Phronesis in the Life and Work of Fr. Thomas Stephens.

Fr Thomas Stephens’[1] genius and dexterity in the composition of his great opus, Krista Purana[2] has been widely recognized and profoundly studied. Besides this knowledge and skills, Thomas Stephens exhibits practical wisdom in the choices of his interlocutors, dialogical form for his Catechism, Greco-Latin grammar as a model for Konkani grammar, shift to Marathi from Konkani, choice of Smrti over Shruti, etc. Before he used all these intellectual gifts, he has to use these gifts of practical reason.[3] In this study, we shall strive to understand how practical wisdom[4] accompanies the marvelous work of Stephens. Today we can notice a great interest in practical wisdom among philosophers.[5] This is so because we are a generation blessed with technical knowledge and its tens and thousand products but lack practical wisdom that is fundamental to use them effectively. We explore this field and examine how it was at work in the life and labours of Thomas Stephens. What has been called practical wisdom cannot be easily described in terms of theory.  It is practical, non-technical but rational.  It is praxis-oriented and is visible in practice which we can decode mostly in hindsight. In the first part of this study we shall strive to construct a short survey of the emergence of the notion of practical wisdom in Philosophical circles. We then conduct a broad analysis Ignation process of discernment[6] and its relations and differences with phronesis. Next, we shall attempt to examine how it is at work in the great life and work of Thomas Stephens and close with a short application to our context today.

The Generative Context of Phronesis

Phronesis is the knowledge that is deemed as fit for praxis. It has to be distinguished from techne anther form of practical knowledge. Phronesis is needed to effectively use techne. It is less detached and more intimately involved with the self leading it to self-realization.  It is non-technical but not non-rational. The truth is  not in the techne  or  rigor of method. It does not dispense rigor but phronesis is not residing in the rigor of method. This is so because the past is always intertwined with our present and the future and shapes our prejudices that assist our understanding and fashioning of our self. We become a phronimos, person who possesses phronesis.

The Greek Roots of Phronesis  

Gadamer has taught us that Hermeneutics has both theoretical and practical tasks .                       .  . Several scholars find this unity in what has been called Phronesis in Greek  which is translated as Prudentia in Latin.  Gadamer has used the term practical wisdom to designate it.  He teaches that phronesis designated both practical and theoretical knowledge.[7]  It reached  theoretical fixation as separated from theory and practice in Aristotle’s Nicomachean ethics which separates metaphysics from ethics.[8] We may trace an echo of practical wisdom in Socrates who teaches that Knowledge is Virtue. Socrates does not consider all knowledge as virtue but the knowledge that is sophrosynes, knowledge of one’s own good, the knowledge of the self.  It is from this presupposition that his dictum, ‘Know thy self’ flows.[9]  This knowledge cannot be compared with knowledge as techne (technique/ art) or even as episteme (knowledge of essences/ science).  In the broadest sense, we may view this Socratic call as an invitation to live in accordance with virtue. Plato seems to move from the individual Good of Socrates to communitarian good (Koine Sympheron).[10] Therefore for Plato, the good of the individual becomes one that serves the good of the community (Oeikeion Agathon).[11]  Gadamer teaches that it is Aristotle who breaks the unity of that which both Socrates and Plato held together.  This means he traces in Aristotle the roots of separation between theoretical and practical wisdom. Thus, Aristotle is the villain of this dichotomy theoretical knowledge and practical knowledge.

