Poultry and Prudence By Aristotle: Reading and Meditation

January 2, 2021  • Todd Breyfogle

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Beef or chicken? Ah, the joys of philosophy! We have a choice. We deliberate, says Aristotle, about things that can be otherwise. And deliberation aims at an end—a good attainable through action. It’s customary in this season to deliberate on our aims for the coming year. But how do we put those aims into action? Prudence, or the art of deciding, concerns both universals and particulars. It is not enough to know the general principle; we must know the specifics. According to Aristotle, it is often the experience of specifics which allows for better judgment, even in the absence of the general principle. We can reason well from the specific to the abstract, but not so well in the reverse. In the abstract we want to be healthy, but it is the concrete that allows us to know what is healthy for us and what is not. What are the particular things on which you want to act as you deliberate on your more general aims? To deliberate is also to be deliberate.

Todd Breyfogle

Denver, Colorado

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