Plato's Sophist [138-140]

The ἀληθεύειν of φρόνησις as such δεῖ καὶ τὰ καθ᾽ ἕκαστα γνωρίζειν (b15) "must also disclose the concrete individual possibilities of the Being of Dasein." πρακτικὴ γάρ, ἡ δὲ πρᾶξις περὶ τὰ καθ᾽ ἕκαστα (b16). That is, the disclosure of φρόνησις is ὁμολόγως ὀρέξει,3 it is carried out with a constant regard toward the situation of the acting being, of the one who is deciding here and now. On this basis, the meaning of the ἀγαθόν for human Dasein and the mode of dealing with it in λέγειν are determined not just incidentally but according to their most proper sense: this ἀγαθόν is an ἀκρότατον. Φρόνησις is not a ἕξις μετὰ λόγου μόνον (Nic. Eth. VI, 5, 1140b28), it is not a mere discussing that proceeds for its own sake, but instead, already in every word, in every saying it utters, it speaks of the πρακτόν and for the sake of the πρακτόν. ἡ δὲ φρόνησις πρακτική· ὥστε δεῖ ἄμφω ἔχειν, ἢ ταύτην μᾶλλον (ibid., 8, 1141b21f.). "φρόνησις must have both": ἀληθεύειν and πρᾶξις, "or, rather, the latter still more." Φρόνησις dwells in πρᾶξις still more than in λόγος. What is decisive in φρόνησις is πρᾶξις. In φρόνησις, the πρᾶξις is ἀρχή and τέλος. In foresight toward a determinate action, φρόνησις is carried out, and in the action itself it comes to its end.

εἴη δ᾽ ἄν τις καὶ ἐνταῦθα ἀρχιτεκτονική (b22f.). And also here within the πρακτική there may exist a certain order of connection, a leading and a guiding, Insofar as the ἄνθρωπος is the ζῷον πρακτικόν, πρᾶξις is to be understood as a mode of being with others; and insofar as this is the τέλος, φρόνησις is of the character of the πολιτική.4

Hence what is decisive for φρόνησις is πρᾶξις. This gives rise to an essential distinction between φρόνησις and ἐπιστήμη, one which concerns their genesis. Aristotle shows this in chapter 9.

b) The mode of origin of φρόνησις and ἐπιστήμη (Nic. Eth.
VI, 9). Φρόνησις: ἐξ ἐμπειρίας (life experience).
Mathematics: δι' ἀφαιρέσεως.

Φρόνησις requires χρόνος. Life experience is needed for the possibility of correct decisions but not for ἐπιστήμη. Thus it can happen that young people are already able to discover important things. Aristotle refers here to the mathematician, and Pascal would be an example for us. Mathematics is an autonomous σχολάζειν.5 γεωμετρικοὶ μὲν νέοι καὶ μαθηματικοὶ γίνονται καὶ σοφοὶ τὰ τοιαῦτα (1142a12f.). Precisely in mathematics quite young people can already do research autonomously and in this regard can become σοφοί.

3. Cf. Nic. Eth. VI, 2, 1139a24ff.: τοῦ δὲ πρακτικοῦ καὶ διανοητικοῦ ἀλήθεια ὁμολόγως ἔχουσα τῇ ὀρέξει.

4. Heidegger did not elaborate further.

5. Cf. Met. I, I, 981b20ff.