Phronesis as Practical Knowledge

With Aristotle, the emphasis shifts to practicality in the understanding of phronesis and strict separation between Sophia and Phronesis  begin to appear.[12] Phronesis then become practical knowledge that is allied to the cunningness of the politicians. It sills retain the communitarianism of Plato as a politician is supposed to work for the good of the city. The citizen that chooses to be guided by the politician chooses the good of the city/ community. Being practical knowledge, it is the knowledge that is capable of producing its own good. We can find it linked with the ethics of self-care / sorge of Heidegger or the being   profoundly interested in the one’s existence as presented by Kierkegaard.[13] Thus, we find a kind of return to  Socratic individual’s own good in existentialism.  Thus, phronesis leads to the ethics of self-care leading to the full realization of oneself. Gadamer teaches that it is everyone’s rational reflection that is useful for him. It is a continuous practice of forming oneself while techne is a knowledge acquired while practicing. It is  watchful care of oneself. Because it  is a continuous exercise it is habitus. Indeed, it is because of Gadamer that Phronesis came to the centre of attention of philosophy. His work has brought fresh light on  Aristotle’s view on Phronesis.

Retrieval of Aristotle’s view on Phronesis  

The retrieval of Aristotelian phronesis was led by Gadamer. Gadamer teaches that Aristotle takes us the problem identified already by Socrates and Plato in his book Nicomachean  Ethics.  Aristotle was trying to overcome the abstractness of logos (reason) with which arête ( excellence) was  already associated by Socrates and Plato and manifest a more complex texture of logos which cannot be disembodied from the ethos within which it arises.[14] The attention to abstractness of logos manifests us bias against bias in the name of enlightenment.[15] It exposes the hollowness of objectivism. In a hermeneutical encounter brings about a fusion of two horizons to give us understanding. Gadamer also attempts to restore a forgotten history of hermeneutics and revive the theological and legal hermeneutics which eclipsed because of literary and historical preoccupations that had captured the imagination of hermeneutist of his day. The context within which religious and legal documents were interpreted was manifestly a context of practice. One is not simply in quest of meaning in the religious or legal horizon.  The interpreter in a religious and legal context is in a living relationship with the text. Thus, understanding a religious or legal text always involves a need to apply it. The religious and legal texts have a saving character in relation to whom it is addressed. Gadamer wishes to generalize the applicative dimension of religious and legal reading and interpreting texts to hermeneutics and shows how an act of application brings about a fusion of horizon.[16] This quest for application and consequent enabling understanding derived through an act of fusion of horizon that leads to praxis guided by a form of reason that Aristotle calls phronesis.[17]

Deeping our Dive into Phronesis

Phronesis and techne are two modes of practical knowledge.  In its strictest sense, Aristotle confines only phronesis as a practical (praktikos) dimension and thinks of  techne as productive ( poietike) knowledge. Thus, we can trace a threefold classification of Knowledge: theoretical, practical and productive (technical )  in Aristotle.

Status of Theory in the work of Aristotle

Following his teacher Plato, Aristotle names the kind of knowledge that is purely theoretical and non-practical and non-productive as episteme.[18] In an ordinary sense, episteme was a general term for all knowledge but with Plato, its connotation was narrowed down and stood for real knowledge that stood out from mere opinion (doxa).[19]  With Aristotle, this notion becomes further refined as it became knowledge in terms of principles (archai) or causes ( aitiai).[20] This form of knowledge acquires demonstrability in Logic and reaches its climax in the Sophia which is the exact form of knowledge.[21] It was pure abstract knowledge in terms of essences. Thus, it was totally other of  any knowledge that offered practical importance. Aristotle teaches that humans come to love Sophia (become philosophers ) only when there is leisure in their life. This means once technai takes care of necessities of life, humans become seekers of wisdom.[22]  This is because at this stage humans are able to pursue knowledge for the sake of knowledge. This is the level of pure contemplation (to theoresai). Thus, this knowledge is pure and exists for its own sake and not at the service of production of something else. Aristotle seems to point out that this form of knowledge makes the person a sophoi- admirable, divine but useless.[23] This means the theory for Aristotle is non-utilitarian as well as non-humanistic. Besides, it is non-anthropo-centric as its objects of contemplation are beyond the human world alone. This is why it is the most detached form of knowledge. Aristotle teaches that the pursuit of a theory is surpassing all other pleasures of life. Aristotle does admit a formative aspect to theory as he seems to suggest that it prepares the person to live ethically.[24] One, who is the possessor of theory, thus opens oneself to the order of harmony of the cosmos and the serenity of the divine beings. The theorist becomes like theoretical objects (mimesis).[25]

