Phronesis does heavy lifting in Aristotelian-inspired virtue ethics. On one account “virtue ethics cannot survive without a robust commitment to phronesis” (Russell, 2009, p. 3) because otherwise it is difficult to establish a connection between having a virtue and doing what is right. Phronesis is also held-out by Neo-Aristotelians as a psychological construct crucial to the work of empirical moral psychology. It is commonly invoked further afield as a construct crucial to professional practice of all kinds, to research on wisdom and other applications in general psychology. The general aim of my remarks is to show how social cognitive theories of personality and development account for key features of phronesis. First, I will survey prominent interpretations of phronesis as discussed in recent philosophical literature to identify aspects that call for psychological specification. In particular, I will focus on phronesis as a meta-virtue, the moral character interpretation of phronesis, and the phronesis-as-blueprint component. Second, I will explore the resources of social-cognitive theories of personality and development for explaining the work of phronesis. Social cognitive theory provides constructs and mechanisms that account for perceptual sensitivity and discriminative facility credited to phronesis, including attentional and encoding processes that influence how events are represented, interpreted, and remembered. Social cognitive theories of personality, such as KAPA and CPAS, and social cognitive theories of moral self-identity and its development, link the operations of phronesis to dispositional character; and the development of metacognition provides a framework for understanding phronesis as a meta-virtue. Finally, I will conclude with some thoughts about phronesis as a psychological variable.
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