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It remains then that it must be “a state of mind true, conjoined with Reason, and apt to Do, having for its object those things which are good or bad for Man:” because of Making something beyond itself is always the object, but cannot be of Doing because the very well-doing is in itself an End.

For this reason we think Pericles and men of that stamp to be Practically Wise, because they can see what is good for themselves and for men in general, and we also think those to be such who are skilled in domestic management or civil government. In fact, this is the reason why we call the habit of perfected self-mastery by the name which in Greek it bears, etymologically signifying “that which preserves the Practical Wisdom:” for what it does preserve is the Notion I have mentioned, i.e. of one’s own true interest, For it is not every kind of Notion which the pleasant and the painful corrupt and pervert, as, for instance, that “the three angles of every rectilineal triangle are equal to two right angles,” but only those bearing on moral action.

For the Principles of the matters of moral action are the final cause of them: now to the man who has been corrupted by reason of pleasure or pain the Principle immediately becomes obscured, nor does he see that it is his duty to choose and act in each instance with a view to this final cause and by reason of it: for viciousness has a tendency to destroy the moral Principle: and so Practical Wisdom must be “a state conjoined with reason, true, having human good for its object, and apt to do.”

Then again Art admits of degrees of excellence, but Practical Wisdom does not: and in Art he who goes wrong purposely is preferable to him who does so unwittingly, but not so in respect of Practical Wisdom or the other Virtues. It plainly is then an Excellence of a certain kind, and not an Art.

Now as there are two parts of the Soul which have Reason, it must be the Excellence of the Opinionative [which we called before calculative or deliberative], because both Opinion and Practical Wisdom are exercised upon Contingent matter. And further, it is not simply a state conjoined with Reason, as is proved by the fact that such a state may be forgotten and so lost while Practical Wisdom cannot.


Now Knowledge is a conception concerning universals and Necessary matter, and there are of course certain First Principles in all trains of demonstrative reasoning (that is of all Knowledge because this is connected with reasoning): that faculty, then, which takes in the first principles of that which comes under the range of Knowledge, cannot be either Knowledge, or Art, or Practical Wisdom: not Knowledge, because what is the object of Knowledge must be derived from demonstrative reasoning; not either of the other two, because they are exercised upon Contingent matter only. [Sidenote: 1141a] Nor can it be Science which takes in these, because the Scientific Man must in some cases depend on demonstrative Reasoning.

It comes then to this: since the faculties whereby we always attain truth and are never deceived when dealing with matter Necessary or even Contingent are Knowledge, Practical Wisdom, Science, and Intuition, and the faculty which takes in First Principles cannot be any of the three first; the last, namely Intuition, must be it which performs this function.


Science is a term we use principally in two meanings: in the first place, in the Arts we ascribe it to those who carry their arts to the highest accuracy; Phidias, for instance, we call a Scientific or cunning sculptor; Polycleitus a Scientific or cunning statuary; meaning, in this instance, nothing else by Science than an excellence of art: in the other sense, we think some to be Scientific in a general way, not in any particular line or in any particular thing, just as Homer says of a man in his Margites; “Him the Gods made neither a digger of the ground, nor ploughman, nor in any other way Scientific.”

So it is plain that Science must mean the most accurate of all Knowledge; but if so, then the Scientific man must not merely know the deductions from the First Principles but be in possession of truth respecting the First Principles. So that Science must be equivalent to Intuition and Knowledge; it is, so to speak, Knowledge of the most precious objects, with a head on.

I say of the most precious things, because it is absurd to suppose [Greek: politikae], or Practical Wisdom, to be the highest, unless it can be shown that Man is the most excellent of all that exists in the Universe. Now if “healthy” and “good” are relative terms, differing when applied to men or to fish, but “white” and “straight” are the same always, men must allow that the Scientific is the same always, but the Practically Wise varies: for whatever provides all things well for itself, to this they would apply the term Practically Wise, and commit these matters to it; which is the reason, by the way, that they call some brutes Practically Wise, such that is as plainly have a faculty of forethought respecting their own subsistence.

And it is quite plain that Science and [Greek: politikae] cannot be identical: because if men give the name of Science to that faculty which is employed upon what is expedient for themselves, there will be many instead of one, because there is not one and the same faculty employed on the good of all animals collectively, unless in the same sense as you may say there is one art of healing with respect to all living beings.

1141b] If it is urged that man is superior to all other animals, that makes no difference: for there are many other things more Godlike in their nature than Man, as, most obviously, the elements of which the Universe is composed.

It is plain then that Science is the union of Knowledge and Intuition, and has for its objects those things which are most precious in their nature. Accordingly, Anexagoras, Thales, and men of that stamp, people call Scientific, but not Practically Wise because they see them ignorant of what concerns themselves; and they say that what they know is quite out of the common run certainly, and wonderful, and hard, and very fine no doubt, but still useless because they do not seek after what is good for them as men.

But Practical Wisdom is employed upon human matters, and such as are objects of deliberation (for we say, that to deliberate well is most peculiarly the work of the man who possesses this Wisdom), and no man deliberates about things which cannot be otherwise than they are, nor about any save those that have some definite End and this End good resulting from Moral Action; and the man to whom we should give the name of Good in Counsel, simply and without modification, is he who in the way of calculation has a capacity for attaining that of practical goods which is the best for Man. Nor again does Practical Wisdom consist in a knowledge of general principles only, but it is necessary that one should know also the particular details, because it is apt to act, and action is concerned with details: for which reason sometimes men who have not much knowledge are more practical than others who have; among others, they who derive all they know from actual experience: suppose a man to know, for instance, that light meats are easy of digestion and wholesome, but not what kinds of meat are light, he will not produce a healthy state; that man will have a much better chance of doing so, who knows that the flesh of birds is light and wholesome. Since then Practical Wisdom is apt to act, one ought to have both kinds of knowledge, or, if only one, the knowledge of details rather than of Principles. So there will be in respect of Practical Wisdom the distinction of supreme and subordinate.


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