Phronesis and virtue in nicomachean ethics

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2024-05

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Wolt, Daniel

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Bilkent University

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English

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Abstract

Phronesis is the intellectual virtue of deliberating well regarding human goods. Aristotle introduces a biconditional requirement between phronesis and moral virtue; one cannot be present without the other. It seems puzzling, considering that they are different types of virtues with different tasks and acquisition processes. Therefore, a proper, detailed account of phronesis should be in accordance with what Aristotle directly says about phronesis and should shed light on the biconditional requirement. One attempt to understand phronesis is to form a parallelism between techne (art, skill, craft) and phronesis. This model attributes phronesis to power to an intellectual grasp of goodness, causal justifications, and ethical principles that underlie our actions. I argue that even though the technical conception of phronesis seems sufficient to explain why virtue requires phronesis, it fails to explain why phronesis requires virtue. Therefore, I suggest forming an analogy between empeiria (experience, knack) and phronesis that can explain both parts of the biconditional. In this empirical understanding, phronesis can be defined as an ethically significant intellectual virtue not based on cognitively high-powered reasoning but on everyday easoning equipped with experience, memory, and observation. Accordingly, I argue that the empirical conception of phronesis forms a unified dispositional state with the virtue of character for two reasons. Firstly, it weakens the strict division of labor between virtue and phronesis concerning ends and the things toward ends. Moreover, since the acquisition processes of virtue and the empirical conception of phronesis become intertwined, it seems more plausible to identify them as integrated parts of one dispositional state rather than two distinct cooperating states.

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