(PDF) Kirkland, Sean - The Temporality of Phronesis in the Nicomachean Ethics.pdf - DOKUMEN.TIPS (2023)

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    The Temporality of Phronsis in the Nicomachean Ethics Sean D.Kirkland DePaul University

    For measuring the indefinite, even the measuring rod must beindefinite.

    Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics1 Introduction In the first book ofPlatos Republic, Socrates tells us that he and his interlocutorsare attempting to determine the way of life as a whole, in thepassing of which our lives would most fully accomplish their end(R. I.344d-e). Much later, we learn that this properly good life isthat of the dialectician, one who is able to distinguish through alogos the idea of the good from everything else[For one who isunable to do so]doesnt know the good itself or any other good. Andif he gets hold of some image of it, youll say that he does so viaopinion, not via knowledge [] (R. VI.534b-c). For Plato, here atleast, it seems that to live well, one would ideally base onesethical decisions on epistm or scientific knowledge, therebygrounding them in an argument-based intellectual grasp of the Ideaof the Good itself.

    It is in part this aspect of Platonic ethical judgment, whetheror not it truly captures the complex portrait of human life foundin Platos dialogues,2 that leads Aristotle to bring a charge ofintellectualism against Platonic ethics.3 That is, Aristotleattacks not only the role of the abstract and general idea of theGood as such in Plato, but also what he sees as an attempt toground ethical judgment solely in epistm. Indeed, it is onprecisely this point that Aristotle seems to see himself in hisethical treatises as departing most radically from Plato.4

    I would like to thank W. McNeill and R. Lee, as well as R.Polansky and the two anonymous referees at Ancient Philosophy, fortheir extremely helpful comments and suggestions on the first draftof this essay. 1 All translations from the Greek are my own. 2Although the model for ethical judgment presented in PlatosRepublic may well be grounded solidly in epistm, in the apparentlybipartite psychology of the Laws we find a recognition of thenecessary fusion of the cognitive or epistemic and non-cognitive oremotional elements in ethical behavior (Laws 644c-647e). Andindeed, it might even be said that there is a strain of thisnon-intellectualist realism detectable already in the Republicspresentation of the role of pre-cognitive habituation in moraleducation (R. 401d-402a). On this, cf. Gill 2003. Thecharacterization in the main text above is nonetheless wholly truewith respect to Platonic ethical theory as Aristotle understands itin his criticism of Plato and from which he sees himself to bedeparting. 3 Aristotles presentation of ethics often enters intoexplicit and implicit dialogue with Plato. For Aristotlesinterpretation of Platos conception of the Good itself, seeespecially EN 1096a12-1097a13 and EE 1216b2-1218b26; and on therole of epistm as related to the issue of akrasia or weakness ofwill, see EN 1147b9-19 and 1113b4-1115a3. On the teaching of theIdeas in this respect, see not only EN 1096a12-23, but also Met.991a12-b2. Finally, Aristotles criticism of Socrates even in theMagna Moralia is that he used to make the virtues sciences [], andthis is impossible (MM 1182a16-7). With regard to Plato here (MM1182a24-1183b8), Aristotle attacks the Good as an absoluteontological principle misapplied to ethics and makes a puzzlingcomment concerning the absence of any commonality between the truthof things and virtue. For a solid discussion of the relationship ofAristotles ethics to Socratic and Platonic ethics, cf. Guthrie1981, 338-339, 359-360. 4 This is apparent even in Aristotlessystematically distinguishing the practical region of humanunderstanding, in which ethics and politics are situated, from thetheoretical. Cf. Met. 1025b25 for the tri-

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    To be sure, in the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle puts forth aconception of ethical life and decision-making according to whichepistm is no longer the requisite dunamis or enabling power. Hewrites,

    The function [] of a human being is well-accomplished inaccordance with phronsis and ethical virtue [ ]; virtue makes theaim right, and phronsis the means to the aim (EN 1144a6-9).

    Neither of these two essential components for living truly wellas a human being seems to entail any kind of ethical epistm.Ethical virtue is strictly a matter of character, not intellect,and Aristotle tells us quite directly of phronsis, usuallytranslated as prudence or practical wisdom, that it is notknowledge [ ], for it is concerned with the ultimate particular [],the thing that has to be done [in any given situation] being of aparticular character (EN 1142a23-5).5 We must trace theimplications of this definition. For Aristotle, epistm is a way ofconceiving universals (EN 1140b31-2), the Greek here translated asuniversals being ta katholou, meaning literally the thingsaccording to the whole. Refining the literal sense of this phraseinto a technical term, Aristotle writes in the Posterior Analytics,the universal is not this or now, or it would not be universal, aterm which we apply to what is always and everywhere [ ] (An. Post.87b32-34).6 An epistemic conception of ethical judgment, then,would be grounded in a grasp of universals in Aristotles technicalsensethat is, not just principles taken to be generally applicable,but absolutes that are secured by epistm as actually everywhere andalways the same, and thus atemporal.7 However, Aristotle tells usabove that phronsis attends principally to the particular availablemeans, which are within time, the aims or principles of phronsisbeing supplied by the agents ethically excellent character, not byepistm. Thus, we must ask, what is the precise status of thegeneral principles to which ethical judgment has access viacharacter, if these are not the timeless absolutes grasped throughscientific knowledge?

    In the extensive secondary literature on phronsis, there isnevertheless a strong tendency to avoid this question altogether bypositing some kind of epistemic knowledge upon which Aristotle mustbe implicitly grounding ethical judgment, even in the face ofpassages like the one above.8 Many scholars have been loath toacknowledge the non- partite division of human dianoia orunderstanding into theoretical (metaphysics or theology, physics,mathematics), practical (politics, ethics), and productive (thetechnai or crafts). 5 In the Ethics, Aristotle repeatedly statesthat ethical judgment and phronsis properly concern particulars,not universals. Cf. EN 1109b23, 1110b6, 1126b4, 1141b13-16,1143a32-33, 1144a20-22, 1147a3-b5, and also Met. 981a15-17. 6 Thispassage from the Posterior Analytics provides a shortcut throughthe argument given in the Ethics. There, the atemporal or eternalquality of the object of epistm becomes clear by the followingargument: epistm is always true, which means that its object is notcapable of being otherwise, and thus, not accidental, but ofnecessity [ ], and that which is by necessity is eternal [] (EN1139b18-25). On the nature of the necessity in play here, cf. Phys.199b34-200b7 and Met. 1015a20-1015b15, as well as J.A. Stewart 1892on EN 1139b18-37. 7 Cf. Natali 2001, 16. Natali distinguishesepistm from phronsis principally due to the fact that epistm is thescience that possesses theoretical truth detached from desire andaction. It is precisely this detachment that gives epistm itsatemporal foundation, as contrasted with phronsis. 8 See Cooper1975, 13-46, Broadie 1974, Michelakis 1961, Jackson, 1942. Also,Gauthier 1951 and Allan 1953 both maneuver relevant passages in thehopes of rejecting Aristotles frequent statements that phronsis isconcerned exclusively with particulars, and thus not trulyknowledge. For thorough discussions of the opposing position, thatAristotelian ethical judgment does not have recourse to trueuniversals, see McDowell 1979 and Nussbaum 1986, 290-317. In recentdecades, another voice has weighed in on this issue from theperspective of hermeneutics. These thinkers attempt to see theapparent relativism implicit in Aristotles doctrine as an earlyembrace of the necessary role of Vorurteil, or pre-judgment, inhuman understanding.

