Aristotelian practical wisdom in perspective
Open seminar by Pål Gilbert, lecturer in Greek, IFIKK. All students (esp. all freshers), staff members and other guests are warmly welcome.
The human disposition which Aristotle calls phronēsis is essential to his picture of living well, being good and acting properly. Commonly translated as 'practical wisdom' and succinctly describable as the ability to deliberate well on practical matters, phronēsis might appear an easily understandable and even – as so often with Aristotle – a common-sense notion. Still, difficulties of both text and substance abound once the surface is removed. In particular the relationship between phronēsis as an intellectual disposition and the so-called 'virtue of character' is intimate to the point of obscurity, phronēsis defining the mean which is virtue of character, while virtue of character provides the end with a view to which phronēsis supplies excellent deliberation. The distinct and proper function of phronēsis, its status both as an 'intellectual' and a broadly considered 'ethical' trait, remain controversial issues.
In my talk my ambition is not to put the matter to rest, but I will attempt to approach the Aristotelian account by first considering some of the different ways the term is used in earlier literature, not only the noun, but more importantly the verb phronein. I will conclude by giving a reading of what I consider the main features of phronēsis in Aristotle's account in the Nicomachean Ethics. πολλῷ τὸ φρονεῖν εὐδαιμονίας πρῶτον ὑπάρχει.