THE FOUR CARDINAL VIRTUES by Josef Pieper

THE FOUR CARDINAL VIRTUES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

There is the reality of creation and the perversion of our perception of reality. There is, in plain words, God's world and man's corrupt nature, which St. John the Apostle calls the ""gratification of the eyes, and the empty pomp of living."" These are theological considerations; the whole question of good and evil today is, as they say, relative or ambiguous, and modern philosophy has followed suit: an immense structure without a keystone. Therefore Professor Pieper's meditations on not only the idea of virtue, but also on what he takes to be its almost existential necessity, seem both roundly anachronistic and oddly tantalizing, even though, or especially because, he places the discussion within the weighty halls of Thomistic tradition. He himself is aware of the poignancy involved: ""The interpreter, in these latter days, invokes this tradition in the hope of seeming less ridiculous as he boldly drafts a moral standard for humanity, which he, in his own daily life is utterly unable to meet."" So the fallible man, with infallible scholarship, incidentally, reviews the four cardinal virtues- Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, Temperance- showing how each interconnect and balance the other, what sub-values they define or include, and how they illuminate human action, character, ""truth."" Perhaps these religiously committed essays are too full of heady pieties. The discussion, however, is historically broad (Platonism to Heidegger), and the parallels drawn are often surprisingly sharp, e.g., Pieper equates the Scripture's ""He who loves his life will lose it,"" with the ego-defense problem of psychiatry, and so forth.

Pub Date: April 21st, 1965
Publisher: Harcourt, Brace & World