Cohen Hall, Room 402
Speaker: Susan Sauvé Meyer, Professor of Philosophy, University of Pennsylvania
A neglected passage in Aristotle's discussion of the social virtues (EN 4.6, 1126b28-1127a6) shows that virtuous motivation has a two-level structure. The virtuous person aims both at the kalon and at such concrete and determinate objectives as being helpful or pleasant to others. His characteristic motivation is to regulate his pursuit of such concrete goals in the light of his overriding commitment to the kalon. This is what it is to act tou kalou heneka. Such REGULATION, moreover, is the paradigmatic activity of phronēsis (a conclusion licensed by the strong affinities between the passage in EN 4.6 and the opening passage of EN 6.1, and corroborated by the sense it makes of the notion of "natural virtue" invoked in EN 6.13). The pros to telos thinking at which the phronimos excels is therefore NOT restricted to the implementation of ends; it also determines, with reference to the kalon, which ends a person will implement in a given situation. It is the latter activity of phronēsis that Aristotle has in mind in his notorious remark about phronēsis as "correct grasp of the end" at the end of EN 6.9. These results provide a broad textual warrant for the proposal, originally advanced by David Wiggins, that Aristotelian phronēsis is expertise at discriminating situationally appropriate reasons for acting.