P. 1
Routledge - Philosophy GuideBook to Aristotle on Ethics

Routledge - Philosophy GuideBook to Aristotle on Ethics

|Views: 47|Likes:
Published by Gabriela Florea

More info:

Published by: Gabriela Florea on Feb 04, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

Availability:

Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd
See more
See less

11/25/2014

pdf

text

original

In contrast to the moral virtues, Aristotle considers two virtues which
we can come to possess precisely as thinking beings, and which are
distinguished by the subject-matter we think about. The ability to think
well about scientific subjects he calls sophia; the habit of being good
at thinking about practical matters he calls phrone¯sis.1

It is this latter,
‘practical wisdom’ as the usual translation goes, which concerns us
now. The person who has practical wisdom has a good moral judge-
ment.

The differences between scientific and practical thinking are
sketched out in VI, 1. In the case of the sciences, says Aristotle, we
think about things which either happen inevitably, or inevitably remain
the way they are: for example, the changes in the heavens, or the nature
of God, or the principles of metaphysics, or medical science. The aim
of theoretical thinking is to arrive at a correct understanding of why
things are as they are. By contrast, practical thinking is concerned with
what we can do to change things, and why we might decide to act in
one way rather than another. So we must ask, what does it take to be
good at thinking about what to do? Aristotle’s most general answer
to this is that it takes orthos logos. This phrase could be translated as
‘right reason’, or ‘correct thinking’. Either way, though, it might not
seem particularly helpful to be told that in order to be good at prac-
tical thinking one needs to have correct thinking. As Aristotle himself
puts it:

While this statement is true, it is not at all clear. In all the other
areas which are objects of knowledge, one can no doubt say that
we must do neither too much nor too little, but just the inter-
mediate amount which correct thinking requires. But to be told
only that would leave one none the wiser. For example, what
medicines should we apply to our body? It would be no help to
be told to apply those ones which medical science prescribes, in

PRACTICAL WISDOM

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37

Folio

87

1

At least, this is how he finally speaks of them, at the end of VI, 11, 1143b14–17,
and in VI, 12. Earlier, he gives a list of five such virtues, perhaps taken from
Plato. He probably thinks they can be grouped under the two main headings with
which he ends up.

the way in which the physician would apply them. Just so, it is
not enough just to make this correct statement about the habitual
dispositions of the soul; we must go on to determine what the
nature and the limits of correct thinking are.

(VI, 1, 1138b25–34)

Sometimes, the word I have translated as ‘limits’ is translated
‘definition’. But the reader who searches through the rest of Book VI
will certainly not find a definitionof orthos logos. What Aristotle tries
to do is to build up gradually a picture of the factors which contribute
to thinking well about practical matters, by showing how practical
thinking is related to theoretical thinking, to the practical skill of a
craftsman, and to the moral virtues.

You're Reading a Free Preview

Download
scribd
/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->