By many, Prudence, that is, good, judgment or wisdom, is well asserted to be a Moral Virtue. But Aristotle numbers that amongst the Intellectual Virtues, although it is the guide of the moral, and points out the way by which they are formed, and without it they could not be. Verily, it is to be known that we can have in this life two happinesses or felicities by following two different roads, both good and excellent, which lead us to them: the one is the Active Life and the other is the Contemplative Life, which (although by the Active Life one may attain, as has been said, to a good state of Happiness) leads us to supreme Happiness, even as the Philosopher proves in the tenth book of the Ethics; and Christ affirms it with His own Lips in the Gospel of Luke, speaking to Martha, when replying to her: “Martha, Martha, thou art anxious and troubled about many things: verily, one thing alone is needful,” meaning, that which thou hast in hand; and He adds: “Mary has chosen the better part, which shall not be taken away from her.” And Mary, according to that which is previously written in the Gospel, sitting at the feet of Christ, showed no care for the service of the house, but listened only to the words of the Saviour.
For if we will explain this in the moral sense, our Lord wished to show thereby that the Contemplative Life was supremely good, although the Active Life might be good; this is evident to him who will give his mind to the words of the Gospel.
It would be possible, however, for any one to say, in argument against me: Since the happiness of the Contemplative Life is more excellent than that of the Active Life, and both may be, and are, the fruit and end of Nobility, why not rather have proceeded in the argument along the line of the Intellectual Virtues than of the Moral? To this it is possible to reply briefly, that in all instruction it is desirable to have regard to the capability of the learner, and to lead him by that path which is easiest to him. Wherefore, since the Moral Virtues appear to be, and are, more general and more required than the others, and are more seen in outward appearances, it was more convenient and more useful to proceed along that path than by the other; for thus indeed we shall attain to the knowledge of the bees by arguing of profit from the wax, as well as by arguing of profit from the honey, for both the one and the other proceed from them.
In the preceding chapter has been determined how each Moral Virtue comes from one root, or first principle, that is, a good habit of choice; and the present text bears upon that, until the part which begins: “Nobility by right.” In this part, then, it proceeds, by a way that is allowable, to teach that each Virtue mentioned above, taken singly, or otherwise generally, proceeds from Nobility as an effect from its cause, and it is founded upon a philosophical