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    epistemic character of Aristotles ethics, seemingly for fear ofintroducing the unwelcome specter of moral relativism.9

    To cite just one example, Reeve argues that, although itsattention is indeed primarily directed toward particular possibleactions in particular situations, phronsis must nonetheless be seento bring a knowledge of universals to bear on particular cases(Reeve 1992, 74). However, given Aristotles presentation ofphronsis as a power relating to particulars, Reeve poses thefollowing question:

    But since phronsis does not study universals, where does it getits knowledge of them from? Only one answer has any plausibility:phronsis must get its knowledge of universalsfrom the only sourcethat can provide it, namely, the amalgam of scientific knowledge,dialectic, and nous that gives rise to an Aristotelian science(Reeve 1992, 73-74).

    Reeve concludes here that phronsis, in order to have thetruthful [] quality Aristotle explicitly ascribes to it, must haveaccess to ethical principles, such as the good, justice,temperance, courage, etc. as true universals in the sense discussedabove.10 Given this assumption, then, the single explanation thathas any plausibility for Reeve is that phronsis grounds itself inan Aristotelian science. This means that phronsis would rest uponan undisclosed, even unmentioned, ethical epistm, since thisintellectual capacity alone for Aristotle would ensure a grasp ofabsolute and atemporal ethical universals.11

    For now, it is important simply to note that if we reject thesuggestion of Reeve and many others that Aristotles conception ofethical judgment has implicit epistemic grounds, and if we takevery seriously the distinction drawn in the passage above betweenphronsis and epistm, then the strangeness of phronsis presentsitself with full force.12 If phronsis Cf. esp. Gadamer, 1960,317-329, and P. Ricoeur 1997. Finally, Fortenbaugh 1975 approachesthe issue from a particular angle in his fine study of emotion inAristotle. He insists on Aristotles thoroughgoing psychologicalintegration of emotion and cognition, then drawing the consequencesof this for Aristotles ethics, politics, poetics, and rhetoric. 9This resistance can be seen at the most fundamental level inRackhams 1934 translation of EN 1142a24. He renders it, And it isclear that Prudence is not the same as Scientific Knowledge,although the Greek [ , ] offers no foundation for the introductionof the phrase the same as, which seems calculated to leave open thepossibility that phronsis is either epistm plus some other power orthat it is a different variety of equally conclusive knowledge. 10This remains a hidden premise in the above argument, but Reevestates it explicitly elsewhere: [I]n order to guide action inparticular circumstances, phronsis needs knowledge of bothuniversal ethical principles and the particular circumstancesthemselves (Reeve 1992, 67). 11 It might be noted here that Reevesconclusion calls forth the obvious reply that, if such a sciencewere possible, Aristotles Ethics would likely be a very differentbook. If an epistm of atemporal ethical concepts were proper toethical judgment, these could be, as Aristotle outlines in theTopics (Top. 105a10-16), identified by way of inductive reasoningfrom particular cases and then provided with fixed and universaldefinitions. These definitions could in turn be gathered togetherinto a simple list. Although the experience-based sense forparticular circumstances would still be requisite for actingeffectively according to these principles, there is no doubt such acatalogue would be useful. But the Ethics emphatically avoidsoffering a list of definitions. The nearest Aristotle comes to sucha list is in the course of his explicitly rough and tentativediscussion of the doctrine of the Mean and its application (EN1104a11-12). However, we will later come to see that thisdiscussion of the Mean and its application to the specific virtuesdoes not provide a list of defined epistemic principles. Rather, itis a method for seeing the particular action available to one asgood or choiceworthy, a method that indeed directly reflects theanti-Platonic, non-epistemic character of ethical judgment inAristotle. 12 Natali provides a thorough study of the distinctionbetween epistm and phronsis in its development from the ethicalexamples introduced in the Topics, through the Magna Moralia, tothe Nicomachean and Eudemian Ethics. Also explicitly in oppositionto what I have presented as a strong tendency in the traditionalreading of Aristotle, Natali writes, Practical knowledge, whichfrom now on is almost always called

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    properly entails no recourse to scientifically grasped ethicaluniversals, then precisely what kind of dunamis is it? From whatnon-epistemic resources would it derive its unique enabling powerin ethical action? In this essay, I suggest that there is, contraryto Reeves claim, another interpretation of Aristotelian ethicaljudgment that has not only plausibility, but indeed does far morejustice to its presentation in the Ethics. That is, phronsisderives its power from nothing other than its complete immersion intime, which is to say, from its past and its future. In the firstpart of the paper, I will lay out the essentially temporalcharacter of ethical judgment for Aristotle, understood in terms ofthe two components mentioned above, phronsis and the ethical virtueto which it is always bound. In the second part, focusing onprecisely how phronsis addresses the future appropriately forAristotle and how the past is integral to the doctrine of the Mean,I will discuss the particular resources available to ethicaljudgment thus conceived, as non-epistemic, temporal, and finite. I. The Temporality of Phronsis

    Phronsis is, for Aristotle, the proper intellectual capacity formaking judgments about what he calls the good deed [ ] (EN 1097a24)and it is the consistent performance of such deeds that constitutesliving well and being happy. I argue here that Aristotle presentsthis capacity as situated temporally between two regions ofobscurity, the future and the past. I .A. Phronsis and theFutureThe Kairos

    Let us begin with one of Aristotles many statements concerningthe necessary imprecision of the general study of ethics, animprecision widely recognized by readers of Aristotle, but oftentreated as an issue wholly separate from the character of ethicaljudgment itself.13 Aristotle writes,

    Let it be agreed in advance that the whole discussion of mattersin human praxis should proceed in general terms, and should nothope to speak preciselyFurther, accounts must conform to theirsubject matter. But with what is to be done [ ] and with what isexpedient, there is nothing established or fixed []14 The generaldiscourse

    phronsis, or wisdom, has features that make it the opposite ofscience; in many ways it is more similar to the virtues ofcharacter (Natali 2001, 25). In many other respects, Nataliscomprehensive study agrees with the limited account I give here,especially in emphasizing the fact that for Aristotle practicalreasoning is thoroughly bound to desire and thus derives itsprinciples from nothing other than an habituated disposition,although he does not frame his discussion in terms of the temporallimits of phronsis. 13 This is a fairly recent trend in scholarshipon Aristotle. On this development, cf. Natali 2001, 30-35, as wellas his Afterword, 183-189. In the following comments, I am notopposing this view by arguing that the Ethics should be considereditself a product of phronsis. Rather, I am merely making theobvious point that the object of phronsis, ethical action,determines both the inexactitude of the study of ethics and theresources available to phronsis. This seems contrary to Guthrie(79), for instance, who writes as though universal ethicalprinciples could be articulated with complete exactitude ifAristotle wished, but this would go beyond the aim of a practicalstudy. Some studies of this theme, none of which develop thetemporal structure of ethical judgment as I do here, are Monan1968, Barnes 1980, and Klein 1988. 14 In this ellipsis occurs thephrase, any more than with medicine. It is not clear how this is tobe taken. Perhaps it concerns specifically the actual practice ofmedicine, rather than its study, about which Aristotle says in alater book, it doesnt seem that doctors come to be from textbooks(EN 1181b3-4). That is, their practice seems based fundamentally onempeiria or experience, thus not on fixed, articulable rules.

