Barry Schwarts on Aristotle and Practical Wisdom

In his famous Nicomachean Ethics, the ancient philosopher Aristotle argued that ethics is not an exact science, and that looking for mathematical precision in such a discipline is bound both to fail and to distort ethics itself.

Instead of thinking of ethical principles as rules that everyone ought to follow categorically, as more modern philosophers have argued, Aristotle was deeply concerned with the role of judgment and flexibility in our moral assessments. Aristotle's concern was not with rules (or misguided incentives) but with character and virtue. Since ethics for Aristotle is about living a good life (and not just blindly following a set of maxims or working for the sake of bonuses), different circumstances may require that our choices vary accordingly, and deciding what to do will require that we apply some practical wisdom to our endeavors.

In the following thought-provoking TEDTalk presentation, and using a number of powerful examples, Barry Schwartz makes a very compelling case for the many ways in which a return to Aristotle and virtue ethics may just literally save the world and help us see again what really matters.



Check out more on the awesomeness of Aristotle.
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