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Nicomachean Ethics   


why we say Anaxagoras, Thales, and men like them have philosophic but
not practical wisdom, when we see them ignorant of what is to their
own advantage, and why we say that they know things that are
remarkable, admirable, difficult, and divine, but useless; viz.
because it is not human goods that they seek.
Practical wisdom on the other hand is concerned with things human and
things about which it is possible to deliberate; for we say this is
above all the work of the man of practical wisdom, to deliberate well,
but no one deliberates about things invariable, nor about things which
have not an end, and that a good that can be brought about by action.
The man who is without qualification good at deliberating is the man
who is capable of aiming in accordance with calculation at the best
for man of things attainable by action. Nor is practical wisdom
concerned with universals only-it must also recognize the particulars;
for it is practical, and practice is concerned with particulars. This
is why some who do not know, and especially those who have experience,
are more practical than others who know; for if a man knew that light
meats are digestible and wholesome, but did not know which sorts of
meat are light, he would not produce health, but the man who knows
that chicken is wholesome is more likely to produce health.
Now practical wisdom is concerned with action; therefore one should
have both forms of it, or the latter in preference to the former. But
of practical as of philosophic wisdom there must be a controlling
kind.
8
Political wisdom and practical wisdom are the same state of mind, but
their essence is not the same. Of the wisdom concerned with the city,
the practical wisdom which plays a controlling part is legislative
wisdom, while that which is related to this as particulars to their
universal is known by the general name 'political wisdom'; this has to
do with action and deliberation, for a decree is a thing to be carried
out in the form of an individual act. This is why the exponents of
this art are alone said to 'take part in politics'; for these alone
'do things' as manual labourers 'do things'.
Practical wisdom also is identified especially with that form of it
which is concerned with a man himself-with the individual; and this is
known by the general name 'practical wisdom'; of the other kinds one
is called household management, another legislation, the third
politics, and of the latter one part is called deliberative and the
other judicial. Now knowing what is good for oneself will be one kind
of knowledge, but it is very different from the other kinds; and the
man who knows and concerns himself with his own interests is thought
to have practical wisdom, while politicians are thought to be
busybodies; hence the word of Euripides,
But how could I be wise, who might at ease,
Numbered among the army's multitude,
Have had an equal share?
For those who aim too high and do too much. Those who think thus seek
their own good, and consider that one ought to do so. From this
opinion, then, has come the view that such men have practical wisdom;
yet perhaps one's own good cannot exist without household management,
nor without a form of government. Further, how one should order one's
own affairs is not clear and needs inquiry.
What has been said is confirmed by the fact that while young men
become geometricians and mathematicians and wise in matters like
these, it is thought that a young man of practical wisdom cannot be
found. The cause is that such wisdom is concerned not only with
universals but with particulars, which become familiar from
experience, but a young man has no experience, for it is length of
time that gives experience; indeed one might ask this question too,
why a boy may become a mathematician, but not a philosopher or a
physicist. It is because the objects of mathematics exist by
abstraction, while the first principles of these other subjects come
from experience, and because young men have no conviction about the

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