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    then being of this sort, in particular cases it must be evenless precise. These matters do not fall under any art or rule, butthe agents themselves must always look [] to the things suited tothe kairos (EN 1103b34-1104a8).

    In this passage, Aristotle presents the imprecision of his studyas proper to the very subject matter of ethical judgment itself,that is, proper to what is to be done in any particular situation.This subject matter is then characterized by the fact that, in eachpractical situation where virtue is at issue, where the question ofthe good deed arises, there is no fixed, stable, perfectlygraspable measure, and thus no reliable techn or skill, nor anyauthoritative moral imperative or command (), that could determineones action. Aristotle suggests rather that one must always skopeinor look toward what is suited to the kairos.15 But what preciselydoes this entail?

    Kairos is often translated as the right or opportune moment. Itis the moment when an opportunity to act in such a way that willbring about a favorable result presents itself. Indeed, in Book I,Aristotle tells us that the kairos is nothing short of the Good asit manifests itself in time (EN 1096a27). However, the kairos inany praxis cannot be judged with absolute precision simply becausepraxis is always fueled by a desire () to bring about this or thatresult in the future (EN 1139a21-32).16

    This future-directed quality of desire producesindeterminability in making judgments about ethical actionsbecause, as Aristotle states dramatically, the future is hiddenfrom us [ ] (EN 1101a19). The key word here is aphanes, which isrelated to phainein, meaning literally to bring to light, cause toappear. As immersed in human praxis, ethical judgment has to dowith what remains at the moment in the future, that is, with whatdoes not fully come to light, but in a sense presents itself ashidden or obscure.17

    Therefore, phronsis must be understood as a power by which onelooks properly toward what does not appear, toward what remainshidden because in the future, and makes good ethical decisionsprecisely by doing so. One who possesses this power of judgment,the phronimos, must be adept at what Aristotle calls deliberation[]. But here again, deliberation is employed exclusively

    in those matters that for the most part happen in a certain way,but are unclear in their outcome [ ] and very indeterminate [],things of import concerning which we draw others into ourdeliberations [ ], not trusting that our own estimation [] issufficient (EN 1112b8-12).

    I will return later to the need for deliberating together withothers. For now, let us simply acknowledge that the proper mode ofthinking about what must be done in a situation where action iscalled for is what Aristotle calls here deliberation, whichconsiders the particular means by which something can be broughtabout by us (EN 1112b11-12 and 1112a30-31). However, because of thefuture outcome to which our desire is as such related, it wouldseem that the conclusion of deliberation, a decision to takeaction, should 15 On the usage of the term kairos not only inAristotles Ethics, but in general, cf. Aubenque 1963, 95-105. 16Platos Socrates addresses this future-directed quality of humandesire in discussing ers, at Symp. 200a-201a. 17 This, along withthe law of the excluded middle, is precisely what produces theproblem of the truth value of the statement, There will be asea-battle tomorrow. For, although the statement will have beennecessarily either true or false, it is now only contingently so.For this discussion, see De Int. 9. Important for the above isAristotles rejection there of determinism as an absurdity.

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    remain in some way undecided or open in order to reflect theirremediable obscurity of its subject matter. For Aristotle, then,the deliberating phronimos looks to the kairos as a possiblyfavorable opportunity to act, the true character of which will notappear until the obscurity of the future dissolves into the clarityof the present.18 I .B. Phronsis and the PastEthos, thos , thik Thephronimos is not characterized by his or her deliberative abilityalone, however, but by his or her good deliberation []. Forphronsis is by definition a power for achieving good (EN1140b20-22), whereas one can deliberate effectively about the meansby which to achieve a disastrous or even a despicable aim (EN1142b18-22). Thus, phronsis always entails deliberating well aboutthe means toward the proper aim (EN 1142b28-34). We know from thepassage cited in the introduction that the proper aim is set forthe deliberating phronimos by what Aristotle calls the ethicalvirtue, to which phronsis is always bound (EN 1144b20-21, 30-32).Let us look more closely at this.

    Ethical virtue here translates the Greek phrase thik aret, whichis the virtue or excellence of ones character or way of life.Determining what precisely this is and how it is either good or badis the central problem of Aristotles Ethics and his analysis isgrounded in a fundamental observation. He writes of thik that itcomes to be out of habits [ ], and has indeed derived its name,with a slight variation in form, from that word [ ] (EN1103a17-19).19 That is, if one lengthens the initial epsilon of theword ethos into an eta, one forms thos. And if one then changes itsform, the word thik is the result. The etymological connectionobserved here by Aristotle opens up a complex of related conceptscorresponding to the terms ethos, thik, and the middle term thatconnects them, thos. This middle term can mean both custom, usageand moral character, but its first meaning is a familiar location,a haunt, or a dwelling place where one has become accustomed toliving.20 Of course, an etymological connection is not in and ofitself sound evidence of conceptual relation, but it might spur usto ask, in what way are habit and character bound together by thenotion of a dwelling place? In order to answer, we must first askwhat a human beings essential dwelling place might be. Theoft-quoted definition in Aristotles Politics points us toward ananswer. A human is said there to be by nature a political animal [] (Pol. 1253a4), thus the place where a human being as essentiallypolitikos properly lives must be something like a polis, whichAristotle understands to be a specific kind of koinnia or community(Pol. 1252a4-5). Further, this

    18 And not even then, for the present moment will once again beaffected by the indeterminacy of its future. This is clear from thedifficulty Aristotle sees in following Solons advice to look to theend [ ] in evaluating whether one has achieved eudaimonia (EN1100a10-1101b9). Because the future remains always indeterminate,but as such determines the character of the present, Solon suggeststhat one must wait until the individuals death in order todetermine if he or she has achieved eudaimonia. Aristotle, however,is compelled to extend this limit, because an individualseudaimonia is not individual, but always includes ones family andfriends, necessitating that the assessment of ones condition mustbe extended to include the fortunes of surviving companions. Thus,this oddly lengthy discussion can be explained by the fact that itintroduces in the very first book of the Ethics the essentiallyfuture-directed quality of human life as praxis and its bearing onethical judgment. 19 There seems every reason to believe thatAristotles etymological connection is correct. See the entry for inLiddel and Scott 1891/1997. The same fundamental observation isalso made at MM 1185b38-1186a7. 20 Latin expresses this sameconnection with habitus and habitare, from which English derivesits habit and habitat, and German does the same with Gewohnheit andwohnen. On this connection, cf. K. Held (forthcoming), ch. III.