Status of Practice in Aristotle

The primacy of theory somehow derails its place in practice. The highest form of knowledge cuts its entire links from practice and is rightly viewed as ethical Platonism by several scholars.[26] The trouble with this view is that it paradoxically teaches that only worthwhile practice is the pursuit of theory. Thus, strictly speaking there is nothing second rate about practice in Aristotle. Praxis or practice was of great importance to him as he regarded that through it humans participate in the affairs of the polis and actualizes essences of character. Aristotle painstakingly studies the role and importance of practice in his books rhetoric and politics.[27] Unfortunately, humanity, particularly in the West tilted towards theory and forgot praxis as an essential pursuit of human flourishing ( eudaimonia).[28]  But such a view has taken us away from human things (ta anthropina) that are proper to us.[29] This un-dimensional growth sought by humanity has produced theoretical progress but ethics or forming of character has not caught us alongside this progress. This is why Gadamer and others try to trace back phronesis or practical wisdom that Aristotle eloquently wrote in the sixth book of Nichomachean Ethics.  Hence, we need to urgently get out of the cave life of theory and face the sun of ethical life. Commitment to practice opens us once again to ethical life. There is a dispute among philosophers today whether Aristotle placed the highest value to the pursuit of theory or the exercise of phronesis.[30] One can clearly notice that Aristotle clearly puts phronesis at the service of theoretic reason. He openly states that phronesis is not superior over Sophia but it does not displace it as an agency ordering our lives. This is why even to pursue Sophia we need phronesis. One has to be a phronisimos, one who sees and do good at all times.[31]


Status of Productive Knowledge vis-à-vis Phronesis  in Aristotle  

Practical knowledge in a broad sense includes productive knowledge ( poieses)  along with phronesis.  Aristotle views production as fabrication. It is an activity that is involved in a production of an outcome that is separable from it and it provides it with its end or telos.[32] Phronesis on the other hand has to do with the conduct of one’s life and fairs as primarily as a citizen of a polis. Praxis does leave no separately identifiable outcome behind it and whose ends are therefore actualized in the very performance of the activity. Thus, for Aristotle making (techne) and acting (phronesis) are two different things. Techne provides the knowledge of an expert.  In this sense, an expert is a person who processes an understanding of principles (logoi aitai) underlying the production of an object or state of affairs.[33] Phronesis, on the other hand, characterizes a person who knows to live well (eu zen).[34]  It is acquired not in the production of things separate from oneself rather in one’s actions with one’s fellow others.  Prohnesis is a notion that brings into knowledge as well as the ordering of human affairs the greats degree of openness, improvisation, and flexibility. It is primarily an ethical knowledge in contrast to techne. Techne cannot have an end other than itself and phronesis be praxis has no other end other than itself.[35] Hence, it is a eupraxis (good action). Techne fits well within the means/end framework. The agent of praxis is disclosed to himself/ herself and others through his/her action. He does not have the blueprint for his actions like the craftsmen/ artist who posses techne/ expertise, rather he/she becomes and discovers who he /she is in the very actions.  This is why phronesis cannot be mindless. It cannot exist without the intellectual and moral condition of the mind. It is a reasoned state of pursuit of a good life. The self is revealed only within a network of communal relationships and communal responsibilities the function of phronesis is not to the good that one already knows but rather discover the good that one must become.[36]

Relating Phronesis to Discernment

There seems to be a hermeneutical circle between Phronesis and discernment. The Ignatian discernment which is a dynamic process leading to the individual or communal decisions for action in response to the word of God here and now seems to have a common belonging to phronesis as both seek a common response to the universal to the particular. This is perhaps the reason why we can trace profound phronesis in the life and work of Thomas Stephens.

