgments and opinions of others.

Aeschylus opposes αὐθάδεια to εὐβουλία [soundness of judgment or prudence], for he speaks thus: μήδ’ αὐθάδειαν εὐβουλίᾳ ἀμείνον’ ἡγήσῃ ποτέ.1

That is:

Nor should you ever judge inflexibility to be better than prudent deliberation.2

  1. Prometheus Bound 1034-5. Aeschylus’ text differs slightly: μήδ’ αὐθαδίαν/εὐβουλίας ἀμείνον ἡγήσῃ ποτέ.
  2. The translation is my own.

By E.J. Hutchinson

E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.