Virtue ethics: phronesis

Phronesis:Prudence, or practical wisdom’… can be understood as ‘pragmatic’. Differs from theoretic wisdom by a conclusion in ‘human action’ – it’s practical in that it guides human action. Phronesis is a way of being concerned with one’s life. Phronesis is concerned with particular experiences because it is concerned with informing action in particular situations (Carl asking rhetorically if John was taught to fight in a castle, versus the streets (a practical advantage given the particular situation and one guided by particular experience rather than the theoretic knowledge John received in his holdfast).

A prudent person cannot act against his better judgement.

Doing some research into virtue ethics for an essay I’m writing about Game of Thrones, I stumbled upon this word ‘Phronesis’. Finally! Finally some name to call the divide between my family and I; and between people who just can’t seem to ‘get it’ and those who can. For so long I hadn’t any way to describe what made me different. It wasn’t intelligence that set me apart from my family – my younger brother is a verified genius. It wasn’t just morality that set me apart – morality has been taught for thousands of years, and hasn’t yet prevented people doing crummy things on a daily basis. And it wasn’t just the unique particular experiences I’ve had; because the majority of ill people I know have not changed for the better by their experiences. The things that others’ do which bother me the most are the small subtle things done every day, that slowly, silently eat away at a person; not so much a thinking problem, but an inability to produce a certain type of conclusion (a particular conclusion produced by a persons’ desire to prevent the bad things that happened to them from happening to others ).

But now I have a word for this ‘thing’; phronesis… parts pretentious, and awesome.


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