The Discernment of the Spirits

Within the Christian tradition, discernment leads to the choice of the light of Christ.  Among the Jesuit, it is also called diakrisis pneumaton and involves a process of shifting through interior experiences to determine the sources of their origin to discover which ones are leading to the following of the light of Christ.[37] In the very process of discernment, we can trace a common rhythm with what we have call phronesis. The Greek work diakrisis and the Latin word dicernere have common root meaning that signifies to separate, to distinguish. St. Ignatius of Loyola uses exclusively uses it in his rules for the discernment of the spirits.[38] It involves judgement and can be related to phronesis but cannot be necessarily reduced to it. Discernment of the spirits is theological in nature and had grace as an essential aspect while phronesis is the natural ability and dexterity of a person. Discernment seeks to interpret the word of God in a concrete situation and evoke a response of love in a person. Although there are clear differences between phronesis and discernment, there are also manifested common spaces. One visible common space can be seen in the telos/goal of good action. What we call ethical action has lots of commonality with the will of God.

Discernment – a Fruit of Spiritual Exercises

The process of discernment involves a constant dialectics between the existential word of God and the prophetic word of God. The dialectic consists of attending to all the factors posed by the concrete situation and then the discovery of the will of God through a profound reflection on the prophetic word of God.[39]  Thus it requires one to listen to the world and to listen to the Holy Spirit. `Discernment is arrived at with the help of a director who acts as an objective mirror while prohnesis is chiefly an intuitive insight that drives us a person to choose actions that will turn him/her into a good for  society. Thus there is a common mission that we can trace between discernment and phronesis. It consists of  building a bridge between general principles and specific actions. But there are also differences. One of the chief differences is that discernment is a formal process while phronesis has spontaneous elements to it. Discernment is a fruit of spiritual exercises.  Discernment indeed is a real goal of the spiritual exercises and a great contribution of St. Ignatius to Christian Spirituality.[40] The spiritual exercises build the bridge between the principles and teachings of our Lord Jesus and ordinary situations of daily life.  It assists us to live out our discipleship both individually and commonly.

Discernment and the Signs of Time

Although the process of discernment can be availed by all, it is a specific spirituality of the Jesuits. It is an important tool that assists the Jesuits to read the signs of the time and take appropriate and difficult decisions about kinds of apostolate that would best respond to the challenge they face as Jesuit in a here and now.  St. Ignatius uses most frequently the term, parecer which means an opinion formed after careful observation of appearance[41]. The frequency of this term reveals that St. Ignatius was aware of the extreme difficulty of arriving at a complete certitude in ambiguous and complex concrete situations. He leaves the concrete decisions to the man on the spot as he thought that that person is in the best position to see and weigh all aspects of the actual situation. The use of the term parecer also manifests that St. Ignatius was open to an error in discernment despite all goodwill. The other term that finds great currency in St. Ignatius is mirar or mirror. He uses it to emphasize the need for prayerful reflection in the light of norms of discernment upon all of the evidence in the situation to be discerned.[42] Another key term for St. Ignatius is sentir which stands for felt knowledge in response to the exterior and interior experiences.[43] Juzgar is also an important term that finds the frequency of usage in spiritual exercises.[44] It signifies judgment that enables a decision to be taken in a concrete situation.

Phronesis in Thomas Stephens

Thomas Stephens did exhibit that he was gifted with phronesis. We have appreciated his profound techne, espiteme  as well as Sophia but have not tried to delve into how phronesis opened ways of becoming what he become for Goa, the Jesuits and the Catholic community in India and the world. It might be that the frutifulness of his magnum opus in Goa and other parts of India becomes a demonstration that he  allowed phronesis to guide him. His work was never a disinterested pursuit of techne and episteme but one that allowed him to become the catholic evangelizer par excellence. But in these pursuits, he becomes an expert and master of Konkani and Marathi and model of inter-faith dialogue. Thus, it was Phronesis that assisted him to gain mastery over several of his avatars.