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    is so by nature [], which here entails that living with otherhuman beings is not a matter of choice or decision for us; rather,we are qua humans related to others, with whom we live in some kindof community.21 However, as Aristotle asks in the Politics, Whenare human beings, living in the same place, to be regarded as asingle polis? What is the limit? He is asking here, whatconstitutes our essentially communal dwelling place? HisresponseCertainly not the wall of the city (Pol. 1276a25-26). Thatis, the dwelling place in which a community truly lives together isnot simply a shared physical location. Rather, I would argue, itmust be a kind of disclosure space, i.e. a place wherein we dwellby appearing to and recognizing one another and ourselves as humanbeings. What this entails becomes clear in Aristotles statement atthe outset of the Ethics that in general, with all things that havesome function or praxis, their good and their doing well appear tobe in their function, and the same seems true of a human being (EN1097b26-28, emphasis mine). We should thus ask, what is required ofthis communal disclosure space if it is to allow for the appearanceand recognition of one another as beings performing this humanfunction? It cannot be merely an empty container, an open plane, ora level surface. Rather, to make possible our appearing in ourhuman function, this dwelling place must itself be ordered, ororganized toward some good that this function serves. It is onlysuch an ordered disclosure space that would allow for ourrecognition of one another and ourselves as either performing orfailing to perform our essential human function, which is to say,as achieving or failing to achieve aret or virtue, excellence ashumans. And indeed, in the Politics, Aristotle writes that acommunity exists only by having come together for the sake of somegood [ ] (Pol. 1252a2). Therefore, by characterizing the humanbeing as essentially a political animal, Aristotle seems to saythat we are defined in our essential function, and thus in ouraret, by the good that acts as the ordering end of our communallife.22 What it means to dwell as a human being, then, is nothingmore mystifying than appearing to one another and ourselves asmembers of a community, which is to say in the light of the commongood toward which our communal disclosure space is ordered.23 Invery concrete terms, this means quite simply that human beings livetogether according to certain codes of conduct or structures thatorder our communal life. These codes or structures wherein we firstand foremost find ourselves related to the ultimate good aregenerally those that govern and can usually be discovered at workin the actions that are affirmed and encouraged by our community;indeed they are most immediately present in those actions that havebecome habitual or customary. Think of the way in which the sharedcommunal good is reflected not only in religious ritual andpolitical ceremony, but even in the most pedestrian of customs,such as greetings or dining etiquette. The eth or habits, customsfrom which Aristotle says our thik arises are nothing other thanthe actions governed by these usually self-evident codes ofconduct, these initially unquestioned ordering structures withinwhich we appear to one another as

    21 Cf. Held (forthcoming), ch. IV, on natural in relation toHusserls conception of the natrliche Einstellung. 22 And oureducation or growing up in the community that is a city orcity-state is nothing but being situated in relation to this commongood. Aristotle writes, when tracing the manner in which thikprevails or wins through () [EN 1103a17] out of eth, What occurs incity-states bears witnessfor law-makers habituate the citizens bymaking them good (EN 1103b2-4). 23 Natali also turns to thePolitics at this point in his discussion of phronsis and makes asimilar observation. He writes, Participating in the activities ofthe polis and aiming at the best possible life is what it means tobe a meros, a part, of the city. There can be differentactualizations of this being partsome better, some worse dependingon the type of constitution. In all of them, however, there isparticipation in the common good (Natali 2001, 125).

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    excellent or non-excellent members of our community.24 For themost part, we are habituated in these while children, which isprecisely the reason that Aristotle speaks of the supremeimportance (EN 1103b25) of inculcating good customs and habitsduring childhood.25 Although the language of internal and externalis misleading in this context, it might facilitate exposition tosay that these habits and customs are also not merely external, forone has always already internalized them through the formation ofwhat Aristotle calls hexeis (EN 1106b36-1107a2). This word derivesfrom the verb exein, meaning to hold or have, and it implies then away in which one is held and holds oneself, a disposition. Giventhe essential definition of the human being as analyzed above, oneshexis is ones way of being held or disposed by and in relation toones communal dwelling place, and thus toward the good that ordersit, and it is from this disposition that one makes ethicaljudgments. The thik aret, then, that sets the proper aim or end forthe deliberating phronimos, is a species of the genus hexis, onehaving arisen directly out of good communal habits.

    What is vital for an understanding of phronsis is that thesehabits or customs are, as such, pre-reflective. That is, they arethe structures taken for self-evident in the dwelling place inwhich I find myself, where I am already underway and have beensince birth. It is indeed precisely their pre-reflective characterthat makes them habitual or customary. This entails, then, thatethical judgment, in its proper operation as described byAristotle, is grounded in a past that it does not subject toreflection. The ethical standards employed by the phronimos ariseout of his or her past life, as lived together with others. Throughits habituated dispositions, phronsis, the intellectual powerproper to making ethical judgments, is presented by Aristotle asessentially bound to a past that remains properly inaccessible toit.

    Now, it might be objected here that, although it is difficult,we can and do reflect on our inherited habitual behavior andsometimes succeed in changing it. We do so even when, and sometimesprecisely when, the habits or customs in question are deepest andmost fundamental to the communal world in which we live. This iscertainly true, and, although he often assumes a quitedeterministic tone when discussing the effects of past habituation(EN 1114a3-17), Aristotle does seem to allow for thispossibility.26 However, although we can turn around toward the pastthat remains in a sense behind us, thereby making our previouslyself-evident and habitual attitudes objects of investigation, thepoint here is that habit or custom as such, which is to say, aspre-reflective, is essential to Aristotles conception of ethicaljudgment. In any given situation, judging what is the good orcourageous or temperate course of action requires in some sense adisposition not reflected upon, for one relates to these ethicalaims only by way of an habituation that disposes one towardthem.

    24 It may be objected here that Aristotle seems to speak oftenof habits with regard to individuals. However, this is a questionof the Ethics focus on the individual, which must then besubordinated ultimately to a focus on the polis. While introducingthe method and themes of inquiry in the Ethics, Aristotle writes,The method of our studies being thus, this is in a sense the studyof politics (EN 1094b11-12). Cf. Pol. 1337a10-30, where Aristotlediscusses habituation in excellence as the concern of statecraft.Owens 1991 connects thik and the values of ones community, althoughdifferently than I do here. 25 The importance of habituation inpractices and customs during childhood is often emphasized byAristotle. Cf. EN 1104b12-14 and 1105b19-1106a12, as well as EE1219b26-1220a13 and 1220b7-20. This is precisely the reason that,the legislator should direct his attention above all to theeducation of children; for the neglect of education does harm tothe constitution (Pol. 1337a10-11). 26 This is implicit, insofar asAristotle speaks of the possibility of choosing to perform a givenaction, although it does not yet appear clearly choiceworthyaccording to ones prior habituation (EN 1105b5-9). Thus, it wouldbe conceivable to re-habituate oneself in this waybecoming just bydoing just actions.

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    We have come to see, then, that temporality is essential tophronsis for Aristotle, insofar as it is temporally positionedbetween two regions of obscurity. As practical judgment, that is,as the realization of desire through a choice to take action, itstands before the kairos, an opportunity whose benefit lies in anultimately indeterminable future. And because its aim is always setby our thik, the standards employed by phronsis arise out of anunscrutinized past, in the form of our habituateddisposition.27

    I .C. Temporality as Finitude, Finitude as Belonging

    To say that ethical judgment for Aristotle is irremediablytemporal is to say that,

    even in properly utilizing the tools Aristotle describes, theethical agent does not transcend the specific present moment byaccessing absolute and universal ethical principles. Thistemporality might then appear to us as a kind of limitation orfinitude of ethical judgment, insofar as the judgment is situatedbetween a pre-reflective past and an indeterminable future. But wewill do well to pause and consider our conceptual vocabulary here,for with this talk of finitude and limit, we must be careful. AsPaul Ricoeur warns in his Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences, thenegative nuance conveyed by the word finitude is [thereby]introduced into the totally positive relation of belonging.28

    That is, speaking of phronsis in terms of its limitation orfinitude can inadvertently imply that there is something lacking inthe manner in which it operates. One might think that it isincumbent upon the ethical agent to rid the future of itsindefinite character through rational calculation and that in orderto be more ethical, one should subject ones habituated communalthos to exhaustive reflection, perhaps rejecting some or even allof its customary values on the basis of purely rational principles.However, for Aristotle, these temporal limits are not to beovercome; rather, they require proper acknowledgment. The way inwhich a human being does this, and thereby accomplishes his or heressential function as a whole29 (EN 1097b22-34), is through theemployment of phronsis. This is to say, phronsis is by definition away of thinking and acting in relation to these very temporallimits.

