How are prudence and experience related?

In Book VI of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle intensively discusses knowledge in the form of Prudence, a form of virtue. In this section, he provides his take on the debate between teaching vs. experience as means to achieve something, the similar issue we face in Plato’s Protagoras in which Socrates argues whether good is learned or experienced. Unlike Socrates, Aristotle clearly states his opinion on this issue, which is discussed below.  

For Aristotle, prudence is the ultimate form of knowledge as he clearly states that “prudence corresponds to intellect, for intellect is concerned with the defining boundaries” (Book VI, 1142a 26-27). In fact, “He who knows about and spends his time on things that concern himself is held to be prudent” is the definition Aristotle uses to describe prudence (Book VI, 1142a 1-5). Thus, in this definition, knowledge is more related to experience because one needs to spend more time on something in order to understand it. In another word, passion and commitment are the requirements in achieving prudence. Aristotle strongly supports that experience is the key to knowledge in several other passages, such as “Hence even some who are without knowledge-those who have experience, among others-are more skilled in acting than are others who do have knowledge” (Book VI, 1141b 17-19), and “the cause is that prudence is also of particulars, which come to be known as a result of experience” (Book VI, 1142a 14-15). An example that Aristotle uses is the know-it-all young person who masters theoretical knowledge, but “not wise or well versed in nature”. There is always a sense of uncertainty when one learns thing theoretically. Yet, the same thing cannot be applied for experience.

Aristotle shares the same perspective that I have in my first post, titled “Knowledge vs. Experience: Which of these is education?” Knowledge cannot be classified as knowledge without the presence of experience. You cannot really know what you have not really seen in action, 

4 responses to “How are prudence and experience related?

Leave a Reply