Stephens between the Hermeneutical Circles

Thomas Stephens embodies a fecund encounter between the East and the West. He does exhibit the operation of the hermeneutical circle between the East and the West in his life and work. Within this hermeneutical framework, we can trace the operation of another hermeneutical circle between the techne, episteme, and phronesis. Besides this hermeneutical circle, we can explore the hermeneutical circles that operated between the master and the disciple because of his choice of dialogical form[45] for the articulation of the catechism in his Doutrina Kristam, the Greco-Latin background and Konkani and its Indo-European roots in his grammar of Konkani, and the Catholicism and Vaishnavism in his magnum opus, Krista Purana. Of all these hermeneutical circles, this study attempts to propose the one that is at play in his entire life and work as phronesis. It is this circle that illumined Thomas Stephens and enabled him to do the right thing and become what be becomes to Christians as well as others in Goa. Phronesis enables us to do the right thing in a particular situation. This does not simply mean Phronesis is an ability to apply universal knowledge to particular situations. On the contrary, phronesis means that the particular situation exerts its own demands on the universal principle. The direction of the hermeneutical circle is from a particular situation to the universal principle or notion of good. It adopts the universal to the particular condition.[46] This is why it was also called prudence which was also interpreted as cunningness. But it is never a choice of evil but always ethical.  We can think of epieikeia. It is an exception to the general rule. It does not mean that the general law is wrong. It only means that the correlation of the universal and the particular  in this case is a deliberative judgment. Though, it is also vulnerable to being abused by selfish interest. This means in the case of Thomas Stephens it was the Goan condition, culture, language and religions that challenged the universality of Christian tradition and his response brought about the fruition of intermingling of Goan-ness and Christian-ness.


Different Avatars of Stephens  

Thomas Stephens  seems to have become all things to all people. His encounter with the locals in Goa at that time challenged him to become a Konkani Xastri/ expert, chose his inter-locaters who enjoyed influence as well had knowledge. Also, the local context regarding the cultural importance of Marathi challenged him to learn and become its Pandit.  Today several experts on Marathi are full of admiration and praise of the pristine Marathi that he manifests in his magnum opus, Krista Purana. In this context, phronesis can be seen in his discovery of the universal in a local. This can be seen in his composition of grammar wherein he discovers the rules of Latin in Konkani. We can even find that he finds a common resonance between the Vaishnava  and Catholic theology.[47] Thus, phronesis does not just ascertain the application of the universal to the particular but discovers the universal in the particular.[48]  He dialogues with two dynamic traditions and discovery of local language to match the universal. It is seeking an action that fits a particular situation. There is no great importance in the universal principles unless it is applicable to particular situations. Christian theology that Thomas Stephens was rooted, manifests the existence of phronesis in his work. Thus, it is because of phronesis that he becomes a dialogical person. It is phronesis that opened him to the enrichment and mutual fecundation of Konkani, Marathi, Christian and Vaishnava faith.  Thus, phronesis is not merely an applicative knowledge but is a realization of good. This is why it is inseparable from ethos.

Phronesis driving the Choices of Stephens

Scientific Knowledge/ episteme  is linear, reductive, progressive, and deductive. It moves from the particular to the universal. Phronesis as practical wisdom being applicative finds a proper fit between the two universal and particular in a local context. This means phronesis guides the choice and is deliberative. Scientific reasoning is definitely prescribed by logic while reasoning led by phronesis is open-ended and seeks to correlate the universal and the particular and cannot be delimited by rules of logic. The various choices made by Stephens with regard to the study of Konkani, his interlocutors who were chiefly the Brahmins, the shift to Marathi is indeed a clear indication of the role of phronesis in his life and work. It is not a matter of merely applying the universal/ Christian to a particular situation but a deliberative action also involves also applying the particular  to the universal order. We can see at work particularly in Krista Purana where Stephens inserts the Christian message in a local or particular literary form. This choice to choose Smrti over Shruti and zero on the Purana tradition is certainly a deliberate choice and not simply a coincidence.  Thus, the deliberative dimension of these acts of Stephens points to the fact that he was a person  profoundly guided by phronesis. Deliberative wisdom flowing from phronesis seems to be higher than knowledge constricted through the narrow regime of logic. It results in the choice of the good which  is realized as an exercise of praxis. This means phronesis requires virtues life. We can notice  the cultivation of virtuous life in the life and work of Stephens.  He manifests a praxis that is not neutral and distanced but proximal and informed by the situation so that he makes his right applicative choices. The choice of the words that he made both in Konkani and Marathi to express Christian message may be said to be informed in this manner. [49]

