Classical Virtue, Postmodern Practice
Publication Year: 2004
Published by: Penn State University Press
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But certainly nothing to get excited about. It is a convention of the modern literature on prudence to begin by apologizing for the concept’s stodginess. Such reticence is not surprising, for this antique term does not fit well with the boundless initiative and astonishing rates of change in modern life, much less the personal freedom and self-expression of liberal...
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An edited volume makes manifest what is true of all scholarship: that it is deeply collaborative. Whatever the limitations of this collection, they do not include lack of support from my colleagues. I’m embarrassed to say that it has taken so long to complete that I can no longer reliably list the many readers and others who have discussed the work with me along the way. If half of...
1 Theory Without Modernity
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So we live after virtue. Good thing, too, many of us would agree. No more “good Christian gentlemen” with all their exclusions, expropriations, and private realms of violence. No more wise old men running the state into the ground. Nor do women have to be hemmed in by such names as Chastity or Prudence. You can still say, “Neither a borrower nor lender be,” but you will...
I. Conceptual Frameworks
2 Cicero and the Development of Prudential Practice at Rome
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The modern revival of interest in prudence in the practical spheres of politics, ethics, and rhetoric shows an abiding—and appropriate—regard for the historical development of the concept and its application to civic life. Quite naturally, the European Renaissance roots of modern prudence have received considerable attention, for they show a vibrant intellectual, rhetorical...
3 After Virt�: Rhetoric, Prudence, and Moral Pluralism in Machiavelli
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The appearance of Machiavelli’s Prince and his Discourses on Livy is a fundamental event in the history of prudence and the development of pluralism. Since we read history backwards, we can see, as Berlin has taught us to see, in Machiavelli the origins of a pluralism he himself could not have recognized.1 Looking back, we see that earlier versions of morality and humanity...
4 The “Enlightenment Project” Revisited: Common Sense as Prudence in the Philosophy of Thomas Reid
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This chapter is a response to the often encountered claim that modern political theory continues to be fuddled by the metaphysical illusions of the Enlightenment, and has yet to grasp adequately the artful, organized, inventive elements of ordinary political practice. The most damaging of these illusions—it is said—is that of a self-transparent and self-grounding faculty of...
II. Rhetorical Structures
5 Edmund Burke’s Letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol and the Texture of Prudence
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The problem with prudence, as Emerson understood, is that it can raise questions not easily answered. “What right have I,” he asked, “to write on Prudence, whereof I have little, and that of the negative sort?”1 The same sort of question might be asked of those who would link that concept withthe name of Edmund Burke, whose virtues are not ordinarily associated with...
6 Idioms of Prudence in Three Antebellum Controversies: Revolution, Constitution, and Slavery
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Recent studies by Eugene Garver, Victoria Kahn, Michael Leff, and others suggest that a richer understanding of, and a renewed appreciation for, the possibilities of both rhetorical practice and prudential action can be developed by engaging practical discursive performances through a particular method of interpretive analysis. Dilip Gaonkar summarizes this hermeneutic...
7 Fanny Wright and the Enforcing of Prudence: Women, Propriety, and Transgression in Nineteenth-Century Public Oratory of the United States
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As evidenced throughout this volume, the concept of prudence is experiencing an enthusiastic revival. After many years of neglect and distortion, the term is recovering some of its more useful and relevant connotations through the work of postmodern scholars. These connotations—of reasonableness, civic virtue, and practicality—were originally bestowed upon prudence by...
III. Provisional Networks
8 Prudence as Republican Politics in American Popular Culture
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As a tradition, prudence needs practical substance. Hence it needs specific theories far more than it needs abstract philosophies or epistemic metatheories. Prudential judgment must stay sensitive to the vagaries of particular, changing situations. The challenge for theorists is to provide general yet substantive accounts. Thus late-modern theorists of prudence react against...
9 Lyotard’s Postmodern Prudence
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While there might be considerable disagreement regarding the validity of claims regarding the “postmodern” character of the contemporary age, one cannot doubt that there is a growing disenchantment within both philosophy and contemporary culture with modernity and its legacy. We find ourselves with reason and freedom, but without a basis for practical life. The current...
10 Prudence in the Twenty-First Century
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Like other large-scale modernist projects—the Soviet Union, Los Angeles, agribusiness—the human sciences now face the possibility of systemic collapse. Likewise, they are threatened not by other large-scale competitors but by smaller yet pervasive changes in the social environment. Big science is no threat, while cell phones and laser eye surgery lead the way to a cyborg...
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Page Count: 352
Publication Year: 2004