Cardinal Virtues in Sport: Prudentia
Cardinal virtues present one of the oldest anthropological theories and ethical systems in the western philosophical tradition. Among other great ancient philosophers, Plato talked about four main virtues: prudence (practical wisdom), justice, fortitude (courage), and temperance (moderation). As these virtues are not arbitrary, but instead correspond to some fundamental characteristics of human beings, they are not only useful for moral decision-making, but they also present an original anthropological theory. This paper focuses on the role of prudence in sports. Prudence has two aspects: it is a) cognitive, and b) decision-making. Perceptively it is turned toward reality, “imperatively” toward volition and action. As such, it is a fundamental virtue in sports practices. First of all, its role is in the cognition of the specific situations an athlete is in. In addition, it gives instructions as to how to respond to them. Prudence directed into the cognition of reality involves two main elements, namely memoria and docilitas. The role of memoria consists in developing and enriching special motor memory from past experiences, and so it is one of the goals of any practice of technical elements. Docilitas is the kind of open-mindedness which recognizes the true variety of things and situations to be experienced and does not cage itself in any presumption of deceptive knowledge. As such, it can be recognized in the concept of sports as “knowledge-gaining activity”. The other aspect of prudence is directed towards deciding what actions to take. With solertia, the athlete can swiftly, but with open eyes and clear-sighted vision, decide to do something good in a concrete situation. The second element is providentia (foresight), meaning the capacity to estimate with a sure instinct for the future whether or not a particular action will lead to the realization of a goal. This is demanded of all sports, especially competitive sports, where the deciding factor between top and average athletes is often not physical or technical abilities but the intellectual capacity (or tactics) to foresee what is going to happen on the field in the next few moments.
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