    Thus, in the recognition of the finitude of ethical judgment, weshould even find something positive. And this is precisely whatRicoeur emphasizes with the term belonging in the citation above.Finitude signifies nothing other than the fact that phronsis, inits most proper employment, is essentially bound and belongs to aparticular past and particular future possibilities. Indeed, thesetemporal limits are seen by Aristotle as resources for the peculiarpower that is phronsis.30 Let us look at precisely how this works.27 Although not referring to the temporality of phronsis, Nussbaumdoes speak of the continuity of ones value commitments in a waythat implies a kind of relation to the past, which she alsoemphasizes as playing a role in phronsis as ethical perception(Nussbaum 1986, 306). See section II below. 28 Ricoeur 1981, 107.This is followed by the statement, which is the hermeneuticalexperience itself, that is, an experience of the ontologicalcondition of belonging, whereby he who questions shares in the verything about which he questions. Thus, the interpretation of thefinitude of ethical judgment in Aristotle here by way of Ricoeursnotion of belonging, does indeed imply a kind of hermeneutics ofethical value. Hermeneutics, for Ricoeur, entails phenomenology(Ricoeur 1981, 101), insofar as what binds the interpreter and thetext together is the movement of appearance. The text is theappearance (phainomenon) of something to the interpreter, themeaning of which demands interpretation. The relatedphenomenological aspect of my interpretation of ethical judgment inAristotle is taken up below in section II. 29 This phrase as awhole is not insignificant here, for the phronimos is partiallyovershadowed in the last chapter by the one who lives thetheoretikos bios or life of abstract reasoning. However, althoughthe theoretical life is the perfection of the most perfect, evengod-like part of us, nous, for this very reason it seems not to bethe best way of life for a human being as a whole. Cf. EN1177a12-1178b34. 30 Although not explicitly in this temporalstructure, Aubenque does emphasize the essential limits ofphronsis, specifically in its relation to the general,long-standing tendency in Greek thought toward

  • 10

    II. Past and Future as the Resources of Ethical Judgment

    Phronsis employs deliberation as the appropriate means by whichto make ethical choices without being able to determine theiroutcomes completely. I argued above that this is accomplished bylooking to the kairos, which determines and indeed supports thedeliberation of the phronimos in the following three ways.

    First, looking to the kairos entails that the phronimos must be,as mentioned in the passage cited earlier, ready and willing todeliberate with others [] (EN 1112b8-12). Given the future limit ofphronsis, ones own deliberations can never be considered conclusiveor complete. For this reason, there can be no dogmatic assertion ofthe rectitude of ones own decisions to take a certain course ofaction, nor any summary rejection of others. This does not, ofcourse, mean that one must accept the opinions of others on whatmust be done in a given situation as compelling in themselves, fortheir judgments have no more determinacy than ones own. Rather, itentails simply that an openness to discussing the views of othersconcerning the possible outcomes of any given action is essentialto phronsis itself.

    It might well be objected that this indeterminacy results in thedanger of what Aristotle calls deliberating without end (EN1112b34-1113a1). Is this not an especially present danger if one isforced to recognize the infinitely various and conflictingperspectives of others? How can one know when one is finisheddeliberating if ultimate determination is not possible? Theseproblems, too, are resolved by looking to the kairos in a secondsense. That is, the phronimos must also recognize that the possiblyadvantageous opportunity will be missed if he or she deliberatestoo long. The nature of the kairos itself, then, as a fleetingmoment, demands that a choice be made and action be taken, evengiven the indeterminacy of the outcome.31

    Third, even after action has been taken, phronsis must remainopen to the emergence of yet another kairos. Indeed, what theGreeks called a kairos is not only a fleeting opportunity with anindeterminable outcome, but also an opportunity that as such cannotbe anticipated.32 This is the reason that a kairos is so oftenperceived as the work of the gods, that is, as brought about byforces inaccessible to human calculation.33 The kairos arises outof a complex of conditions that do not admit of conclusivelypredictive knowledge. Thus, phronsis must produce a choice, adecision to act, while remaining open to the possibility thatfurther deliberations will be required.

    The aphanes or unappearing future acts to determine thecharacter of phronsis in these three ways, through the face itpresents to us in the form of a kairos. Phronsis, thus, must beseen, not as seeking to overcome the obscurity entailed by thefuture-directed character of the human praxis in which it operates,but rather as acknowledging the future as such and converting itinto a kind of resource.

    In order to determine precisely how the past works as a resourcefor ethical judgment, it is necessary to consider the contestedDoctrine of the Mean. As is well known, acknowledging the essentialfinitude of human power and understanding. He writes, dans phronsiscontinue de rsonner lappel une pense humaine, , en quoi se rsumaitla vieille sagesse grecque des limites. Also, La phronsiscest unsavoir qui se msie de ses propres malfices et se rappelleconstamment soi-mme la consience de ses necessaires limites(Aubuenque 1963, 152). 31 Aristotle mentions the possibility ofmissing the hote or the when in relation to good deliberation at EN1142b26-27. 32 This meaning is highlighted by Plato, who compareslegislation to steersmanship as a skill or techn that does noteradicate, but instead copes with the unanticipatable: A steersmanmay or may not use his skill to seize a kairos in a storm, shouldone offer itself (Laws, 709c). 33 Cf. e.g. Hecabe, 593, whereEuripides uses kairos to mean a good fortune granted by the gods,which thus cannot be anticipated.

  • 11

    according to this doctrine, ethical virtue is observed byAristotle to be a hexis or a disposition, which is characterized asa mean between two extremes, the vice of excess and the vice ofdeficiency (EN 1104a12-27, 1106a26-1107a2). But of course, asAristotle has made clear in Book I, the virtue that is truewell-being for a human is activity according to virtue (EN1098b30-1099a30), not its mere possession. Thus, as Aristotlewrites, virtue is some mean, due to being able to hit theintermediate [ ] (EN 1106b27-28), specifically peri tas praxeis oras concerns actions. The good deliberation of the phronimos must bethe determination of the mean course between doing too much anddoing too little. True virtue or excellence as a human being isacting moderately. However, as Aristotle makes perfectly clear, thedoctrine does not prescribe a mathematical measure, which could beeasily determined in any situation by halving the differencebetween the most and the least of whatever is in question (EN1106a27-b5). Rather, we must determine the mean in every situation,as Aristotle says, relative to us [ ] (EN 1106a36).

    As W.K.C. Guthrie objects, it seems that once one has desertedthe mathematical concept of the mean, the doctrine is of littlepractical valueit amounts to little more than act as you shouldact.34 C.M. Bowra states flatly that, when Aristotle seeks toexplain the several virtues as Means between opposite extremes, hefails to convince us either in logic or in experience. Such adoctrine as the Mean works well enough if we are alreadypersuaded35 To be sure, it does seem fair to ask along with suchcritics, with what measure does this Doctrine of the Meanultimately provide us?

