Guide to Literary Terms

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Can a naive or gullible person be considered as lacking prudence?

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Prudence is the virtue of using reason and logic over emotional response.  While the word is most often connected with actions driven by lust or desire over reasonable decision-making, it can also be applied to any actions in which logic does not prevail against irrational or intuitive behavior.  In the case of naivete, the imprudence come form an over-reliance on what is being promised or claimed, without requiring proof, evidence, etc.; gullible people are imprudent when they fail to verify with reason the information they are given, but react instead with an emotional need to believe.  Prudence gives much power to Man’s ability to reason, and little power to such human responses as intuition or faith. Western culture particularly, gives more power to reason than to emotion or intuition.  In literature,  the absence of prudence is often the human flaw, the psychological element  that drives the complications of the plot forward, and brings complexities to the unveiling of character. Examples in Shakespeare:  Macbeth is imprudent when he takes the witches' prophecies at face value without suspecting equivocation.  On the other hand, Hamlet is prudent when he demands more proof about his father's death than just the ghost.  Prince Hal is imprudent in his youth, but prudent when he separates himself from Falstaff. So one can say that someone who is naive or gullible lacks prudence.  

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