© April 2004
Bibliography for phronesis and prudentia
I have recently been asked for a bibliography which elaborates on the conceptual distinction between phronesis and prudentia.
My own interest in these two concepts has developed in line with my study of early modern arts & sciences. In general, I have found the primary sources of this period both visual and verbal full of suggestive dialogue about the changing relations of theory to practice, episteme to phronesis, knowledge to wisdom, judgment to virtue, natural to divine.
Because of this, the bulk of my discoveries about phronesis and prudentia have been serendipitous (nuggets of information found here and there in primary sources, usually when least expected), and I have not developed a formal research plan or comprehensive reading list on either concept.
My own work focuses on how phronesis and prudentia were conceived, modeled, taught and practiced during the early modern period. And I continue to wonder about the implications of this for a postmodern era. Both these concerns have yielded an eclectic and circumstantial reading list which, in addition to a broad range of (mostly 17th-century) primary texts too numerous to be listed here, includes:
Atwill, Janet M. Rhetoric Reclaimed: Aristotle and the Liberal Arts Tradition. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1998.
Re. phronesis (practical wisdom), practical knowledge, and Empeiria (experience, practice); rhetoric as practical knowledge; rhetoric as productive knowledge.
Bourdieu, Pierre. Practical Reason: On the Theory of Action. Trans. by Randal Johnson, et al. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998.
Brucker, Charles. “Prudentia / Prudence aux XIIe et XIIIe siècles.” Romanische Forschungen 83.4 (1971): 464479.
Evolving definitions of prudentia and prudence through the middle ages, with emphasis on the concept’s changing philosophical, theological, ethical, and political associations. Includes a discussion of the mystic, Raymond Lull. (Text in French.)
Cape, Robert W., Jr. “Prudence.” In Encyclopedia of Rhetoric. Ed. Thomas O. Sloane. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. 63740.
Capella, Martianus. The Marriage of Philology and Mercury. Trans. William Harris Stahl and Richard Johnson, with E. L. Burge. Vol. 2 of Martianus Capella and the Seven Liberal Arts. 2 vols. Records of Civilization, Sources and Studies, no. 84. New York: Columbia University Press, 1977.
From the Middle Ages, a conceptualization of phronesis and prudentia inherited by the Renaissance, and still exerting influence during the early modern period.
Certeau, Michel de. The Mystic Fable. Trans. by Michael B. Smith. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.
Certeau, Michel de. The Practice of Everyday Life. Trans. by Stephen Randall. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984.
Cooley, Mike. Architect or Bee? The Human Price of Technology. Slough: Langley Technical Services, 1980; London: Hogarth, 1987.
Re. “craft intelligence” as a model for deepened human knowing through doing (theory and practice are not polarized, but in balance).
Dormer, Peter. The Art of the Maker: Skill and Its Meaning in Art, Craft and Design. London: Thames & Hudson, 1994.
Distinguishes 2 closely intertwined strains of “craft knowledge” (or “local knowledge”): theoretical knowledge (the concepts behind things, the language we use to describe and understand ideas) and tacit knowledge (knowledge gained through experience or “know-how”). For Dormer, craft knowledge (much more than just “technique”) is a critical human function, similar to the creative thinking practiced by the best mathematicians or physicists.
Gahtan, Maia Wellington. “Notions of past and future in Italian Renaissance art and letters.” In Symbols of Time in the History of Art. Eds. by Christian Heck and Kristen Lippincott. Turnhout: Brepols, 2002. 6983.
A colleague tells me that “even though the title does not refer to Prudence at all, the whole essay is devoted to the subject, particularly to Prudence looking to the past, present, and future.”
Gaines, Robert A. “Phronesis.” In Encyclopedia of Rhetoric. Ed. Thomas O. Sloane. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. 60103.
Hariman, Robert, ed. Prudence: Classical Virtue, Postmodern Politics. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2003.
Heinrichs, Jay. Thank You for Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us about the Art of Persuasion. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2007.
In Thank You for Arguing, Henrichs gives a modern, popular interpretation of phronesis (“rhetorical street savvy” or “practical wisdom”) in chapter 17. According to Heinrichs, Aristotle defined phronesis as “the skill of dealing with probability,” combining the ability “to predict, based on the evidence” and the ability “of making decisions that produce the greatest probability of happiness.” Heinrichs classifies phronesis as one of the 3 chief aspects of ethos (argument by character). His summary account of phronesis emphasizes 3 constituent elements: showing off experience, bending the rules (i.e., skilled at improvisation and adjusting to changing circumstance rather than a rules follower with a one-size-fits-all approach to problem solving), and appearing to take the middle course (Appendix, p. 289). Heinrichs’ 3 “Tools” for assessing phronesis are: the “that depends” filter, comparable experience, and “sussing” ability (“figure out what the audience really needs, and what the issue really is”; “cut to the chase”).