The Need of Phronesis Today

We need phronesis today as we face a profound growth in science and technology. Besides, the communication revolution and multi-religious and cultural condition of the world today makes its cultivation imperative today.

Phronesis and our Being-in-the-world

Phronesis recognized the claim of the universal good/ Christianity and adapted it to the local situation in Goa in the life and work of Thomas Stephens. It leads to a fuller appreciation of both the universal and the local as phronesis is an ability to correlate what is good in general to what is good in particular. This ability is very important because often what is deemed as universal or general is thought to be the order of things and leads to its imperialization  that often relegates the particular  other to the margins. Besides, being a deliberative form of knowing, phronesis functions beyond the confines of logic. Thus, in several ways, phronesis enables us to think beyond the constraints of logocentrism. Unfortunately, we have forgotten the multi-dimensions of knowing and we are facing the consequence of one-dimensional growth of Knowing. We have seen that knowledge as episteme or science and knowledge as techne or technology has grown by leaps and bounds but we have do not find that praxis-oriented knowledge of ethics, phronesis and virtues have not caught up with its pace. We are overfeeding us on theory and fruits of techne and have enslaved each other, destroyed nature and even abandoned God.  Perhaps, cultivation of phronesis maybe an apt response to most of our ailments as it can certainly develop our deliberative faculties. Phronesis can radically transform our being in the world. It can assist us to find the right response so that we can become  good for our society and our times.

Phronesis and the Condition of Theology

Theology has also grown as episteme around the world. Theology being a kind of science that it is, it has to manifest this growth. Special theologies like feminist theologies, black theologies, Dalit theologies, public theologies are growing around the world and our country. This growth explains how theologians find the correlation between the universal Christian revelation and the local and specific particularities of the people. But often theology also has become euro-centric, racial and even completely deductive or prisoner of logic. The mystical and the incarnational dimension is often not the source of doing theology.  Thus, for instance, the sacrament of Baptism is thought as it is found in the Bible, Church fathers, other great theologians, and teachings of the Church. Guided by phronesis the same can begin with the principle of incarnation as well as mysticism that sees in various ritual ablutions thought by the people. These ablutions can be viewed as a desire for Baptism and which then is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. The Bible, the fathers of the Church, and the teachings of the Church can then deepen our understanding. Thus, the universal message of Christianity can be viewed as one that brings hope, healing, and salvation to the people more effectively when we see it through the prism of ‘already and not yet’. The recognition of the divine-human hermeneutical circle at work in the life of people becomes a good starting point to do theology under the guidance of phronesis. Stephens worked his theology from below and is a great inspiration to develop vibrant theology in our country and Goa.

Phronesis and Inter-faith dialogue

Thomas Stephens became an encounter of the  East and the West. In this work, we can also trace another encounter of Gospel and Culture in his work. The hermeneutical circle between the divine and human is already at work through the agency of the Holy Spirit. The phronesis can assist us to recognize the existence of the divine and human hermeneutical circle and identify the seeds of the Gospel. Thomas Stephens could identify the seeds of the Gospel in Goan society and he successfully evangelized the culture of his time.  His work becomes an inspiration for our time to arrive at a discernment that will allow us to trace the seeds of Gospel germinating in the cultures of our time and dialogically engage them so that Gospel and culture encounter continues in our days. Today, we need to identify the seeds of the Gospel urgently because the atmosphere of crass majoritrainism  in our country  is alienating Indian Christians along with other minorities in our country. Thus, dialogue with culture and faith traditions is an important imperative that arises in the context of being Christians in an era of Hindutva.


