Meaning of Cardinal Virtues

What are the Cardinal Virtues:

The cardinal virtues, also called moral virtues, are those virtues that are essential for human relationships and social order. They get their name from the Latin word "thistle", which means main or fundamental. Thus, it is understood that the cardinal virtues are those main and fundamental values.

These virtues, also associated with the theological virtues, are a point of reference for the orientation of the conduct of the person towards a full humanization, as well as towards the construction of a more just and healthy society.

The cardinal virtues are prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance. They are complemented by the theological virtues, which are faith, hope and charity.

It is also said that the cardinal virtues are a response to the wounds caused in the human being by sin. Thus, each of them corresponds to the healing of a particular element. Let us now look at each of the cardinal virtues separately.


Prudence is a virtue whose purpose is to amend or heal ignorance of understanding. Prudence is the ability to reflect before speaking or acting, as well as to evaluate the appropriate way and means to intervene in a situation.

It implies, therefore, the sense of opportunity, that is, to judge when is the right moment to act or speak.

The practice of prudence implies following at least three essential elements, which are: think maturely, decide wisely and act for the good. All this implies a process of continuous reflection.


Justice is a virtue that arises to counter malice of will. Thus, justice is understood as the manifest will of a person that each person receives what they deserve and is fair, that is, that each person receives what is due.

Therefore, the just respects the acquired rights of the other. For example, the just respects the right of property as well as the right of fame and the honor of others. Likewise, the just respects the authority that corresponds to each one according to the role they fulfill. The just respect the authority of parents towards children, for example.

See also Justice.


Strength is the virtue that is opposed to weakness. It is about the virtue of having the strength to fight for the difficult good, that is, for those constructive goals or noble principles that require effort. Likewise, fortitude helps a person to moderate their boldness when it is excessive.

Fortitude implies acting in two ways: attacking and resisting. Attacking refers to taking immediate action to conquer what is desired. Along with this, it is necessary to resist hopelessness and fear. For this, it is necessary that the person also have a path in self-knowledge.

See also Fortress.


Temperance is a response to the disorder of lust. It is about the virtue of restraining disorderly appetites, as well as the temptations of the senses. For this, the person puts the use of reason first. Through rational exercise, the person achieves control of his passions to preserve the common good.

The means of temperance are abstinence, sobriety, chastity, and continence. Other virtues that usually accompany temperance are humility and meekness.

See also Temperance.

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