Study Guide

The Nicomachean Ethics Book 6, Chapter 12 (1143b19-1144a37)

By Aristotle

Book 6, Chapter 12 (1143b19-1144a37)

  • Aristotle refocuses the convo: why are we talking about wisdom and prudence again? Wisdom isn't concerned with how to make a person happy. (More on this soon.)
  • But prudence is directly concerned with human happiness, because it's all about noble action. However, just knowing about prudence doesn't help us to acquire or exercise it.
  • And how does prudence help those who're already virtuous? Technically speaking, they just need enough intelligence to follow the advice of the prudent and do the right things.
  • Note at this point that Aristotle's given us a very cagey definition of prudence.
  • He admits as much by saying that we really have to investigate the "perplexities" surrounding it first.
  • Now we get to the nitty-gritty.
  • Though Aristotle's said that wisdom is something superior to prudence, he now says that both are "choiceworthy." So pick one: you can't go wrong.
  • Wisdom produces happiness, since it's a virtue. It has prudence and the moral virtues as tools to complete its work.
  • Virtue helps by making our choices the correct ones. Prudence helps us with the process of choosing correctly.
  • There's also cleverness, which helps get things done once we've chosen on a course of action.
  • Cleverness isn't always a positive attribute. If it helps to achieve a "noble" goal, it's a good thing. If not, it is "base."
  • Aristotle reiterates the idea that corruption perverts the entire process of longing, choice, and action. It's for this reason that a bad person can't be prudent.