The importance of practical wisdom and thoughtful action

Dr Nirmala Lee’s entry on phronesis and its application in everyday life has been published in the Springer Encyclopedia.

Date: 29 May 2020

Dr Nirmala Lee, Associate Professor of Banking and Finance at London Metropolitan University, has had an article published in the Springer Encyclopedia of Sustainable Management exploring the Aristotelian concept of phronesis meaning ‘practical wisdom’. Nirmala also serves as a Section Editor for the encyclopedia, which is considered the most comprehensive and up-to-date source of reference for sustainability in business and management.

Nirmala said: “It is an honour to have an entry published by the Springer Encyclopedia. I hope the entry encourages more and more people to develop phronesis or practical wisdom to cope with all the challenges that life throws at them. 

“I think the topic of phronesis is crucially important for success and indeed for one’s very survival. The distinguishing quality of phronesis is the requirement to arrive at reasoned decisions about action with regard to whether the outcome is thought to be advantageous. Put simply, it is concerned with how to act wisely in particular situations.”

Nirmala, having always admired the classical Greek philosopher Socrates and his method of questioning, first came across the term phronesis when looking at the research publications of the external examiner assigned to her PhD thesis. To her, Socratic questioning aligns quite closely to the Aristotelian concept of phronesis, the practical wisdom that arises from questioning oneself and others in the process of taking action.  

“The concept of phronesis highlights the importance of practical wisdom and thoughtful action in relation to all matters”, says Nirmala. “Phronesis is relevant and important regardless of the nature of the particular decisions we may be called upon to make. 

“For example, in the current context of Covid-19, what do we do if we actually come down with a severe form of the disease? Do we risk being put on the ventilator or Remdesivir or Hydroxychloroquine by going into hospital, or do we risk staying at home instead and take garlic, steam inhalation and H2 Molecular Hydrogen tablets?  That choice, like everything else in life, involves phronesis and the need for wisdom in the domain of practice. It takes phronesis or practical wisdom, in addition to scientific data, for us to make the right decisions.”

A statue of Aristotle