Preview Response

Virtues / Medicine

Connie Svob

Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychology (in Psychiatry), Columbia University

Research Scientist, Research Foundation for Mental Hygiene, Columbia University Irving Medical Center


Dr. Herdt has provided an excellent rudimentary overview of the virtues. In my particular field of memory and cognitive psychology, the intellectual virtues indeed deserve greater attention. I would like to suggest that the cultivation of some virtues (e.g., prudence) may operate through the intellect. Thomas Aquinas suggests the two cognitive faculties upon which prudence relies are (1) remembrance of the past and (2) understanding of the present.1 That is, basic human cognitive processes, such as memory and decision-making, may eventually culminate in intellect (i.e., an integrated form of knowledge). The intellect may then be further refined by being put into practice through the addition of a moral component, resulting in prudence – which, in its highest form, is wisdom directed through right action. The cultivation and practice of prudence may then help direct individuals to their ultimate end in God. By better understanding basic human cognitive processes, we may discover more about virtue formation and its ultimate effects.

1 Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I.22.1.