Thursday, March 7, 2019

The Art of Practical Wisdom

From Faith and Culture:
In Austen’s novels, it is frequently the case that one or several of the characters are well formed in virtue, despite the situation of the family. In Anne Elliot, we indeed find the most virtuous of all these virtuous characters. Of all the virtues she exhibits, she perhaps best exemplifies the Aristotelian virtue of practical wisdom, or prudence, which, as Aristotle explains, “must be a true state involving reason, concerned with human goods, and practical.”[6] Practical wisdom is the virtue that allows discernment concerning practical human affairs in particular situations; it is not only concerned with universals, but more specifically, with particulars. An individual who possesses practical wisdom is able to apply general principles to a specific situation; in a way, he or she is able to grasp the universal in order to see the need of a particular situation. 
In contrast to her family, and in many cases, her friends, Anne clearly possesses this virtue. When everyone around her is in a state of chaos, she is able to calmly assess the situation and give practical advice. For example, in response to her father’s financial situation, Anne could see that the best option would be to pay the debt as quickly as possible, as this would fulfill the demands of justice. Moreover, after Louisa Musgrove fell and was lying unconscious when Anne and her party of friends were in Lyme, Anne was the only one with sufficient sense to assess the situation and send someone for the doctor. Captain Wentworth will later praise her for her “presence of mind”[7] to send Captain Benwick for a surgeon; Benwick would eventually fall in love with and be engaged to Louisa because of the attachment developed in assisting her during her recovery. We see in Anne, then, the ability to perceive the appropriate action depending on the individual circumstance. (Read more.)

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