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To formulate a contemporary conception of political wisdom, this essay combines recent philosophical attacks on the rational subject with Aristotle’s notion of phronesis, or “practical” wisdom. Aristotle maintained that the phronimos is one who, through virtuous character, negotiates the uncertain political realm through the wise use of the rhetorical arts. Modern and postmodern theories, however, have profoundly complicated notions of meaning, identity and rationality, hence conceptions of knowledge and virtuous character. After a review of some of these theories, the essay concludes with a brief re-articulation of phronesis as political wisdom.


This article was originally published in the journal Controversia. Copyright © 2003 International Debate Education Association. Used with permission.

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