Teaching phronesis to aspiring police officers: some preliminary philosophical, developmental and pedagogical reflections

International Journal of Ethics Education 7 (2):289-305 (2022)
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Abstract

According to Aristotle, the crucial meta-virtue of _phronesis_ (practical wisdom) is cultivated through teaching and experience. But he remains mostly silent on the details of this developmental picture and its educational ramifications. This article focuses on the ‘taught’ element of _phronesis_ development in the context of police ethics education. I begin by piecing together the developmental trajectory that Aristotle suggests towards full virtue, up to and including _phronesis_ development. I also briefly list ten potential weaknesses of this picture. I then present a reconstructed Aristotelian model of _phronesis_ and explain how the teaching element of _phronesis_ education could be executed, with an illustration from an ongoing _phronesis_ intervention for UK police-science students. However, I go on to dampen the enthusiasm about this ‘taught’ component, by explaining how relatively small the ‘zone of proximal development’ is that can be targeted by scaffolded teaching. Finally, I elicit some implications of the conclusion that most of _phronesis_ development will need to be ‘caught’ from gradually unfolding personal and professional experiences.

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