Right Reason in Plato and Aristotle: On the Meaning of Logos

in Phronesis
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Abstract

Something Aristotle calls ‘right logos’ plays a crucial role in his theory of virtue. But the meaning of ‘logos’ in this context is notoriously contested. I argue against the standard translation ‘reason’, and—drawing on parallels with Plato’s work, especially the Laws—in favor of its being used to denote what transforms an inferior epistemic state into a superior one: an explanatory account. Thus Aristotelian phronēsis, like his and Plato’s technē and epistēmē, is a matter of grasping explanatory accounts: in this case, accounts that identify the right action and say why it is right. Arguably, Aristotelian rationality is a matter of being able to grasp accounts in general.

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