Is intelligence a virtue


The wisdom (lat .: prudentia) is one of the four cardinal virtues.

Wisdom gives the right direction to human reason. It enables people to recognize what is good and to take the right means to achieve good. She thereby becomes the guide of all virtues, because the knowledge of what is good is a basic requirement for all correct action.

Wisdom helps to make the correct judgment of conscience. The wise man orders his behavior according to this judgment.

Through prudence, a person correctly applies moral principles to the concrete situation and overcomes doubts about the good to do and the evil to refrain.


A prerequisite for cleverness is the right education and the most objective, appropriate and unprejudiced use of reason.

Cleverness is not to be confused with "intelligence". Particularly in the case of particularly intelligent people, there is also the risk that intelligence is used to find the best possible excuses for one's own wrong behavior, and thus to act largely unwise. special intelligence is therefore not a prerequisite for prudence.


As a consequence of the fall of man, the human capacity for knowledge is severely restricted, especially with regard to the knowledge of God and the knowledge of morally good. As a result, of course, the virtue of prudence also suffers.

In order to get the right education, we are to a great extent dependent on the people around us. Wrong advice can very easily and possibly completely innocently deprive people of the possibility of the right education.

The greatest enemies of prudence, however, are usually one's own disordered passions, which can severely restrict our will for objective self-knowledge, since otherwise painful changes in behavior would be necessary.

Cleverness and relativism

In the current era of ethical relativism, prudence is a particularly unpopular virtue. Cleverness also means that before you get into a certain situation, you think fundamentally about how you should act in such a situation. Fundamental thoughts, however, presuppose that there are also fundamental ethical norms to which one should orient oneself, and that is precisely what relativism disputes. A "virtue ethics" based on prudence is thus rejected in relativism. What remains is a so-called "situation ethic" in which the person, thrown into a situation unprepared, has to decide spontaneously "from the gut" what to do. This leads to highly unwise behavior, especially in the moral field, and does not really deserve the label "ethics".


  • Thomas Aquinas: Summa theologica. The German Thomas edition, Latin-German, St II-II 34 - 56, Volume 17B: Die Liebe (2nd part) Klugheit, joint publisher Kerle Heidelberg and Styria Graz-Vienna-Cologne 1966 (Imprimatur Bisch√∂fliches Ordinariat Graz-Seckau on May 12, 1966, Zl .14, Ap. 188-66).
  • Catechism of the Catholic Church, section 1806.
  • Josef Pieper: treatise on cleverness, Hegner, Leipzig 1937; latest edition: anthology "About the virtues", 2nd edition, K√∂sel, Munich 2008. ISBN 9783466401727