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I agree that phronesis, as defined as practical wisdom, is desirable. (But so what!) I'm not a Greek scholar, but it also strikes me that these definitions are "personal" - and if we are going to define a term from long ago, we need to do better. I'd like to see the Greek word, and what various scholars have said about how it is used in Categories, or in Nichmachean Ethics.

The whole article would be improved by contrasting historical definitions (and I'd like to see scholarly references), and contemporary (something like the definitions offered).

There are several sites, and academics, who have an interest in the term and who might contribute. (Paul Gibbons)

It seems to me that the bulk of this article is a personal reading, and not enough information in the context of Nichomachean ethics. I stumblers on this article writing a paper that is partially about phronesis, so I'm planning to expand on it when I have the time. On that note, I don't understand the link at the bottom of the page to the psych this his reading? did he write the article? was the article based on somethign he read? if the link to that professor is to be considered pertinent in any way, he needs to be referenced somewhere in the article. Shaggorama 23:35, 4 November 2005 (UTC)

Yes phronesis is very important in our society today. I find people tend to the state of viciousness as opposed to virtuousness. It is however a very subtle line between the two states of behaviour. People can become so viscious at a glance. If by not smiling or disobeying their command do they run into a raging situation. Never practicing sound judgement; only becoming violent and wicked. It's craziness; people just fly off the handle and begin to brawl about a woman, a five dollar bill, a seat on the subway or about nothing at all. You always have to take war action; truly we are born in a completely insane society.

Carl Kravis —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:09, 17 November 2009 (UTC)

The Phaedo[edit]

It seems rather unusual to me that the Phaedo, a dialogue by Plato, which preceded this work and focused primarily on the subject is not mentioned. It is my opinion that without the Phaedo Aristotle would not have had quite the solid foundation to make his assertions from. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:56, 13 December 2010 (UTC)

lead changes[edit]

I reverted a recent change to the lead, but my revert has now be reverted. My edit comment was "rolling back a few versions; the new wording is very awkward and I would say wrong". The IP editor has posted on my talk page, "I don't entirely follow either of your explanations for your edit as explained in the short edit summary, so if you are still keen to revert it, I would appreciate a more detailed explanation on the talk page." Here are the old and new proposed versions:

  • Phronesis (Ancient Greek: φρόνησις, phronēsis) is a Greek word for a type of wisdom or intelligence, specifically the virtue of practical thought, which is a common topic of discussion in philosophy.
  • Phronesis (Ancient Greek: φρόνησις, phronēsis) is a Greek word for a type of wisdom or intelligence. It is wisdom of prudence and practical thought. Phronesis was a common topic of discussion in ancient Greek philosophy. The word was used by Greek philosophers to mean wisdom in matters of virtue, an ability to discern how or why to act virtuously and encourage virtue in others.

My reasons for doubting that this is an improvement:

1. Changes to first sentence...

  • Prudence is the traditional translation for phronesis, so prudence is a type of wisdom. Therefore it seems bad writing to define phronesis as "wisdom of prudence" (which must mean "wisdom of practical wisdom"?).
  • "wisdom [...] of practical thought" is odd English also.

2. 2 new sentences inserted, before the mention of Aristotle's specific definitions.

  • "Phronesis was a common topic of discussion in ancient Greek philosophy." OK to keep this if it seems helpful of course.
  • "The word was used by Greek philosophers to mean wisdom in matters of virtue, an ability to discern how or why to act virtuously and encourage virtue in others."
  • At least in Aristotle, who is arguably the most notable developer of this word as a technical term in philosophy, virtue is not only practical, but can also be theoretical or contemplative. Phronesis is the highest practical virtue, but not the highest virtue simply. Sophia, normally translated as "wisdom" is the highest virtue.
  • Aristotle generally contrasts "wisdom" (sophia) and "prudence" (phronesis).

The way I read it, this new edit has chosen the word "wisdom" in a way which does not match Greek philosophy, to mean something like cleverness or ability (maybe a classically trained person would actually say "virtue"). If so then the sentence ends up meaning "phronesis is virtue in matters of virtue". Aristotle and other Greek philosophers were carefully trying to distinguish all these things. Philosophy generally is all about trying to make more careful distinctions than every day language?

If I had to try to correct what I think the second sentence was trying to say I would try something like this:

  • "The word was used by Greek philosophers to refer to wisdom and proficiency in practical matters, an ability to discern how or why to act virtuously and encourage virtue in others."

Feedback requested.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 10:24, 13 January 2016 (UTC)

Thanks for your comments. I think it is difficult for most people to understand what the phrase "practical wisdom" is getting at unless they have already had it explained to them (e.g. in a philosophical context) - it isn't really used in normal English. By contrast, "prudence" has a clear meaning to an English-speaker, and would surely not be considered, by an ordinary English-speaker, synonymous with the ambiguous phrase "practical wisdom". For "phronesis" the OED offers both "Practical understanding" and "prudence", among others. Equally, "virtue" has a meaning to an English-speaker regardless of the choices translators might use for Aristotle's work. The question of Aristotle's chosen vocabulary is useful at a later point but does not mean English words can not be used in their normal sense to offer some kind of overall definition.
  • "The word was used by Greek philosophers to refer to wisdom and proficiency in practical matters, an ability to discern how or why to act virtuously and encourage virtue in others." does seem okay, although perhaps I might for neatness add a connective after the comma, maybe "in the sense of" or "that is to say" (talk) 20:50, 13 January 2016 (UTC)
(Another interesting definition I found for phronesis is "in bioethics, the virtue of practical wisdom, the capacity for moral insight to discern what moral choice or course of action is most conducive to the good of the agent or the activity in which the agent is engaged." [Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health, Seventh Edition.] (talk) 20:55, 13 January 2016 (UTC))
I have made a new edit, trying to take the above into account. Comments:
  • If we must ignore the traditional meaning of prudence and assume it means something like cautiousness to our readers, then that is even more of a reason for NOT saying phronesis is "wisdom of prudence". There are other ways to avoid such misunderstandings I think.
  • After trying to adjust the sentence where I proposed a new version above, I realized that it then more or less repeated the first sentence, so I combined them more or less.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 13:14, 19 January 2016 (UTC)

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