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American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 80, Issue 4, Fall 2006

Thomas Sherman, S.J.
Pages 481-506

Wisdom and Action Guidance in the Agent-Based Virtue Ethics of Aristotle

While Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics does not provide a guide for action in the form of rules for a decision process as deontological or consequentialist ethical theories purport to do, he does present a description of the virtuous agent and the virtues that this agent exercises in his choices of action. In this paper I argue that Aristotle’s mature virtuous agent characteristically exercises the virtue of wisdom (sophia) as well as the practical virtues of character and intelligence in his choices of action and that students of virtue (those sincerely interested in becoming virtuous by acting as the virtuous agent does) can derive certain action-guiding rules from a description of these three virtues and how they are exercised by the mature virtuous agent in any given choice of action.

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