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Sunesis as Ethical Discernment in Aristotle

Attila Simon
From the journal Rhizomata


In this paper, I examine the concept of sunesis (comprehension) in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. In Section I, I clarify the differences between phronēsis and sunesis, focusing on the roles they play in bouleusis (deliberation). I argue that sunesis is not directly involved in practical deliberation in the canonical sense of the notion. In Section II, I suggest an interpretation of sunesis as ethical discernment. We employ sunesis in cases without any immediate objects of practical deliberation, such as when we criticize an action in the past or give advice to others. In this function, discernment has a crucial role in the ethical life of individuals embedded in a community.


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Published Online: 2017-7-18
Published in Print: 2017-7-26

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