Plato's Sophist [165-166]

§24. The decision on the question of the priority of φρόνησις or
σοφία in favor of σοφία (Nic. Eth. VI, 13).

a) The difficulty of the decision: merits and deficiencies of φρόνησις and σοφία. The question of the relation to human Dasein. The autonomy and non-autonomy of the ἀληθεύειν.

We have reached the point of acknowledging φρόνησις as the mode of disclosure of a determinate being which has the character of being able to be otherwise, namely human Dasein. Φρόνησις has a double possibility for pure disclosure, i.e., for pure and simple perception: 1.) insofar as, in φρόνησις, the ἀγαθόν shows itself purely and simply, φαίνεται (1144a34), i.e., the ἀγαθόν in favor of which I decide in the προαίρεσις, and 2.) in φρόνησις the ἔσχατον of the deliberation shows itself in an αἴσθησις in a momentary glance I survey the concrete situation of the action, out of which and in favor of which I resolve myself.

Thus, taken as a whole and, above all, seen in connection with the βουλεύεσθαι, φρόνησις proves to be that truth which is related to Dasein itself. One might suppose that, insofar as his own Being, his own existence, is of decisive importance for a man, that truth is the highest which relates to Dasein itself, and therefore φρόνησις is the highest and most decisive mode of disclosure. Yet Aristotle says that σοφία, pure understanding, is, with regard to its ἀληθεύειν (and insofar as ἀληθεύειν characterizes the Being of man), the highest possible mode of human existence. Now if φρόνησις is concerned with the Being of man, yet is not the highest possibility of disclosure, then the difficulty can only reside in this, that φρόνησις is not completely autonomous but instead remains related in its very structure to another mode of human comportment. In fact Aristotle shows that the ἀγαθόν manifests itself in φρόνησις only to an existence which is in itself good, ἀγαθόν. τοῦτο δ' εἰ μὴ τῷ ἀγαθῷ, οὐ φαίνεται (Nic. Eth. VI, 13, 1144a34). "The ἀγαθόν does not show itself except to the ἀγαθός." διαστρέφει γὰρ ἡ μοχθηρία καὶ διαψεύδεσθαι ποιεῖ περὶ τὰς πρακτικὰς ἀρχάς (a34f.). Evil disposition or a generally bad constitution can bring it about that the ἀγαθόν presents itself to Dasein as something it is not. ὥστε φανερὸν ὅτι ἀδύνατον φρόνιμον εἶναι μὴ ὄντα ἀγαθόν (a36f.). Hence only someone who is already ἀγαθός can be φρόνιμος. The possibility of the ἀληθεύειν of φρόνησις is bound up with the proviso that the one who carries it out is himself, in his Being, already ἀγαθός. Thus there appears, from this side as well, a peculiar appurtenance of φρόνησις to πρᾶξις. There pertains to πρᾶξις not only, as we have seen in the point of departure of our reflection, a certain orientation and guidance; it is not enough for πρᾶξις to be guided by circumspection, the sight of φρόνησις. For it is clear that this sight, the anticipation of the ἀγαθόν, as the mode of carrying out the disclosure, is only possible in an ἀγαθός.