Intellectual virtue

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Intellectual virtues are character traits necessary for right action and correct thinking. They include: a sense of justice, perseverance, empathy, integrity, intellectual courage, confidence in reason, and autonomy.


Aristotle analyzed virtues into moral and intellectual virtues (or dianoetic virtues, from the Greek aretai dianoetikai). In the Posterior Analytics and Nicomachean Ethics he identified five intellectual virtues as the five ways the soul arrives at truth by affirmation or denial. He grouped them into three classes:

  • Theoretical
  • Practical
  • Productive
    • Techne - craft knowledge, art, skill

Subjacent intellectual virtues in Aristotle:

  • Euboulia - deliberating well, deliberative excellence; thinking properly about the right end.
  • Sunesis - understanding, sagacity, astuteness, consciousness of why something is as it is. For example, the understanding you have of why a situation is as it is, prior to having phronesis.
  • Gnomê - judgement and consideration; allowing us to make equitable or fair decisions.
  • Deinotes - cleverness; the ability to carry out actions so as to achieve a goal.

See also


  • Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics Book VI
  • R. M. Paul Critical thinking: What every person needs to survive in a rapidly changing world, (Rev. 2nd ed.). Santa Rosa, CA: Foundation for Critical Thinking, 1992.
  • Michael DePaul et Linda Zagzebski, Intellectual Virtue, Oxford, Oxford U. Press. 2003.

External links