Adam Smith's Simplified Theory of Moral Sentiments, Part 6, Section 1: Prudence

Prudence - The Individual's Character, so far as it affects his own Happiness


1We naturally view an individual's character under two aspects:

  1. As it may affect his own happiness
  2. As it may affect the happiness of other people

2 Nature first recommends the body's preservation and healthful state to every individual's care


3 As he grows up, he soon learns that some care and foresight are necessary for:

The art of preserving and increasing his external fortune is in the proper direction of this care and foresight.

>4 The advantages of external fortune are originally recommended to us to supply the body's necessities and conveniencies.


5 Our rank and credit among our equals depend very much on:


6 His comfort and happiness in this life are supposed principally to depend on the care of the individual's:

These objects are the proper business of Prudence.


7We suffer more when we fall from a better to a worse situation, than we ever enjoy when we rise from a worse to a better.


8 The prudent man always studies seriously to understand whatever he professes to understand.


9 The prudent man is always sincere.

10 The prudent man is not always distinguished by the most exquisite sensibility.


11 His conversation might not always be very sprightly or diverting.


12 The prudent man is always supported and rewarded by the entire approbation of:

13 The man who lives within his income is naturally contented with his own situation.


14 The prudent man is not willing to subject himself to any responsibility which his duty does not impose on him.


15 In short, prudence is regarded as a most respectable, and even amiable and agreeable quality, when it is directed merely to the care of the individual's health, fortune, rank and reputation.

16 Wise and judicious conduct is properly called prudence when it directed to greater and nobler purposes than the care of the individual's health, fortune, rank and reputation.

17 Mere imprudence is the mere lack of the capacity to take care of oneself.

However, mere imprudence aggravates most its infamy and disgrace when combined with other vices.

In countries where great crimes frequently pass unpunished, the most atrocious actions become almost familiar.

Caesar Borgia

In Italy, during most of the 16th century, assassinations, murders, and even murders under trust, were almost familiar among the superior ranks of people.

Niccolo Machiavelli

Machiavelli did not have the nicest morality even for his own times.

The violence and injustice of great conquerors are often regarded with foolish wonder and admiration.