Deliberative Excellences in Aristotle

7.5 credits

Syllabus, Bachelor's level, 5FT191

Education cycle
First cycle
Main field(s) of study and in-depth level
Theoretical Philosophy G2E
Grading system
Fail (U), Pass (G), Pass with distinction (VG)
Finalised by
The Department Board, 4 September 2023
Responsible department
Department of Philosophy

Learning outcomes

Upon successful completion of the course, students should be able to:

  • explain Aristotle's accounts of deliberation and deliberative excellences and their place in Aristotelian ethics
  • evaluate different accounts of how and why Aristotle thinks that different social groups are in different positions with respect to deliberation
  • compare joint and solitary practical deliberation and evaluate the significance of the distinction for understanding Aristotle.


Phronesis or practical wisdom is for Aristotle a deliberative excellence: a state of the soul in virtue of which its possessors deliberate well. But what is it to deliberate, and to do it well? And is phronesis the only deliberative excellence, or are there others? In this course we'll plunge into controversies surrounding both questions, with the dual aim of getting a deeper grip on Aristotelian ethics and better appreciating the role that joint deliberation plays in it. In particular, we'll talk about how to make sense of Aristotle's noxious claims that some people can't deliberate well, whether only those with the character virtues can deliberate well, and how differences between joint and solitary deliberation matter - e.g. (with an eye to Nicomachean Ethics 6.10-11 and the particularly noxious claim in Politics 1.13 that women's deliberative faculties are not authoritative) whether there are different virtues for different roles to be played in joint deliberation.

The readings will be primary texts from Aristotle's Ethics (esp. Nicomachean Ethics 6), Politics, and Rhetoric, supplemented with secondary literature on these passages, some modest background reading, and some contemporary literature on joint deliberation.


Seminars structured around the readings.


A final essay of 3000 words. Students will be expected to present the proposed topic of the essay and their initial thoughts about it during class.

If there are special reasons for doing so, an examiner may make an exception from the method of assessment indicated and allow a student to be assessed by another method. An example of special reasons might be a certificate regarding special pedagogical support from the University's disability coordinator.

Other directives

The course may run jointly with the second cycle course 5FT189.