Fr. Thomas Stephens discerned the signs of the time and shaped his life as a response to the challenge of apostolic life he faced in Goa of his day. These dynamic responses indicate that he not only undertook good decisions but become good for our society. He still remains a relevant and great inspiration to the post-conciliar Church in Goa and the World. His dialogue with Vaishnavism would is a great model for incluturaltion of theology even to our day. Thomas Stephens is the father of inculturaltion in the Church in India as well as the father of Konkani Literature.

[1] For a good introduction to the life and times of Thomas Stephens, see Nelson Falcao, Kristapurana: a ChristianHindu Encounter ( Gujrat : Gujrat  Sahshitya,2003), 5-8.

[2] Thomas Stephens has given us three great works: (i) ‘Discursosobre a vida de Jesus Christo nosso Salvador do mundo ( 1616), Discourse on the coming of Jesus Christ , our saviour into the world, popularly known as Krista Purana or the ‘the story of Jesus’.  (ii) Doutrina Christamen L ingua Bramana Canarin  (1622), a compendium of Christian doctrine in Brahmin Canarin language. (iii)  Arte de Lingua Canarin (1640), The grammar of Canarin (Konkani) language.  For a short  but integral summary of the three great works of Thomas Stephens see, Kelwin Monteiro, “ Fr. Thomas Stephens: a Visionary par Excellence” in Sod, TSKK Research Bulletin, 17, 2013.

[3] What we have called practical wisdom/Phronesis may be what has been the Jesuit traditions names as discernment or may be the fruit of discernment.

[4] Aristotle uses the Greek term phronesis to signify practical wisdom. He makes a clear distinction between technical reason and practical reason with his concepts of Techne and Phronesis in  the book six of his, Nichomachean Ethics.   Several thinkers like John Henry Newman,  R. G Colliwood, Hans George Gadamer,  Hanah Arendh and Joergen Habermas has worked on phronesis in more recent times.  See Joseph Dunne,    Back to the Rough Ground (Notre Dame: Notre Dame University,  1997), 9-20.

[5] This does not mean that there are not critics of practical wisdom/phronesis. Philosophers like John Caputo and Richard Bernstein echo this criticism to a large extent.  See  John Caputo, Radical Hermeneutics ( Indianapolis: Indiana University, 1987), 108.  in James H. Olthuis, Phronesis, “Tradition and Logos in the context of Reading Gadamer’s Philosophical Hermeneutics “ Accessed  on  19/10/2019.

[6] See Ignatius Loyola, Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola (Ignatius Press, 2017).

[7] Hans-George Gadamer, Hermeneutics Religion and Ethics, Trans. Joel Weinsheimer  (New Haven C.T : Yale Press, 1999), 152.

[8] Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics, Trans. W.D. Ross (Kitchener: Batche Books, 1999).

[9] Lubica  Predanocyova, “Socrates view on Sophrosyne”, accessed on 31/10/2019.

[10] Riccardo Dottori, “The concept of Phronesis in Aristotle and the beginning of Hermeneutic Phiosophy”, accessed on 31/10/2019.

[11] Ibid.

[12] One can trace the distinction in the tenth chapter of  Aristotle’s  Protrepticus  and sixth chapter of Nichomeachan Ethics. See Aristotle, Proptreticus: Exhortation to Philosophy, Trans and Ed D.S Hutchinson, Monte Ransome Johnson (DSH and MRG, 2017), for Nichomachean Ethics see footnote 8 of this work.

[13] Riccardo Dottori, “The concept of Phronesis in Aristotle and the beginning of Hermeneutic Phiosophy”.

[14] See Joseph Dunne, Back to the Rough Ground, 105-106.


