Aristotle’s hexis, phronesis, and Prolific Politics: Through a Musicological Lens
This paper attempts to examine and interpret the idea of phronesis, which unfolds in book Six of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. Emphasizing the role of politics, Aristotle’s concept of phronesis(practical wisdom) involves the idea of habit (hexis) or cultivating moral virtues. It is thought that phronesis helps agents avoid extremes in their choices and finally achieve the thoughtfully desired good. Implications of these ideas lead us to ask – where do we get/cultivate phronesis? What is the nature of politics that cultivates active dispositions in us? In order to answer these questions, I interpret Aristotle’s concepts of phronesis and politics through Indian Classical Music’s principle of ’improvisation.’ In the initial part, I discuss Aristotle’s ethical framework to understand the role of habit (hexis) and politics in the cultivation of phronesis. I will then show problems in MacIntyre’s interpretation of these ideas. Finally, I will argue that as a musician’s ’new’ imaginative creativity arises from ’given’ patterns of melodic possibilities provided by a prolific teacher, practical wisdom is also cultivated by ’hexis imparting’ politics. However, politics must be qualified with prolificity, which will develop autonomous moral agency and evade any coercive influence of socio-customary morality.