Clarify as much as possible Aristotle’s distinction between practical knowledge and theoretical knowledge. Does an understanding of this distinction help account for why persons who know certain habits or behaviors are harmful, still persist in those behaviors?
Practical wisdom or phronesis, is one of the five intellectual virtues that develops as a lasting structure in the human mind (Life of Excellence). This also includes character, goodwill, and virtue. Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics splits the intellectual virtues into the practical, and theoretical wisdom. Aristotle believed that everything that exists has purpose (teleology) (Aristotle’s Ethics). The primary purpose of human life is happiness, but Aristotle believed that happiness is only achieved through virtue. Aristotle mentions that there are guidelines for what it takes to act virtuously (Aristotle’s Ethics). This means we must take responsibility for our actions, because that’s what defines our character. To maintain a virtuous behavior, we must find a good balance in our lives to keep from falling into vice behaviors (Aristotle’s Ethics). In other words, if our mind is working rationally that will lead us to do virtuous things. Aristotle mentions that it’s neither a natural nor unnatural tendency for people to be virtuous (Aristotle’s Ethics). This means that if we let our minds become corrupted by emotion (fear or anxiety), that will lead us to vice behaviors. Aristotle says that if we focus on our rationality that will keep our emotion from going too far in one direction (Aristotle’s Ethics). In addition to phronesis, sophia or theoretical wisdom involves reasoning of universal truths (Life of Excellence). Aristotle thought that sophia should be taken more seriously than phronesis (Aristotle’s Ethics). This is due to the fact that sophia requires both reasoning, and knowledge. Since theoretical wisdom is concerned with truth, Aristotle believed that it’s concerned with the “first principles”, which make it necessary, and everlasting (Life of Excellence). For example, courage can be challenging to achieve. If you’re in the military it takes a lot of courage, and determination. These men and women have the knowledge, training, and courage to do their jobs overseas. Someone like me who is definitely in no way shape or form built for that kind of job might know that it requires courage, but I don’t know what it really takes to do that kind of job. In conclusion, practical knowledge helps us understand that we must work hard to be virtuous, because we can fall into vice behaviors without proper balance. Theoretical knowledge is requires a person to be headstrong.