[15] Ibid., 111-112.

[16] Ibid., 121-123.

[17] Gadamer brings to our notice the five ways of knowing which remain undifferentiated in Plato. See  Hans-George Gadamer, Reason in the Age of Science,  Trans.  Fredrick G. Lawrence ( Cambridge: MIT Press, 1981) 120.

[18] See Joseph Dunne, Back to the Rough Ground, 237.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid., 238.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid., 239.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Ibid., 240.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid., 241

[31] Ibid., 242.

[32] Ibid., 244.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Ibid.

[35] But there are indications in Aristotle’s writings where he views phronesis instrumentally within the framework of means and end quite comfortably. Some scholars interpret means in a non instrumental manner. See Joseph Dunne, Back to the Ground,  269 270.

[36] Ibid., 270.

[37]  John Carrol Futrel, “Ignation Discernment” in studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits, Vol. II, No. 2, 1970, 47.

[38] Ibid, 48.

[39] Ibid., 50.

[40] Ibid., 51.

[41] Ibid., 55.

[42] Ibid., 55.

[43] Ibid., 56-57.

[44] Ibid.,  57-58.

[45] The dialogical form introduced by Thomas Stephens echoes the Guru-Shisya tradition of the Gurukul as well as the literary form employed by Plato to convey his philosophy.  For a good translation of the dialogues of Plato visit accesewd on 1/11/2019.

[46] Hanah Arendt points out that telescope took humanity from the earth to the universe. This new perspective seem to have enslaved humanity as we think the universal is universal is universalizable and forget the particular and the local. Today in the light to the lusophonian thinkers from South America, we have come to understand the pluriversal and the diversal. This is why phronesis can assist us to understand how Thomas Stephens negotiated the universal with the challenge of the local.

[47] We can find adoption as well as rejection of some important theological terms in Thomas Stephens’ work . He does not use terms like Sruti, Veda,  Avatra, yajna, Visnu . Punarjanma while he adopts terms like Smrti, Naivedyu, Puja,  Dev-puja, Homa, Arpana, Samarpana, Sastra, Purana, Sabda, Vac, Vacana, Grantha. Besides. He created new terms like Bhava-karma, Papa-karma, Karma-tama, kama-chedanu, Sastra-purana, Sastra-smrti, Deva-katha, Stva-krpa, prakrti-Sastra, Krpa-Sastra, Parama-Sastra, Bhumn-vaikuntha,Andha –snana,  adhi Pursace-Karma, Swarga-dvara, moksa-dvara, moksa-maher, Vaikuntha-Swami, jnana-snana, satya-krpa, Deva-puja. Again we find him borrowing terms withut changing them to introduce his catholic theology . he used terms like Bhavarthi, Vaikuntha , Vaikuntha-raya, Vaikuntha-rana, Vaikuntha-natha, Bakti, Mukti, Moksa. Karma etc. all this show that he did not just had mastery over theologies of Catholicism and Vaishnavism  but for Marathi and Konkani. See Nelson Falcao, Contemporization of Fr. Thomas Stephens Kristpurana, (Pune: Pratima Prakashan,2019),xxxiii-xxxvi.

[48]  James H. Olthuis, Phronesis, “Tradition and Logos in the context of Reading Gadamers Philosophical Hermeneutics “  2.

[49] We have seen that Thomas Stephens uses several words as well as coins new words to bring about a theological encounter with Vaishnavism in Goa.  He enriched Christian theology by borrowing terms like Adipurusace-Karma  for original Sin  as well as he shows wisdom to drop a central term like Punarjanma which signified transmigration. It is interesting that this term later will acquire Christian connotation of resurrection in the form of punorjivontponn.  He creates terms like Jnana snan for Baptism to wash away the sins / karma of Adipurusace. We can clearly trace the primacy of the Vaishnava audience to whom he ministered but in the entire odyssey he enriched Christian theology and rooted it firmly in Goa and India.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao