Study Guide

The Nicomachean Ethics Book 6, Chapter 13 (1144b1-1145a11)

By Aristotle

Book 6, Chapter 13 (1144b1-1145a11)

  • Aristotle circles back to virtue. He speaks of it in two ways: the natural and the authoritative.
  • He says that virtues are present in us in some form from birth, but that we seek a more definitive sense of good.
  • We need intellect to perfect our virtues. Virtue without intellect is like a strong but blind person: though capable, he'll stumble without eyesight.
  • But virtue in the authoritative sense needs both intellect and prudence to develop. This is because correct reason works right alongside prudence.
  • Without prudence, a person can't be wholly good. And without moral virtue, there's no prudence.
  • Therefore, when we call a person "good," it means that he's also prudent.
  • Because prudence is in residence, so are all the other virtues. So prudence is like the King (or Queen) of virtues.
  • Why? 1) Prudence is necessary for proper action. 2) It's a virtue belonging to the rational soul. 3) No correct choices can be made without it.
  • But Aristotle doesn't want to overstate the importance of prudence. It is not really the boss of wisdom or the "better part of the soul."
  • Prudence works for wisdom, governing actions that might then lead to the discovery of universal knowledge (i.e. wisdom).