Aristotle’s Moral Virtues and Practical Wisdom
This is an important distinction to make as the formation of these moral virtues depends in large measure upon the experiences one has that help form them. The second part of the equation for happiness is the exercise of practical wisdom. Generally, Aristotle said that practical wisdom is wisdom based on rationality and an accurate interpretation of what the greatest good would be in a given situation. This is a natural tendency in all people, to try to make decisions in life that are based upon the wisdom they’ve learned so far, but Aristotle indicates that without the benefit of well-developed moral virtues, these decisions will often lead to imperfect understandings of the situation and imperfect assessments of the right action to take. However, taking the right action is essential if one is to develop strong moral virtues. As a result, Aristotle makes the claim, particularly in his book Nicomachean Ethics, that practical wisdom depends upon the existence of moral virtues to be exercised, yet at the same time, moral virtues require the exercise of practical wisdom to be developed.Moral ethics becomes the primary topic of conversation in the first chapter of Book 2 of Nicomachean Ethics. He defines them as inner conscience grown out of consistent practice. “None of the moral virtues arises in us by nature. for nothing that exists by nature can form a habit contrary to its nature … Neither by nature, then, nor contrary to nature do the virtues arise in us. rather we are adapted by nature to receive them, and are made perfect by habit.”1 Aristotle compares the process of learning how to play an instrument, but a process that might be more familiar to people in the modern period would be learning to type on a blankkeyboard. Anyone can hit the keys on the keyboard, but they don’t produce anything meaningful on the computer screen until one begins to learn the position of the letters.