On Friday, September 16, 2011, The Institute of World Politics celebrated Constitution Day with a lecture on “Prudence, Constitutions, and the U.S. Constitution” with Dr. David Klocek, Professor of Political Science at IWP.
Dr. Klocek spoke about the relationship between prudence and the attainment of the good, particularly in the political sphere. He explained that prudence is the judgment of how to attain the good when it is not necessarily apparent, and therefore a good understanding of reality is necessary for the virtue of prudence.
He explained that Aristotle noted that there can be a very appropriate role for common people in the political sphere, especially so that they do not become enemies of the regime. Aristotle, though, did not think that this role of the people required a large degree of prudence.
In the United States, all citizens have the opportunity to participate in the political system and to exercise prudence. Our founders, Dr. Klocek noted, recognized that people will not always be good or prudent, and therefore included aspects like the separation of powers. In our system, it is difficult to make changes, but it is easy to stymie them.
Furthermore, the American founders recognized the importance of education and religion in contributing to prudence in the population. The lack of national state religion in America allows religion to be closer to the people, and allows them to develop a sense of morality and of something higher, and ultimately to develop greater prudence. America also has a lively educational system, which Dr. Klocek explained contributes to prudence.
He ended his lecture by noting the vital importance of prudence in the American system of government, and by quoting Benjamin Franklin’s response to a question about what sort of government the Constitution was bringing into existence: “A republic, if you can keep it.”
Questions covered subjects such as the assimilation of a variety of moral and religious traditions into American political life; Dr. Klocek’s view on the revival of Constitutionalism, especially as embodied in the Tea Party movement; and how the 24-hour news cycle affects the development of prudence.
Dr. Klocek’s lecture marked the third anniversary of IWP’s commemoration of Constitution Day.