The Place of Phronesis in Postmodern Hermeneutics

Philosophy Today 37 (3):298-305 (1993)
Abstract
The conception of paralogy, which <span class='Hi'>Jean-Francois</span> Lyotard develops in The Postmodern Condition, motivates a number of questions concerning justice and the moral life. In this paper I suggest that Lyotard's account fails to provide an adequate answer to these questions, and that a more satisfactory account of justice in paralogy can be developed by exploring the concept of phronesis. John Caputo's "ethics of dissemination," in some respects, leads us in this direction. Although both theorists attempt to develop their accounts in terms of the concept of phronesis, Lyotard reduces phronesis to cleverness, while Caputo elevates it to what he calls "meta-phronesis," a conception of how we are meant to cope under conditions of postmodern paralogy. Caputo's analysis of meta-phronesis, however, is carried out within the framework of a critique of the traditional concept of phronesis. To show how Caputo's account might lend itself to a fuller conception of phronesis, one which is appropriate to a postmodern hermeneutics, I raise some questions about (a) the radical definition of the paralogical situation offered by both Lyotard and Caputo, (b) Caputo's critique of phronesis, and (c) his characterization of meta-phronesis.
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