Reason and Human Finitude: In Praise of Practical Wisdom

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40 Scopus citations


Phronesis, or practical wisdom, is central to virtue ethics because choosing the best course of action cannot be reduced to an algorithm. Phronesis is the capacity to make wise decisions regarding which virtues are called for in particular circumstances and the best way to enact those virtues. This article highlights three components of practical wisdom: moral perception, deliberation, and choice. Admirable actions are characterized by perceiving what is important, deliberating about how to address the central aspects of our circumstances, and choosing the most appropriate response. The article is concluded by discussing the centrality of phronesis in ethical, clinical, and scientific practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)415-426
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Behavioral Scientist
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2003


  • Ethics
  • Flourishing
  • Judgment
  • Virtue
  • Wisdom

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Social Sciences(all)


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