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A Political Philosophy of Conservatism Prudence, Moderation and Tradition Ferenc Hörcher

Bringing prudence back into the centre of political philosophical discussion, this book assesses how far the Aristotelian notion can be of use in thinking about politics today. Antique, medieval and early modern discussions on practical wisdom are reconstructed and re-contextualised to show not only how our understanding of the virtue of ‘prudence’ has changed over time, but why it should be revived.

Starting with basic Aristotelian principles, such as the relevance of cooperation and politics in human life, the significance of the virtues and character-formation for political actors, and the personal and communal resources of right action in politics, Ferenc Hörcher offers an evolutionary history of the concept of prudence. Moving on to incorporate the developments of the Roman and the Christian traditions, a contemporary conservative-republican political philosophy is built up. Special attention is given to the relevance of local customs and traditions as well as participation, compromise and moderation in political activity.

The book demonstrates that Aristotelian notions should be used to describe the actions and speeches of people active in politics, without losing sight of the normative dimension. In doing so, it presents an original argument which is both different from mainstream contemporary political philosophy and beneficial to our understanding of the role of practical reason in politics.

Table of contents

Introduction: Prudence and conservatism
Part One: Prudence in history
1. Ancient and Christian traditions of prudence
2. Renaissance and early modern prudentia
3. Late modern prudentia
Conclusion of Part One
Part Two: Prudence in conservative philosophy
Preliminary remarks
4. Agency-constraint
5. Time-constraint
6. Knowledge-constraint
7. The prudent individual’s resources: Virtues and character
8. The prudent community’s resources: Tradition and political culture
9. How to find the proper action in politics
Summary: A conservative political philosophy of prudence
Index of Names
Index of Subjects


“Hörcher poses the catchy question, which has been examined by a number of major conservative thinkers of the past, including Nisbet, Kirk and others: is conservatism an ideology or is it not? … Hörcher’s book is a valuable piece added to the huge and magnificent mosaic, which helps to map the philosophical roots of conservatism.” –  Hungarian Review

“In this wise and timely book, Ferenc Hörcher calls for a new approach to politics based on the Aristotelian virtue of prudence. In contrast to forms of conservatism that aim at maximizing economic freedom or that buttress national ambitions with amoral realism, Hörcher’s conservatism focuses on the need for rulers and citizens to cultivate practical wisdom-a wisdom to be discovered above all in the study of history and the Western tradition of prudent statecraft. He urges the rebuilding of politics in a way that would restore a proper sense of the constraints imposed by our cultural traditions and by the human condition more generally. Required reading for anyone disturbed by the collapse of statesmanship in the contemporary world.” –  James Hankins, Professor of History, Harvard University, USA

Ferenc Hörcher is Head of the Research Institute of Politics and Government of the National University of Public Service, Hungary, and a Senior Research Fellow of the Institute of Philosophy of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Hungary. He is member of the editorial board of Politeja, Journal of the Faculty of International and Political Studies of the Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland and Hungarian Review.


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