ArgLab • Colloquium

Michael Baumtrog

Phronêsis and the Willingness to be Rationally Persuaded

Phronêsis, often translated as “practical wisdom” or “common sense”, is an intellectual virtue identifying the disposition to deliberate well so as to arrive at a course of action which brings about the good. Common sense, however, is far from objective and bringing about the good is seldom uncontroversial. Moreover, what sometimes appears to be common sense can be an incorrect conclusion induced by a cognitive bias which, while incorrect, appears so certain that we are very reluctant to give it up. In this paper I argue that while phronêsis may be a meta-virtue, underlying phronêsis is the more foundational virtue of a willingness to be rationally persuaded (WTBRP). A WTBRP is a virtue in the sense that it fulfills the doctrine of the mean by falling in between two vices – never sticking to your position and never giving it up. In this way a WTBRP is also a virtue of an arguer rather than an argument. In the absence of an objective answer regarding what we ought to do, arguing with a WTBRP is more important thanphronêsis for deliberation regarding bringing about the good.