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Nicomachean Ethics   


excellence in practical wisdom; and in art he who errs willingly is
preferable, but in practical wisdom, as in the virtues, he is the
reverse. Plainly, then, practical wisdom is a virtue and not an art.
There being two parts of the soul that can follow a course of
reasoning, it must be the virtue of one of the two, i.e. of that part
which forms opinions; for opinion is about the variable and so is
practical wisdom. But yet it is not only a reasoned state; this is
shown by the fact that a state of that sort may forgotten but
practical wisdom cannot.
6
Scientific knowledge is judgement about things that are universal and
necessary, and the conclusions of demonstration, and all scientific
knowledge, follow from first principles (for scientific knowledge
involves apprehension of a rational ground). This being so, the first
principle from which what is scientifically known follows cannot be an
object of scientific knowledge, of art, or of practical wisdom; for
that which can be scientifically known can be demonstrated, and art
and practical wisdom deal with things that are variable. Nor are these
first principles the objects of philosophic wisdom, for it is a mark
of the philosopher to have demonstration about some things. If, then,
the states of mind by which we have truth and are never deceived about
things invariable or even variable are scientific knowlededge,
practical wisdom, philosophic wisdom, and intuitive reason, and it
cannot be any of the three (i.e. practical wisdom, scientific
knowledge, or philosophic wisdom), the remaining alternative is that
it is intuitive reason that grasps the first principles.
7
Wisdom (1) in the arts we ascribe to their most finished exponents,
e.g. to Phidias as a sculptor and to Polyclitus as a maker of
portrait-statues, and here we mean nothing by wisdom except excellence
in art; but (2) we think that some people are wise in general, not in
some particular field or in any other limited respect, as Homer says
in the Margites,
Him did the gods make neither a digger nor yet a ploughman
Nor wise in anything else. Therefore wisdom must plainly be the most
finished of the forms of knowledge. It follows that the wise man must
not only know what follows from the first principles, but must also
possess truth about the first principles. Therefore wisdom must be
intuitive reason combined with scientific knowledge-scientific
knowledge of the highest objects which has received as it were its
proper completion.
Of the highest objects, we say; for it would be strange to think that
the art of politics, or practical wisdom, is the best knowledge, since
man is not the best thing in the world. Now if what is healthy or good
is different for men and for fishes, but what is white or straight is
always the same, any one would say that what is wise is the same but
what is practically wise is different; for it is to that which
observes well the various matters concerning itself that one ascribes
practical wisdom, and it is to this that one will entrust such
matters. This is why we say that some even of the lower animals have
practical wisdom, viz. those which are found to have a power of
foresight with regard to their own life. It is evident also that
philosophic wisdom and the art of politics cannot be the same; for if
the state of mind concerned with a man's own interests is to be called
philosophic wisdom, there will be many philosophic wisdoms; there will
not be one concerned with the good of all animals (any more than there
is one art of medicine for all existing things), but a different
philosophic wisdom about the good of each species.
But if the argument be that man is the best of the animals, this makes
no difference; for there are other things much more divine in their
nature even than man, e.g., most conspicuously, the bodies of which
the heavens are framed. From what has been said it is plain, then,
that philosophic wisdom is scientific knowledge, combined with
intuitive reason, of the things that are highest by nature. This is

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