1.4: Phronesis in the Professions


Phronesis is increasingly being seen as an important concept to use when thinking about what it means to be a virtuous professional. Studies that link phronesis to professional practice in professions such as medicine, law, teaching, nursing, business and the armed forces are becoming more commonplace.

The Jubilee Centre has dedicated a large part of its research to this field. Commonly asked question in this area are ‘what does it mean to be a wise professional?’ and ‘how does a professional make virtuous decisions when faced with ethical dilemmas?’ In this section you will explore the importance of phronesis in the professions more generally, and teaching in particular.

Watch this TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) talk by Professor Barry Schwartz, which provides an outline of what phronesis means in a professional context, and the importance of virtue cultivation in one’s professional practice.

Download the worksheet and read the quotes on virtue ethics. Summarise the key points in your own words.

Working in pairs, review the following scenario and discuss what you would do. Compare your approach with others in your class.


F.T. Hansen- This essay describes the growing interest in, and use of, concepts such as phronesis and authenticity in educational research and practice. While phronesis seems to be connected to the ethical dimension of education and educational guidance, the concept of authenticity seems to be connected to the existential dimension.

D. Carr and S. Cooke- Recent reflection on the professional knowledge of teachers has been marked by a shift away from more reductive competence and skill-focused models of teaching towards a view involving context-sensitive deliberation and judgement. This paper undertakes exploration of the logical geography of virtue, character and practical deliberation in teaching.