Knowing in Aristotle part 2: Technē, phronēsis, sophia, and divine cognitive activities

Philosophy Compass 17 (1):e12799 (2021)
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In this second of a 2-part survey of Aristotle’s epistemology, I present an overview of Aristotle’s views on technē (craft or excellent productive reason) and phronēsis (practical wisdom or excellent practical reason). For Aristotle, attaining the truth in practical matters involves actually doing the right action. While technē and phronēsis are rational excellences, for Aristotle they are not as excellent or true as epistēmē or nous because the kinds of truth that they grasp are imperfect and because they are excellent states for humans, not simply speaking. I then discuss why Aristotle takes sophia (wisdom), understanding and scientific knowledge of the best things, to be its own excellence. While this is the best cognitive state for human beings, I argue that Aristotle thinks divine cognitive activity is different in kind and more perfect than any human activity.

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Caleb Cohoe
Metropolitan State University of Denver


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