Heinrichs runs the Figaro website, which is devoted to rhetorical analysis. Extracts from his book are available here, although not the book’s material on phronesis.
Johnstone, Christopher Lyle. “Practical Wisdom.” In Encyclopedia of Rhetoric. Ed. Thomas O. Sloane. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. 63135.
Kolb, David A. Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1984.
Marle, Raimond van. Iconographie de l’art profane au Moyen-Age et à la Renaissance, et la décoration des demeures. 2 vols. 1931; rpt. New York: Hacker Art Books, 1971.
Chapter 1, “L’Allégorie Éthique” of vol. 2, “Allégories et symboles,” includes a discussion of prudentia iconography. (Text in French.)
Miller, Thomas P. “Treating Professional Writing as Social Praxis.” Journal of Advanced Composition 11.1 (1991): 5772.
Re. phronesis as social praxis.
Michael Polanyi’s writings on “tacit knowledge”:
Personal Knowledge (1958)
Rice, Eugene F. The Renaissance Idea of Wisdom. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1958.
A detailed study of developing models of phronesis (practical wisdom), prudentia (moral philosophy), sapientia (metaphysics), and scientia (natural philosophy).
Roochnik, David. Of Art and Wisdom: Plato’s Understanding of Techne. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1996.
Tallmon, James M. “Casuistry.” In Encyclopedia of Rhetoric. Ed. Thomas O. Sloane. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. 8388.
An HTML transcription of this encyclopedia article is available in the she-philosopher.com Library: see Lib. Cat. No. JMT2001.
Tallmon, James M. “Toward a Rhetorical Ethics.” Accessed 14 July 2006, from <http://www2.dsu.nodak.edu/users/jtallmon/OnRR.htm>.
“This study suggests how practitioners may contend with tough cases by means of a method of shared moral inquiry that is sensitive to the rigor and exhaustiveness appropriate to their given field. All that is needed to complete the process is the sort of expertise and practical wisdom that rhetorical theory cannot provide. Where does the group turn for that essential knowledge? To itself. Or, as Francis Bacon put it, ‘a faculty of wise interrogating is half a knowledge’ the other half is supplied by the group’s reliance on professional standards, common sense, phronesis, and experience.”
NOTE: as of August 2007, this paper is no longer available online. If/when Jim finds it a new online home, I will post an updated Web address.
Toulmin, Stephen. “Concluding Methodological Reflections: Élitism and Democracy Among the Sciences.” In Beyond Theory: Changing Organizations Through Participation. Eds. Stephen Toulmin and Bjorn Gustavsen. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins Pub Co., 1996. 203225.
Discussion of the shared methodologies of clinical medicine and “participatory action research” (in the social sciences): “Both kinds of research are aimed at practical effects, not theoretical rigor: both seek the kind of knowledge Aristotle called phronesis (‘practical wisdom’) more than episteme (‘theoretical grasp’)”; both are “judged by practical results, not by theoretical propriety.”
Voegelin, Eric. Science, Politics and Gnosticism: Two Essays. Introd. by Ellis Sandoz. 1968; rpt. Washington, D.C.: Gateway, 1997.
Re. Platonic-Aristotelian phronesis as “philosophy and faith considered experientially.” Grounds the ideal scientist’s ethos in the critical rationality and “loving action” associated with phronesis.
Welch, Kathleen E. Electric Rhetoric: Classical Rhetoric, Oralism, and a New Literacy. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999.
Re. Isocratean logos as associated with phronesis, prudentia, and judgment.
Wind, Edgar. Pagan Mysteries in the Renaissance. 1958; 2nd ed., New York: W. W. Norton, 1968.
Re. the visual culture of phronesis, consilium, and prudentia.
To round out the above, and provide a bibliography of sufficient historical and theoretical range for scholarly use, I append here the 3 reading lists given at the end of the articles on phronesis, practical wisdom, and prudentia in the Encyclopedia of Rhetoric:
• from Robert Gaines’ article on PHRONESIS (in the Encyclopedia of Rhetoric)
• from Christopher Johnstone’s article on PRACTICAL WISDOM (in the Encyclopedia of Rhetoric)
• from Robert Cape’s article on PRUDENCE (in the Encyclopedia of Rhetoric)