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The Four Cardinal Virtues

4.45  ·  Rating details ·  506 ratings  ·  26 reviews
In The Four Cardinal Virtues, Josef Pieper delivers a stimulating quartet of essays on the four cardinal virtues. He demonstrates the unsound overvaluation of moderation that has made contemporary morality a hollow convention and points out the true significance of the Christian virtues.

Translations originally published as three books: Fortitude and Temperance translated b
Paperback, 208 pages
Published March 31st 1990 by University of Notre Dame Press (first published 1959)
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Nikola Gajdošová Hi Ben! Pieper writes in a christian tradition so it doesn´t matter what religion you are. I´m a lutheran protestant and I´ve read it. Four cardinal v…moreHi Ben! Pieper writes in a christian tradition so it doesn´t matter what religion you are. I´m a lutheran protestant and I´ve read it. Four cardinal virtues are based on our knowledge of higher good - God. It´s worth reading it if you´re interested in moral philosophy, conscience and virtuous life. :) (less)

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Mar 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This book contains four separate sections, one on each of the cardinal virtues. In each of these, Pieper takes a look at the virtue as defined, or often mis-defined by the contemporary world and he contrasts this with how the Church in general and St. Thomas in particular understand that given virtue. What emerges is a picture of true humanity. Often what the world offers us is appealing but insufficient, God calls us to go deeper and strive to reach higher, and in return He promises us true joy ...more
Jun 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is one of those books I will go back to again and again. It takes concentration to read, but is so worth it. The part on temperance is especially powerful.

Highly recommended.
Jul 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Perhaps the best book I have ever read on virtue, and perhaps relatedly, the best defense of the unity of the virtues thesis I have ever encountered.

Michael Philliber
Sep 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
While camping with my wife in Oregon I finally finished this classic work. Pieper addresses the four classic, constitutional, crucial or cardinal virtues: Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance. As he unpacks each virtue the author channels Thomas Aquinas (and some Augustine). And yet he doesn’t simply parrot this Medieval theologian. He takes up what Aquinas gives, works with it, and adds his own thoughtful flavor to the dish.

Though Pieper was a Catholic thinker, and the material assumes
Father Nick
This book was a significant resource for me as I crafted a series of podcast episodes on the virtues to a college audience. It was a great blessing for me to come across this book, since it anchored my own reflections with such challenging depth. Pieper does a great service to his reader by not only articulating the basic definitions of virtue, but then situating them within a wider understanding of the human person and human activity that frequently imposes need to set the book down and meditat ...more
Jul 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: christian-books
This book is one of those that was not read in one or two or even 20 sittings ! It takes thoughtful time ... but is so well worth the patient biting off the pieces and chewing slowly ! There is so much to be gleaned.
Wes Dessonville
Dec 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
In his book The Four Cardinal Virtues, Josef Pieper lays a critical foundation for the understanding of the cardinal virtues as seen through the thought of Thomas Aquinas. Pieper lays out very directly where he is going in his Thomistic explanation of the cardinal virtues and the moral life. In his treatise of prudence, for example, Pieper explains the primacy of prudence in relation to the moral virtues and the ethics of man. Prudence has to be primary because that is what the moral life (and s ...more
Nov 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
"The man who recklessly and indiscriminately courts any kind of danger is not...brave; all he proves is that, without preliminary examination or distinction, he considers all things more valuable than the personal intactness which he risks for their sake. The nature of fortitude is not determined by risking one's person arbitrarily, but only by sacrifice of self in accordance with reason...Genuine fortitude presupposes a correct evaluation of things, of the things that one risks as well as of th ...more
Dec 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a must read for any Christian who wants to grow in holiness. We often neglect the concept of virtue. Many have not heard of the four cardinal virtues: Prudence (right judgment), Justice (giving the other what is due to them, most specifically due to them as human persons), Fortitude (the strength to do the good), and Temperance (keeping the natural desires of man in right propriety, displaying the real beauty of keeping oneself in line with reality). When developed and lived these C ...more
Aug 02, 2011 rated it liked it
This book is like a steady diet of steamed vegetables, jogging, and doctors visits. It's a lot of work to get through, but it's a tremendous spiritual workout and helps draw many complex theological ideas together. A confessor had me read it for a penance, and that's really the perfect analogy for the book. ...more
Recommended by James Schall in Another Sort of Learning, Intro to Part Three, as one of Fourteen Books by Josef Pieper.

