Volume 35, Issue 1, Spring/Summer 2015
Presence of Mind
Thomistic Prudence and Contemporary Mindfulness Practices
Prudence, for Thomas Aquinas, is an intellectual virtue that requires coincident moral virtue for its sustainability. As such, prudence displays a way of living in which intellect, desire, and emotion are harmoniously integrated. This account resonates strongly with the aims of mindfulness practices within contemporary psychology and with the "interpersonal neurobiology" of Daniel Siegel, for whom health is understood as a context-responsive and narrative integration of cognition, emotion, and embodied experience that promotes and allows for stable self-identity and fulfilling interpersonal relationships. Similarly, prudence for Aquinas is an integrative virtue, integrating intellect and will, theory and context, action and agent, reason and emotion, past and future, the individual and his or her community, and the proximate and ultimate ends of human life. Contemporary mindfulness practices are at their best a school for prudence, and thus they shed an interesting light on Aquinas's account. In turn, Aquinas's account of prudence offers theological parameters for Christian participation in contemporary mindfulness practices.