Practical Wisdom and Human Excellence: A Study of the Sixth Book of the "Nicomachean Ethics"

Dissertation, University of California, Davis (1990)

In this dissertation, the Sixth Book of the Nicomachean Ethics is examined with a view to establishing that Aristotle's presentation of practical wisdom there provides a window for understanding the relationship between the two intellectual virtues--practical wisdom and philosophical wisdom which are frequently taken to be entirely unrelated. We argue that not only are the two principle intellectual virtues related, but that there is a relationship between moral virtue and intellectual virtue. ;It is our contention that Aristotle's scheme of virtues is developmental, and that the moral and intellectual virtues do not arise independently but are tied together, that the intellectual virtues depend upon a foundation of the moral virtues and that, in turn, fully developed moral virtue must have in sight the end represented by the intellectual virtues. We argue that the virtues are interconnected with reason providing the mechanism whereby the lower virtues provide access to the higher and the higher, simultaneously, give form to the lower. In our reading, Aristotle posits that full human development in the individual requires the development of all human characteristics in relationship to each other and to the final end toward which human excellence is directed. Practical wisdom, the primary focus of Book Six, is seen as providing the link between the various kinds of virtue, both moral and intellectual. We conclude that practical wisdom is the key articulating element in The Ethics and gives coherence to the treatise as a whole. ;In making this argument, we begin with an overview of the whole treatise and the place of Book Six in the whole. The central chapter of the dissertation is devoted to a commentary on Book Six. We go on to apply our understanding of the treatise to an analysis of Aristotle's discussion of the characters and lives of the three kinds of men who represent aspects of human excellence: the magnanimous man, the political man, and the philosopher
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