Bo’s Blog: Embodied Wisdom


You have a wisdom deep inside of you that you might not even know how to access.

I want to introduce (or remind) you to an amazing concept: phronesis

Here is a ‘7 min sermon’ on the idea and a short explanation below.

[youtube id=”NPKnTpSi_Lc”]

I love this concept so much.

An interesting way to access it is by using the famous formulation of:

  • known knowns (things we know that we know)
  • known unknowns (things we know that we don’t know)
  • unknown unknowns (things we don’t know that we don’t know)

Then Zizek reminds us that the 4th quadrant would be “unknown knowns”!!

There are things that we don’t even know that we know … and this is why we need to know about phronesis.

Another way of approaching the idea is to focus on the kind of knowledge that is produced:

  • phronesis (practical wisdom) in contrast to the modern fascination with
  • theoria (theoretical knowledge and thinking) or
  • techne (technical knowledge and thinking)

A helpful analogy can be found in learning to play a musical instrument:

“Playing the flute, Aristotle observes, has value and fulfills its purpose well before the music stops. This is especially the case with ethical conduct and political activity, an ongoing process of deliberation that requires practical wisdom (phronesis). In contrast, (he) viewed building a house as poiesis— satisfactory only when the construction process is complete.” [1]

Unfortunately, after Aristotle poiesis got subsumed into praxis and was reduced into the binary that we have inherited today in the classic split between theory and practice. The final, and perhaps most popular, of these concepts is habitus.

The habits of faith form a character in you through repetition and spiritual practice.

You have a wisdom down inside of you.
It operates on a lower register than your immediate thoughts.
It is not just head knowledge.
It is deep inside of you – down in your bones.
Learn to trust your gut and follow your heart.

[1] Cahalan and Mikoski, Opening the Field of Practical Theology, 305.

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