In this class, we're exploring Aristotle's ideas of theoretical and practical wisdom, heading on perilous Atlantic sea voyages, and asking about what it means not just to know stuff, but also to act wisely.
Wisdom, thinking and doing
Welcome to the second class in Season 1, where we're exploring wisdom: what it is and why it matters. In this class, we're going to be plunging into the work of Aristotle, one of Ancient Greece's most profound thinkers, to ask about the relationship between wisdom, thinking and doing.
Wisdom, as we saw in the last class, is more complex than it first seems. When we say someone is wise, we are not saying they possess just a single quality. Instead, we are suggesting they possess a suite of qualities. To be wise involves, at the very least, some combination of how you think about the world, how skilfully you act, and how effectively you communicate.
In this class, we're going to look more closely at how Aristotle distinguishes between two of these things: the wisdom that is rooted in our knowledge or understanding (or theoretical wisdom), and the wisdom that is rooted in our action (or practical wisdom).
Aristotle: philosopher of everything
Aristotle was born in Stagira in Macedonia in the year 384 BCE. He later moved to Athens where he studied with Plato. According to the biographer Diogenes Laërtius (who, if you've been following the Philosopher Files, you will know is rarely to be entirely trusted), Aristotle was quite an oddball. He had small eyes and bow legs, and he spoke with a lisp. He was a pretty snappy dresser: he trimmed his hair short — although the fashion at the time was to have long, flowing locks — and he liked to wear big, elaborate rings on his fingers. And it was said that he was an electrifying public speaker.