    The answer to this question lies in the simple fact thatAristotle does not intend the doctrine of the Mean to provide uswith a measure. Rather, the doctrine gives us a method for comingto see the already measured action. Let us take the courageous actas an example. In a dangerous situation, by consulting the extremesof doing too much (rashness) and too little (cowardice), which wealready hold to be and can recognize easily as vicious andnon-choiceworthy acts, we bring to light the choiceworthy characterof the intermediate action.36 That is, we allow it simply to appearmore clearly as courageous. In the words of Ingemar Dring, theDoctrine of the Mean is correctly understood as a method of givinga phenomenological description of virtue and vice.37

    It is imperative that we understand this important observationproperly. Although Dring offers little more than this comment, wecan reason in the following way. A phenomenological description isa way of describing appearances such that what is already appearingbecomes clearer. Thus, if Aristotle does indeed intend the Doctrineof the Mean to function as a method of quasi-phenomenologicaldescription, and I think he does, the 34 Guthrie 1981, 355-56.Indeed, Aristotle himself even seems to acknowledge this about theDoctrine at EN 1138b25-29. 35 Bowra 1957, 46. Aristotle provokesthis concern also with his often circular formulations of how toact virtuously, e.g. EN 1105b5-9. On the seemingly unhelpfulcharacter of the Doctrine of the Mean, see also Welton and Polansky1995, Hursthouse 1977/78, and J. Barnes Introduction to Thompson1976, 25. 36 See Natali 2002, 35-6, for an excellent, common sensediscussion of precisely this aspect of the Mmeans function. Hewrites, It is immediately clear when one overreacts, i.e. when anemotional reaction is too strong or too weak; it is more difficultto decide when the emotional reaction is right (Natali 2002, 35).However, Natali then goes on to say, seemingly contradicting whatis implied by this fine observation, that the theory of the mean ismainly a method used by the philosopherIt is not, generally, amethod used by men who act in order to decide on what to do (36). Idisagree, as will become clear below. 37 Dring 1966, 448. AlthoughDring does not put forth a phenomenological interpretation ofAristotle in general, he does see the significance of the phrasefor us in the presentation of the Doctrine of the Mean. Indeed, hesees this introduction as Aristotles original contribution to aPlatonic doctrine of the right measure gestured to not only at Pol.284d-e, but also in Platos lost, but much-discussed, public lecturePeri tagathou (discussed by Aristotle at Top. 113a5-8, 123b27-30,and 142a16-21). Dring writes, Dies (das nicht rein arithmetischeVerhltnis des Mehr und Weniger) ist Platons Lehre in Peri tagathouund in Staatsmann, phnomenologisch angewendet, aber ohne Platonsontologischen Ansatz (Dring 1966, 449).

  • 12

    available courageous action that becomes clear through the meansemployment must always already be appearing to one as courageous,and so, as good. Thus, by employing this method, the phronimoswould not construct or even apply, still less justify, a universalethical truth. Rather, he or she merely allows the courageous andchoiceworthy character of the given action to appear more clearlyby contrasting it with its extremes.

    This conception of the purely clarifying, phenomenologicalfunction of the Mean Doctrine accords with Aristotles frequentcomparisons of phronsis to a kind of aisthsis or perception (EN1109b23-27, 1113a1, 1142a26-1142b6).38 If phronsis is theperception of particular possible actions as good or choiceworthy,then these are necessarily already appearing to one as such, whichis to say as measured.

    By what, then, are these acts always already being measured? Intheir appearance to us, they are measured insofar as the particularact appears as serving to achieve a given telos or aim, or somemark [] toward which the one with the orthos logos looks (EN1138b21-32).39 But what is this orthos logos? Is it, as Reeve andothers have suggested, an argument grounded in an epistemicknowledge of atemporal ethical universals? We must ask what kind ofgrasp the phronimos has of this good, this aim, this mark, in lightof which a particular action appears in his or her world.

    Our consideration of thik above provides the answer. That inrelation to which a given act can appear as the good deed isnothing other than the good that gathers together and orders thecommunal dwelling place in which we are held and hold ourselvesthrough our habituated disposition. Aristotle makes clear the roleof the well-habituated disposition in this kind of ethicalperception, writing,

    There is no phronsis without this power [ ]. Phronsis cannotcome to be in this eye of the soul [ ] without virtueFor practicalsyllogisms have a major premise of the form, Since the end and whatis best [ ] is so and sobut this end or best thing does not appearexcept to the good human being [ ]. (EN 1144a29-34, emphasismine)

    What is striking here is that Aristotle describes the habituateddisposition as itself a dunamis or enabling power, whichcontributes essentially to the perceptive power of phronsis in theeye of the soul.40 And it does so explicitly by allowing the telosor what is best to appear ().41 I would like to suggest that theright logos with which the phronimos operates should be understoodin the sense heard in the Latin translation, ratio or relation.With the introduction of the model of the practical syllogism here,Aristotle articulates two elements, which the phronimos by way ofgood deliberation comes to view

    38 This aisthsis is also equated with a form of nous thatfunctions in practical matters [ ]. It is a special form of nousbecause it grasps ultimates, but in the specific sense of taeschata or the last things, the ultimate particulars, not theultimately first and indemonstrable definitions on which epistm isbased. Cf. EN 1143a35-b6 and De an. 433a16-17 for a discussion ofthis practical nous. On phronsis in relation to aisthsis, cf.Olmstead 1948 and Fortenbaugh 1964. 39 For a discussion of theorthos logos, cf. P. Ricoeur 1997, 14-20. 40 Departing from hisusual occulocentrism, Aristotle also compares the sense of thephronimos to a musical ear, being pleased by what is good, just,etc. and pained by their opposites in the way a musical person ispleased or pained by the melodic and unmelodic respectively (EN1170a11, 1173b29-3). 41 Cf. Achtenbergs fine discussion of the Mean(Achtenberg 2002, 97-122), as well as of the perception ofparticulars as salient, by which she means they present themselvesas manifestly choiceworthy (Achtenberg 2002, 2).

  • 13

    in their proper relation.42 He or she perceives the particularpossible act (the minor premise) in light of a good aim, whichserves as an arch or a principle (the major premise). By combiningthese in the right relation, a conclusion is produced, which isstrictly speaking the performance of the good deed itself. 43However, we have not yet explained the precise nature of this graspof the aim or principle in light of which the particular actappears to the phronimos as good.

    In Book I of the Ethics, Aristotle writes, Of principles [],some come to be viewed by the mind [] by way of induction, some byway of perception [], some by way of habituation [] (EN 1098b2-4).The ethical archai of the phronimos in ethical action are of thethird variety, opening the eye of the soul only by way of his orher habituated disposition.

