TECHNE IN ARISTOTLE’S TAXONOMY OF KNOWLEDGE
Aristotle presents craft (techne) as a distinct kind of knowledge. In this chapter I offer first a general outline of his account of craft, as it is presented within his classification of knowledge in the Nicomachean Ethics (EN). I then analyse this account in view also of other works of his, before homing in on the contrast between techne and practical knowledge or phroncsis, which is likely to strike readers as the most interesting and problematic aspect of Aristotle’s taxonomy.1
The place of techne within knowledge
In EN VI Aristotle accounts for the intellectual virtues.There are several of these because there are different kinds of intellect. Aristotle (EN 1139a9—12) follows the philosophical method described in De Anima II.4 (415al8—20) which gives priority in definition to the capacity’s object. That is,
Pl A capacity and its activities are determined by its distinctive object.
Pl helps Aristotle distinguish first rational from non-rational capacities: rational capacities are concerned with truths. There are then two kinds of rational capacity: one concerned with necessary and eternal truths, another with contingent truths. The first, theoretical reason, has its virtue theoretical knowledge (episteme).2 The contingent truths are the remit of practical and productive reason, the practical sort dealing with action (praxis) and the productive with production (poiesis). These two are mutually exclusive, but they do not exhaust the class of contingent truths, since they are restricted to those truths that are under our influence. Contingent truths on Mars are, at least in Aristotle’s world, the remit of neither practical nor productive knowledge. Our distinctions give us the picture in Figure 5.1.
Aristotle views the virtues as developed dispositions or states (hcxeis), so the intellectual virtues are states of the intellectual capacities.5 As they are states of reason (logos), he thinks that they are also accompanied by an account or reason (logos).4 A logos could in principle be any statement or verbal expression, but several passages make it clear that Aristotle has in mind an account or explanation of what the techne is about.’ As the virtues are excellences of reason,
of necessary truths
the account must also be correct; if the account were false, reason would clearly not have been perfected in possessing this account.
A general formula is then available for all the different virtues of intellect.
P2 A virtue of reason = a state of reason concerned with X accompanied by a true account (logos) ofX.
P2 will then be differentiated according to the value of X, given Pl. In this way we arrive at the following characterisations of the three kinds of knowledge:
Theoretical knowledge = a theoretical state of reason concerned with eternal truths accompanied by a true account.
Practical knowledge = a practical state of reason accompanied by a true account.
Productive knowledge = a productive state of reason accompanied by a true account.