Spring 2015 Wisdom SA Group Exercise Answers

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What is Aristotle's Theory of Wisdom?


Aristotle's view of wisdom was split into multiple branches. One notion was philosophical wisdom, or metaphysics, which concerns speculative science and investigates basic causes and principles that can be beyond our comprehension. He debated if this type of wisdom was out of human capacity. The second side was practical wisdom, concerned with knowledge, reason and pure logic. This definitely falls under the cognitive section of C.A.R., as emotions and reflection are essentially ignored for the importance of rationality. Ultimately, the obtaining of Aristotle's wisdom entails combining the two branches into one: thorough understanding of practicality on Earth while continuing to appreciate and understand more speculative topics.


Aristotle's view of wisdom is linear, rational, yet still incorporates emotional intelligence. He recognizes both the rational and emotion side of wisdom, which are viewed as equal in importance. Using wisdom to be emotionally in tune with the surroundings. He uses perception as a tool to shape an individuals choices and dispositions.


Aristotle, along with the Greeks, made a distinction between philosophical and practical wisdom. According to Aristotle, philosophical wisdom is the understanding of of the ultimate nature of things, this encompasses the highest branch of science, metaphysics, to investigate principles and causes (Clayton & Birren). Aristotle also said the idion ergon distinguishes humans from non-humans, and that distinguishing attribute is "the particular task or mission- the idion ergon- that attaches to the life of that creature." (Robinson) Further, Aristotle believes we are working to an end, and that our lives are "not some number of moments strung together", but instead it should be viewed as a whole.

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How does Aristotle view the concept of wisdom? From our readings, specifically Daniel Robinson’s piece “Wisdom Through the Ages,” we have learned that Aristotle has a dualistic view of the world. He believed in an understanding of the physical and concrete ideas around us, while also emphasizing the importance of theoretical and abstract ideas. This is illustrated in Aristotle’s study of ethics, in which he proposed that the ideal answer for practically everything was a “golden mean” that balanced two competing ideas. The true answer, according to Aristotle, was in the middle of these dualistic concepts.

Therefore, when examining wisdom we can infer that Aristotle’s view is in between two competing ideas, and in order to fully understand, we must find a balance in between. He claims that you possess an “idion ergon,” or rather, features of your identity that make wisdom possible; a principle that allows you to live in conformity: 1) what you do; the ability to make choices and 2) trained dispositions you have of cultivating habits i.e how you were raised may influence this aspect. Practical wisdom, therefore, is impossible to acquire by simply just learning general rules, but through practice; habitual practice of deliberative, emotional and social skills. These skills in turn help to create our basic understanding of well-being according to the situation you are placed in.

Additionally, Aristotle believes that wisdom stems from the reality of nature and the process of growing. He uses the metaphor of a seed to explain this; where a seed develops, unfolds and grows, and thrives through its surroundings. This metaphor can apply to all things in reality, including the process of human life, and in turn says the essences are things that are developed from the processes of nature. Specifically, the wise person has a deep knowledge for the nature of reality and how all things fit together. "

Winnie the Pooh

Aristotle’s view diverged from Socrates and Plato in that he was more focused on the physical world, with a progression from the efficient cause to the final cause. That being, the final purpose according to Aristotle is to achieve knowledge. Robinson discusses Aristotle’s view on wisdom, saying, “The mark of wisdom for Aristotle is the very character of the person revealed in that person’s deliberated choices (prohaviesis) and dispositions (hex eis).” Another criteria of Aristotle’s conception of wisdom is idion ergon, the ability to adhere your life to reason, governed by a sense of mission or purpose.

Clayton and Birren discuss Aristotle’s conception of wisdom as being knowledge driven. He has two distinctions for wisdom, practical and philosophical. Practical wisdom is concerned with the ultimate good for man, while philosophical wisdom represents an understanding of the ultimate nature of things. Out of these two conceptions of knowledge comes a drive towards scientific inquiry of the natural world, also known as curiosity, as well as a drive to obtain the highest level of practical knowledge in one’s field.


Aristotle on Wisdom

Unlike his mentor, Socrates, Aristotle believed that human wisdom is indeed beneficial with regard to morality and the important questions that face us in life. In his work, Metaphysics, Aristotle defines human wisdom as “knowledge about certain causes and principles” and that it should be pursed for its own sake. He also believes in a duality of wisdom, theoretical and practical. Theoretical wisdom consists of knowledge necessary and scientific truths that are deduced from wisdom. He heavily emphasizes reflection and the pursuit of truth with regard to theoretical wisdom. On the other hand, practical wisdom is knowing how to live well as a person and within a society. Furthermore, Aristotle highlights the importance of taking action in practical wisdom. Aristotle is highly concerned with one living according to excellence.

Aristotle places an importance on knowing not only yourself but also the importance of living according to your final cause. The reason for this is that it allows for the perfecting of virtue in one’s self, which Aristotle characterizes as Arete. Aristotle further distinguishes what Arete by examining “golden mean” this is a middle ground between deficiency and excess. This is related to wisdom because the wise person in Aristotle’s view of Arete lives according to a golden mean. In order to achieve the golden mean one must lead his or her live in pursuit of theoretical and practical wisdom. Wisdom is not an instantaneous achievement but rather it is a lifelong pursuit to a live excellently.

Wise Guyz

According to Aristotle and many ancient Greek philosophers, wisdom is the ability to act wise and reflect on those actions. The ultimate goal of life is to achieve eudaimonia, or a human flourishing and happiness. To achieve this ideology, a person must practice wisdom. A wise person will possess a strong knowledge of good and evil, act accordingly, and be able to reflect on such actions. Therefore, achieving wisdom is not merely an accumulation of facts.

To the Greeks, wisdom is the highest form of knowledge. They categorized wisdom into two subsections: philosophical wisdom and practical wisdom. Philosophical wisdom is the ultimate knowledge of the nature of things. It is the highest form of knowledge and can only be possessed by God or gods. According to Aristotle, this form of wisdom should be sought after by humans with inquisition and curiosity, even though it is unattainable. Practical wisdom is the knowledge of the ultimate good for man. The root of this philosophy lies in action. A wise person not only knows the value behind materials or efficient formal causes behind events, but also he or she acknowledges the Final Cause and his or her position in the Final Cause, such that a person must strive for moral perfection or virtue and adopted in all affairs of life. "