February 28: Patricia Marechal

Please join us on Monday, February 28th from 10:30-12:20 in the Social Sciences Research Building Room 401.

Patricia Marechal (Northwestern) will be presenting her paper entitled Passion, Conviction, and Phronesis in Aristotle’s Ethics.

The presentation is read-ahead and the paper is accessible under downloads.


This paper proposes to rethink the relationship between the virtues of character and phronēsis. By focusing on why virtuous affective tendencies are necessary to become phronimos, an intellectual achievement, we will uncover important features of Aristotelian practical wisdom. I argue that phronēsis is a state of conviction (pistis) in the goodness of our goals based on proper grounds. We can be fully and sufficiently convinced only if rational arguments and principles agree with how things appear to us. When thus convinced, we cannot be convinced out of our commitments. The reason for this, I argue, is that, according to Aristotle, passions influence how things appear to us. Appropriate passions reveal and make salient facts and features of the situations we face. Inappropriate passions, in contrast, deceive us about what is true and valuable. Thus, good passionate tendencies contribute to our conviction that our ends are truly worth pursuing, while bad passions undermine our conviction in the goodness of these ends. For this reason, we cannot be phronimoi without virtuous affective tendencies. Along the way, I argue that this reading allows us to understand the shortcomings of the enkratēs and the akratēs.

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