    Thus, although phronsis is indeed the power of perceiving theparticular act as a good deed, its ability to perceive this iscontingent upon the light provided by the communal dwelling place.A well-habituated disposition is what situates one in this light,insofar as one originally relates to the ultimate good not byasking or, much less, by answering the question, What is theultimate good in human life? Rather, one is always already relatedto the ultimate good in being held by and holding oneself accordingto the structures or codes of conduct in ones dwelling place. Andit is in relation to this ultimate good of eudaimonia or trulydoing well as a human being, that every mediate aim appears (EN1094a19-22). Thus, the thik aret that provides the aim for ethicaljudgment does not entail an epistemic grasp of a universal ethicalprinciple. Rather, it supplies the aim as what I would like to callan habitual arch, a principle for ethical judgment in the sense ofan aim or good implicit in the customs and habits of ones communaldwelling place.44 It is a proper relation to these habitual archaithat the deliberating phronimos perceives in particular acts.45 42Observe EN 1144b26-28, where he writes, Virtue is not onlyaccording to right reason [ ]; it is rather a disposition withright reason [ ]. But right reason is phronsis regarding things ofthis sort. This deferral entails at least that the logos itself inethical decisions relies on precisely that dunamis upon whichphronsis reliesa well-habituated disposition. 43 In De motuanimalium, Aristotle makes clear that these two moments arecombined in motivating action, and he even speaks as though this isa purely analytic division of what properly occurs together. Hewrites that the agent does not stop to consider the one premise inthe least, the one that is clearand what we do without thought wedo quickly. And when a human being is actually using perception orimagination or thought toward a for the sake of which, what hedesires he does at once (MA 701a7-23). Given this, it seems that,in analyzing human action into the separate moments of thesyllogism, Aristotle has momentarily abandoned his practice ofrigorously describing phenomena as a phusikos, opting rather toexplain them as a logikos. However, Aristotle also wants tomaintain that the deliberation of the phronimos is conscious andtakes time (EN 1142b15-16 and 1142b26-28). Cf. De anima 434a15-21and EN 114615-21. 44 Implicit here is the claim that, althoughphronsis does not decide on its aims, it nevertheless considersthem and can clarify them by bringing them into relation withparticulars. On this, cf. Wiggins 1975/1976. Given this, EN1141b14-15 (But phronsis is not only of universals [ ]), is notinconsistent with the interpretation here presented, although itmight seem so if one consulted only Rackhams translation, whichreads, Nor is Prudence a knowledge of general principles only(Rackhams 1934). As he does with hul and morph or dunamis andenergeia, Aristotle often uses to katholou and to eschaton in arelative sense. On the relative use of the latter, cf. Guthrie1981, 186. 45 This is not to say that for Aristotle virtue isculturally relative, however. In the very first book of the Ethics,Aristotle gestures to the long-standing sophistic debate as towhether virtues are by nature [], or by convention [] (EN1094b15-16), clearly favoring the former. And yet, although virtuesare not merely conventional, they nevertheless exist in a worldthat is only opened up to us through our pre-reflective habituationin a communal dwelling place. That is, without the habituateddisposition of ethical virtue, phronsis has no access to the good.Indeed, this distinction should not be taken as equivalent to themodern distinction between objective and subjective. Rather, bynature means first and foremost that something arises or comes intobeing of its own accord, not by our decision or choice. What isgood, what is just, and what is virtuous are not up to us, becausethey are always already aspects of our world, but neither is thisworld objective, in the sense of being independent of andpotentially separable from the manner in which it

  • 14

    Thus, according to Aristotle, the sole access that thedeliberating phronimos has to ethical principles is via his or herhabituation. Insofar as the dunamis of phronsis relies essentiallyon the dunamis of the habituated disposition that provides ethicaljudgment with its aims, the obscure, pre-reflective past acts as avital resource for ethical judgment.46

    Concluding Remarks

    I hope to have shown here that Aristotle rejects any possibilityof grounding ethical judgment via epistm, which would mean toground it with a grasp of necessary, absolute, and thus atemporal,ethical principles. Rather, ethical judgment is presented in theNicomachean Ethics as essentially temporal. This means first thatit remains always open to renewing its deliberations and also opento the perspectives of others, by looking to the kairos throughwhich it relates to the future as such. But it is equally relatedto its past through its thik, as its pre-reflective dispositionacquired through living together with others according to thehabits and customs of a communal dwelling place. Phronsis, forAristotle, derives its strange dunamis or power, then, not fromnecessary and atemporal ethical truths, but rather from itsrelation to the future and to the past, which is to say within itstemporal limits.

    BIBLIOGRAPHY Achtenberg, D. 2002. Cognition of Value inAristotles Ethics: Promise of Enrichment, Threat of Destruction.Albany: State University of New York Press. Allan, D.J. 1953.Aristotles Account of the Origin of Moral Priniciples Actes du XieCongrs Internationale de Philosophie, xii: 120-7. Aubenque, P.1963. La prudence chez Aristote. Paris: Quadrige/PressesUniversitaires de France. Barnes, J. 1980. Aristotle and theMethods of Ethics Revue internationale de philosophie 34: 490-511.Bowra, C.M. 1957. The Greek Experience. New York: The New AmericanLibrary. Broadie, A. 1974. Aristotle on Rational Action Phronesis19: 70-80. Cooper, J. 1975. Reason and the Human Good in Aristotle.Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Dring, I. 1966.Aristoteles: Darstellung und Interpretation seines Denkens.Heidelberg: Carl Winter (Bibliothek der klassischenAltertumswissenschaften). Fortenbaugh, W. W. 1964. AristotlesConception of Moral Virtue and its Perceptive Role Transactions ofthe American Philological Association 95: 77-87. . 1975. Aristotleon Emotion. London: Duckworth. Gauthier, R.A. 1951. Magnanimit.LIdal de la grandeur dans la philosophie paenne et dans la thologiechrtienne. Paris: Vrin. appears to us human beings. In short, forAristotle, this world is neither purely subjective (orinter-subjective), nor is it objective, but is rather a strictlyphenomenal world, the world that is taken as presenting itself inits appearances to us. 46 This provides, incidentally, a kind ofresponse to an Enlightenment-based critique of all traditionalopinions and values as groundless and suspect sources for ethicaland political decisions. According to Aristotle, as interpretedhere, the critic simply has the wrong measure in hand. Ethicaljudgment, insofar as it employs phronsis, cannot be expected toground itself a priori or absolutely by way of reason, for itspeculiar dunamis derives in part from a pre-reflectively acquired,habituated disposition. To call for a radical severing of ethicalprinciples from their past, from their tradition, is a failure torecognize the basic temporal structure of ethical judgment.

