Plato's Sophist [56-58]

This must seem all the more remarkable in view of the fact that τέχνη has as its theme beings which can also be otherwise, whereas the theme of σοφία is in a preeminent sense what always is.3

§9. The analysis of σοφία (Nic. Eth. VI, 6-7).

a) The dia-noetic relation of ἐπιστήμη, φρόνησις, and σοφία to the ἀρχαί (Nic. Eth. VI, 6).

In order to understand σοφία we must first remind ourselves of the persistent context of Aristotle's interpretation. He analyzes the various modes of ἀληθεύειν with regard to the ἀρχαί, their disclosure and their preservation. Ἐπιστήμη has its foundation in the ἀρχαί; it uses the ἀρχαί as its axioms, the self-evident principles, from which it draws conclusions. Ἐπιστήμη implicitly co-intends the ἀρχή1 and τέλος, as well as the εἶδος and ὕλη, of beings. But ἐπιστήμη does not make the ἀρχαί thematic; on the contrary, it only wants to pursue its deliberations following the guiding line of the εἶδος. As for τέχνη, it anticipates only the ἀρχή, the εἶδος; it does not even co-intend the τέλος. But τέχνη does not make the εἶδος thematic; it merely takes its course following the guiding line of the εἶδος, which gives direction to its λογίζεσθαι. In φρόνησις the οὗ ἕνεκα is given and, along with it, the ἀρχή as well, and also the τέλος, the εὐπραξία —for the ἀρχή is the τέλος itself. But here too it is not a matter of a thematic consideration. Ἀρχή and τέλος are not taken up as ἀρχή and τέλος. φρόνησις is not a speculation about the ἀρχή and the τέλος of acting as such; it is not an ethics and not a science, not a ἕξις μετὰ λόγου μόνον (Nic. Eth. VI, 5, 1140b28). According to its proper sense, it is what it can be when it is a view of a concrete action and decision. And even σοφία, which ultimately aims at the final principles of beings, is an ἀληθεύειν which does not have the ἀρχαί as its exclusive and proper theme. Rather, its research into the ἀρχή is such only insofar as it looks for the principles of those beings which stand under the principles. τοῦ γὰρ σοφοῦ περὶ ἐνίων ἔχειν ἀπόδειξιν ἐστίν (Nic. Eth. VI, 6, 1141a2f.). Hence even σοφία is not the ἀληθεύειν which makes the ἀρχή thematic as ἀρχή. εἰ δὴ οἷς ἀληθεύομεν καὶ μηδέποτε διαψευδόμεθα περὶ τὰ μὴ ἐνδεχόμενα ἢ καὶ ἐνδεχόμενα ἄλλως ἔχειν, ἐπιστήμη καὶ φρόνησις ἐστι καὶ σοφία καὶ νοῦς, τούτων δὲ τῶν τριῶν μηδὲν ἐνδέχεται εἶναι (λέγω δὲ τρία φρόνησιν ἐπιστήμην σοφίαν), λείπεται νοῦν εἶναι τῶν ἀρχῶν (a3ff.).

3. See the appendix.

1. Editor's note: in the Sense of the ἀρχὴ τῆς κινήσεως. Cf. Aristotle's so-called theory of the four causes, inter alia Met. I, 3, 983a24ff.