Aristotle and Aquinas on Prudence

Term: Spring 2012

Subject Code: GPHI

Course Number: 6661

According to Aristotle, prudence is “a state grasping the truth, involving reason, and concerned with action about human goods.” Aristotle’s development of the concept of prudence provides the foundation for all subsequent discussions of prudence in the Western philosophical tradition. In particular, Thomas Aquinas' subtle and powerful treatment of prudence is developed through his inheritance and critique of Aristotle's work. In this seminar, we will see how Aristotle and Aquinas’s conception of prudence unifies and structures their treatments of human action, practical reason, and ethics. Topics of special interest for our seminar will include: the relation between action and thought; the possibility of rational evildoing; and the social and political dimensions of prudence. The focus of our discussion will be a close reading of selected texts from Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and the Second Part of Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae.

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