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    Gadamer, H.-G. 1960, 1990. Wahrheit und Methode: Grundzge einerphilosophischen Hermeneutik. Tbingen: J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck).Gill, C. 2003. Platos Republic: An Ideal Culture of Knowledge 37-55in W. Detel and P. Scholz ed. Ideal and Culture of Knowledge inPlato. Stuttgart: F. Steiner. Guthrie, W.K.C. 1981. A History ofGreek Philosophy, Vol. VI, Aristotle: An Encounter. Cambridge:Cambridge University Press. Held, Klaus. (Forthcoming). ThePhenomenology of the Political World. Hursthouse, R. 1977/78. AFalse Doctrine of the Mean Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society81: 57-72. Jackson, R. 1941. Rationalism and Intellectualism in theEthics of Aristotle Mind 51: 343-60. Klein, S. 1988. An Analysisand Defense of Aristotles Method in Nicomachean Ethics I and XAmerican Philosophical Quarterly 8: 63-72. Liddel, H.G., and ScottR. 1891/1997. Greek-English Lexicon. Ninth Edition. Oxford:Clarendon Press. McDowell, J. 1979. Virtue and Reason Monist 62:331-350. Michelakis, E.M. 1961. The Operations of Practical Reason.Athens: Cleisiounis. Monan, J.D. 1968. Moral Knowledge and itsMethodology in Aristotle. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Natali, C. 2001.The Wisdom of Aristotle. Trans. G. Parks. Albany: State Universityof New York Press. Nussbaum, M. 1986. The Fragility of Goodness.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Olmstead, E.H. 1948. TheMoral Sense Aspect of Aristotles Ethical Theory American Journal ofPhilology 69: 42-61, Owens, J., C.Ss.R. 1991. Value and PracticalKnowledge in Aristotle 149-155 in ed. J. Anton and A. Preus Essaysin Greek Philosophy IV: Aristotles Ethics. Albany: State Universityof New York Press. Rackham, H. trans. 1934. Nicomachean Ethics.Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Reeve,C.D.C. 1974. The Practices of Reason: Aristotles NicomacheanEthics. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Ricoeur, P. 1997. lagloire de la phronsis, 13-22 in ed. J.-Y. Chateau La vrit pratique:Aristote, thique nicomaque, Livre VI. Paris: Vrin. . 1981.Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences. Trans. and ed. J.B. Thompson.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Stewart, J.A. 1892. Notes onthe Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle II. (Oxford: Clarendon Press.Thompson, J.A.K. trans. 1976. The Ethics of Aristotle: TheNicomachean Ethics. Introduction by J. Barnes. London: PenguinClassics. Welton, W.A., and Polansky, R. 1995. The Viability ofVirtue in the Mean Apeiron 28: 79-102. Wiggins, D. 1975/76.Deliberation and Practical Reason, Proceedings of the AristotelianSociety 76: 29-51.


What is phronesis in Ethics Aristotle? ›

In Aristotle's work, phronesis is the intellectual virtue that helps turn one's moral instincts into practical moral action [13] by providing the practical know-how needed to turn virtue into successful action and enables phronimos to weigh up the importance of different virtues and competing goals in a given moral ...

What is phronesis and why is it important to virtue ethics? ›

Phronesis. In organisation studies, phronesis is morally virtuous decisions. This is Aristotle's idea of practical rationality (see Ellett, 2012: 12), which is knowledge that helps with practical matters such as actions associated with professional practice (Tsoukas and Cummings, 1997).

What is phronesis and what role does phronesis play in the development of virtue? ›

Consider various features of phronesis. It is an intellectual virtue, a deliberative excellence that bespeaks practical wisdom. It allows its bearer to see clearly, to interpret situations, discern key features, generate salient reasons. It involves emotion regulation and issues context-sensitive decisions.

What are the main points of Nicomachean Ethics? ›

In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle notes that as a condition to be held morally responsible, we must have been acting voluntarily. In particular, two elements must be true: a person must be in control of their actions and also must be aware of what they're doing.

What is an example situation of phronesis? ›

Practical Wisdom (Phronesis)

Aristotle suggests that the aim of an action will be made clear by the relevant virtuous characteristic as revealed by the Golden Mean; for example, our aim in a situation may be to respond courageously or generously.

What is phronesis in simple terms? ›

Phronesis, “wisdom in determining ends and the means of attaining them, practical understanding, sound judgment,” comes from Latin phronēsis, from Greek phrónēsis, meaning “practical wisdom, prudence in government and public affairs” in Plato, Aristotle, and other heavy hitters.

What is the opposite of phronesis? ›

The Greeks since Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics distinguished two different kinds of wisdom: phronesis, or practical wisdom, and sophia, or “transcendental” wisdom.

What is phronesis explain how it is used? ›

Phronesis is a Greek team which means 'practical wisdom' that has been derived from learning and evidence of practical things. Phronesis leads to breakthrough thinking and creativity and enables the individual to discern and make good judgements about what is the right thing to do in a situation.

What are the components of phronesis? ›

A well-cited phronesis-based approach is Kaldjian's five-stage theoretical framework: goals, concrete circumstances, virtues, deliberation and motivation to act. We build on Kaldjian's theory after using his framework to analyse data collected from a three-year empirical study of phronesis and the medical community.

Why is phronesis important for Aristotle? ›

Taylor (2005) explains phronesis as having, in ancient Greece, connotations of intelligence and soundness of judgement. In his deliberations on ethics, Aristotle used the term to represent the complete excellence of the practical intellect.

What is the outcome of phronesis? ›

Through phronesis, an individual integrates different components of a good life, via a process of checks and balances, especially in circumstances where different ethically salient considerations, or different kinds of virtues or values, appear to be in conflict and agents need to negotiate dilemmatic space.

What is the intellectual virtue of phronesis? ›

Practical wisdom or phronesis was an intellectual virtue of perceiving and understanding in effective ways and acting benevolently and beneficently. It was not an art and necessarily involved ethics, not static but always changing, individual but also social and cultural.

What are the 3 important study of Aristotle? ›

Next come Aristotle's theoretical works, most famously his treatises on animals (“Parts of Animals,” “Movement of Animals,” etc.), cosmology, the “Physics” (a basic inquiry about the nature of matter and change) and the “Metaphysics” (a quasi-theological investigation of existence itself).

What are the three types of life Nicomachean Ethics? ›

In the Nicomachean Ethics, engaging with Plato's conception (Wolf 1996), Aristotle links the concept of eudaimonia to the three human life-forms: to pleasure, from which most human beings gain their view about what happiness is; to the service of the state; and to life dedicated to philosophy.

What are the four 4 ways suggested by Aristotle that one can use to develop a moral character good habits? ›

On another note, one becomes virtuous by first imitating another who exemplifies such virtuous characteristics, practicing such ways in their daily lives, turning those ways into customs and habits by performing them each and every day, and finally, connecting or uniting the four of them together.

What is the symbol of phronesis? ›

To depict phronesis, we developed two overlapping circles, not unlike the symbol for praxis. In the case of phronesis, the intersection of values (depicted as human figures holding hands in a circle) and knowledge (depicted as a book) are used.

What is the value of phronesis to you as a leader? ›

Phronesis allows leaders to make value judgments about the good to be pursued in a given circumstance. These judgments enable him to set appropriate goals and conceive of and select the means to achieve them.

What is the root word of phronesis? ›

Etymology. From Ancient Greek φρόνησις (phrónēsis, “practical wisdom”), from φρονέω (phronéō, “to think”), from φρήν (phrḗn, “mind”).

How do we develop phronesis? ›

It is by developing our skill of practical wisdom (translation of “phronesis”) that we become better at ascertaining what exactly courage or generosity amounts to in a specific situation and how exactly we might achieve it.

Is phronesis common sense? ›

Phronetic social science is an approach to the study of social phenomena based on a contemporary interpretation of the classical Greek concept phronesis, variously translated as practical judgment, practical wisdom, common sense, or prudence.

Why is phronesis important in Aristotle? ›

In Aristotle's work, phronesis is the intellectual virtue that helps turn one's moral instincts into practical action by inculcating the practical know-how to translate virtue in thought into concrete successful action and this will produce phronimos by being able to weigh up the most integral parts of various virtues ...

What does the Aristotelian Phronimos know? ›

For the Aristotelian phronimos the practically wise man has phronesis, which is a form of knowledge, and it is this that enables him (characteristically) to make correct decisions about what he should do.

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