Included in the "Catholicism Explained/Theology" section of Fr. John McCloskey's 100-book Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan.
Aug 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
Virtue has become a buzzy concept in certain circles. In fact, I set myself a goal of finishing this book as a foundation to reading Guroian's "Tending the Heart of Virtue" this year. Pieper does provide an excellent foundation for how to think about virtue in an age of shifting and increasingly demanding moral standards (that are often at odds with each other. In his time, and more so in ours, these four virtues have become empty concepts to us, overly familiar or misunderstood. Prudence, Justi ...more
Michael Ratnapalan
Jan 30, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I am not going out on a limb here by saying that this is one of the best books I have read. It is filled with wisdom and sound judgement. Such books are rare and take time to digest.
Austin Hoffman
Nov 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Really helpful for understanding the four cardinal virtues from a Christian perspective. Pieper is steeped in Thomas and is a terse writer. He is also Roman Catholic, so the Protestant reader will reject some of his conclusions and arguments, but should still benefit greatly from this book.

Pieper is also a technical writer, so there were a number of spots where I lost track of his argument or simply didn't know what he was talking about. He often includes Latin phrases without translation, so t
Oct 24, 2012 added it
I appreciated Pieper's reflections on the four cardinal virtues. Each chapter is richly thoughtful and articulate, fleshing out the virtues in a way that both deepens understanding and challenges one's living.
I used this book, as well as Pieper's book on the three theological virtues (faith, hope, love) as the backbone for a series of sermons on the seven virtues. Throughout the series, I was continually thankful for this resource.
Justin Dillehay
Jan 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Pieper unpacks the meaning of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. It's a demanding book--one that demanded my full attention (and sometimes the rereading of an entire page). But it's also rewarding and insightful. I found myself over and over again thinking, "Wow, I've never thought of it like that!" ...more
Patrick Riviere
Jan 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book. It honestly transformed my view and understanding of the four cardinal virtues. Definitely recommended - it is a bit of a higher-level read but definitely enjoyable
Mary Gaudette
Aug 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Pieper is always perfect. Just read it.
Paul Bard
May 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Four not-very-practical essays on the four virtues. Sometimes fascinating, sometimes boring. Pieper takes too many pages to define all the many false, excessive and deficient forms of a virtue. He really wants you to be sure what that virtue is, which is nice, but when that means also defining everything that that virtue is NOT then it is boring.

Pieper makes a tiresome fuss about how intellectually poor the moderns are. But Pieper's moderns died decades ago and barbarians have since wrecked acad
Ben Smitthimedhin
Jun 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
A fascinating defense of the cardinal virtues. Drawing heavily from Thomistic thought, Pieper shows that these virtues are grounded in objective good. Thus, prudence, for example, is not just being street smart -- it is realizing the objective good and acting accordingly. One of the most helpful ideas that Pieper taught me is that the post-enlightenment understanding of reason is flawed. Contemporary philosophers and psychologists (Haidt, for example) will pit reason against emotions, seeing rea ...more
Pablo Galiana
Esta obra se pueden encontrar, tanto en alemán, como en las traducciones a diversos idiomas, en libros separados sobre cada virtud, o en un solo volumen. En conjunto presentan una explicación muy sugerente de los aspectos principales de las virtudes teologales y morales, y abre horizontes ayudando a descubrir la profundidad y coherencia de la vida cristiana. Sigue a Santo Tomás, aunque a veces con interpretaciones personales no compartidas por otros buenos autores tomistas. Lectura muy útil para ...more
Dec 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Estamos ante un libro que recoge varias monografías sobre las virtudes cardinales y teologales enfocadas desde la ética y la antropología, principalmente. El autor es un buen conocedor de la obra de Santo Tomás de Aquino y San Agustín, entre otros, lo que le sirve para fundamentar e iluminar sus reflexiones. Se trata de un estudio denso, pero enriquecedor. Por otro lado, el lenguaje que emplea Josef Pieper es muy accesible. Buen libro.
Jul 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Not how to act, but how to think about how to act.
Dec 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Best book I've ever read. ...more
A challenging, but extremely illuminating book that I will return to many times in the future.
Mary Jee
Sep 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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Josef Pieper was professor of philosophical anthropology at the University of Münster/Germany; he was a member of several academies and received numerous awards and distinctions, among them the International Balzan Prize for outstanding achievements in the field of humanities.

Pieper is among the most widely read philosophers of the 20th century. The main focus of his thought is the overcoming of c

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63 likes · 20 comments
“If in this supreme test, in face of which the braggart falls silent and every heroic gesture is paralyzed, a man walks straight up to the cause of his fear and is not deterred from doing that which is good -- which ultimately means for the sake of God, and therefore not from ambition or from fear of being taken for a coward -- this man, and he alone, is truly brave.” 4 likes
“To be just meaans to recognize the other as other; it means to give acknowledgment even where one cannot love... A just man is just, therefore, because he sanctions another person in his very separateness and helps him to receive his due.” 4 likes
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