The power of phronesis, the practical motor of the mind

Practical principles are the boundaries which govern one’s life. They exist subconsciously within our lived experience, and they are reflected by all of our actions to a differing degree. For instance, we can contrast the life of a person who criticizes everything with a person who is able to genuinely recognize positivity in their life. The former may preach all sorts of principles about what a good life is, but through their subconscious impulses reflected by their actions, it is easy to see how they do not have these practical principles ingrained. By contrast, someone who recognizes positivity genuinely, has many good practical principles without even needing to recognize them or communicate them.

In short, once you figure out how to integrate practical principles in your life, by using a filter of your own making, there is no limit at all. In other words, it’s not about overthinking everything, rather just to think only the amount necessary to integrate a principle.

Rules for accepting practical principles:

  • Is it consistently repeatable?
  • Is it limited? (If it is not limited, then it is not a good principle)
  • What benefits does it bring? Will it get me closer to other principles?
  • Does it come at the cost of a different principle? Which ones?

If a given principle can answer all these questions satisfactorily, then it is worth it.

Once people understood and integrated good practical principles, there would be no need for all the pointless discourse and grandstanding that is done. Practical principles are about learning the things that make you good, and once you’re good at doing those things, you don’t have to even think about it.

In fewer words, this is how Aristotle described a moral life.  He believed that moral good is learned via habit, and virtue is reflected via these good actions. There is no need for grandstanding for moral good. There is no need for explicit knowledge of the good for moral good. We just live inside a culture where simple things like these are not simple to learn, because they are hidden under layers of political concepts, shallow opinions and information taken out of context.

A concept I want to highlight for this post comes from Aristotle’s work, the idea of phronesis. Phronesis is the wisdom and knowledge that allows human beings to repeatedly execute practical actions without the need to remind ourselves of it the moment we do it. Like riding a bike; once we learn, we don’t forget, and we don’t need to remind ourselves how to balance each time we ride a bike. So, remember that even though you may feel doubt sometimes about how to do something, remember that your inherent phronesis can be trained to learn it for you – and you will surprise yourself at how many things you can do.

The examples are endless: learning languages, social skills, meditating and listening to your own thoughts, reading…

Those are just things I have learned so far in my life, the best part about phronesis is that it can always learn new things, which is the most exciting part about it.






Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *