PHRONESIS is ‘practical wisdom’. It is one of the four cardinal virtues of our favorite ancient Greek philosophy. The other three cardinal virtues are justice (<dikayosine>), temperance (<sōphrosynē>) and courage (<andreia>).

<Sophia>(see also <SOPHOS> in the WORDS section of this site) is another Greek term for <phronesis>, while in Latin two words express roughly the same notion: <prudentia> and <sapientia>.

Platon (Plato), in some texts, has Sokrates (Socrates) suggest that thinking with <phronēsis> is a virtuous activity. Therefore, we can say that <phronēsis> is a virtue and all virtues are forms of <phronēsis>. Being good means being an intelligent or reasonable person with intelligent and reasonable thoughts. <Phronēsis> grants that a person has moral or ethical strength.

In Platon’s “Meno, Sokrates illustrates in which way <phronēsis>, that is ‘moral understanding’, is the most important quality we need to learn. He explains how this virtue cannot be taught because it is the final goal of the process of self-understanding. Certainly a teacher might be helpful, but SOUL-SEARCHING is something that one has to perform on his own. The challenge to search one’s own soul (with little or no external aid) is part of the entire philosophical effort. It is a practical, real and individual effort. Again, the supervision of a teacher is highly recommended but the weight (and responsibility) is on one’s shoulders (and soul). 

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<Phronesis> is ‘practical wisdom’. Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus (Marcus Aurelius) says in Meditations 4.37 that “wisdom and acting justly are one and the same“. Such a declaration (on the part of an emperor) is the best confirmation of how a quality like wisdom does not exist unless in real, concrete, practical activities. Thus, WISDOM can only be <phronēsis> that is ‘practical wisdom’. Otherwise wisdom alone (with no practical implications) would just be a void notion.