Aristotle on Decision Making

Posted on May 15 2009

If we could have, we would have featured Aristotle On Decision Making – getting this thoughts so many years ago.

Aristotle makes a distinction between two kinds of knowledge that is of relevance to the decision maker. He identifies things that do not change, i.e. which means the general, universal things we can call right and wrong, and what is living well and living poorly.

Aristotle on Decision Making states that the moral virtue is a state of character in which we feel things in accordance with the cause. This means we feel them in the right way, to the right person, at the right time, for the right reason.

We also need practical knowledge, which for Aristotle means knowing the right thing to do in a particular circumstance through understanding the context, knowing what matters, and effective reasoning to bring about what matters. One can know the right thing to do in general, and what is required, but this is of little use if one fails to apply knowledge to the situation.

Therefore, using Aristotle’s insights, Aristotle on Decision Making shows the decision maker need both theoretical and practical knowledge.

These conditions can be understood as a series of stages in decision-making, and very similar to the step decision models:

–Understanding the situation and decision: The decision-maker needs to understand the decision at hand, and its’ context. –Understanding what matters: the decision-maker needs to clarify his/her ultimate objective. What values are at stake? The important values are the goal, so without an awareness of what matters the decision maker does not know what they are aiming at, and have no criterion on which to make the decision.

–Searching for alternatives: Even if the decision-maker understands the situation and appreciates what matters, they still need to be aware of the possible alternatives. The wisest decision is of all viable alternatives.

–Choosing the best option: Each option needs to be assessed in a logical manner, choosing that option which, based on the situation, satisfies as much as possible of what matters.

–Implementing the decision: Finally, the decision maker prepares for implementation, complete with a back-up plan and follow-up activities to check on the implementation. Once the decision-maker has made a selection of the best option, they need to make a final check on it, and work out how to implement and monitor it.

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