Sun as Intelligence or Practical Wisdom

I really think that we understand very little of the significations of the Sun, especially on a an inner level, psychological level so to speak. These days I am contemplating on the first chapter of Valens’ Anthology and on the Greek terms in the original text while comparing them with the both translations of Schmidt and Riley.
There is one very interesting signification of the Sun written in Valens’ text, and that is the word ‘phronesis’ which is a word very much build with philosophical meanings. The main problem in studying these original words is in the great variety of usages of these words in different philosophies and in the same time, usage of the same word in every day language of the Ancient Greeks. We do not know for sure whether Valens was using this word in a more ‘every-day’ level or in a philosophical way, that is, he was having in mind the philosophical impregnation of that particular word. For example, the word phronesis means intelligence and comes from the verb phroneō (to think, to understand), from phrēn (mind). However, this same word was highly used by Aristotle in his ethical writings, and little less in his other writings. In his terms phronesis is used as ‘practical wisdom’ and this is how Schmidt translated phronesis word in the chapter where Valens speaks about the significations of the Sun. Riley translated this word as ‘intelligence’. So, Schmidt is following the philosophical impregnation of this word, and Riley is using the more simple translation, that one of the so to say ‘everyday’ language. In the treatise on Virtues and Vices [atributed to Aristotle] phronesis is characterized as the

“Wisdom to take counsel, to judge the goods and evils and all the things in life that are desirable and to be avoided, to use all the available goods finely, to behave rightly in society, to observe due occasions, to employ both speech and action with sagacity, to have expert knowledge of all things that are useful” (translated by H. Rackam).

This is not mere intelligence but practical wisdom, intelligence used by an experienced mind to choose right actions and reactions on life’s events. In other place Aristotle says that for a young person it is almost not possible to attain phronesis:

“Whereas young people become accomplished in geometry and mathematics, and wise within these limits, prudent young people do not seem to be found. The reason is that prudence [ϕρονησιϛ] is concerned with particulars as well as universals, and particulars become known from experience, but a young person lacks experience, since some length of time is needed to produce it (Nicomachean Ethics 1142 a)”.

Phronesis understood as practical wisdom is more broader definition of the word, while phronesis used as intelligence is more single (not to say simple) translation of the word. We would probably never know what Valens had in mind when he said that Sun signifies phronesis, but I bet that not many of us when we hear the word intelligence would associate it with the Sun, and our minds would go immediately to Mercury. According to Valens, after all, Sun is ruling the intelligence, that is, signifies (semainei) intelligence on the microcosmic level. Valens also says that Sun is mind (nous), organ of perception of the soul (psuchikēs aisthēseōs organon) and intelligence or practical wisdom (phronēsin). All this requires contemplation and deep thinking on the significations, re-examination of what we know and what we think we know, as the new discoveries requires from us to re-evaluate our epistēmē (knowledge), our scientia, and only in that way we could enter the hearts of these ancient sages and their art which we aim to adopt.

One thought on “Sun as Intelligence or Practical Wisdom

  1. It’s funny; I started researching on the significations of the Sun around the same time you posted this!

    The Sun is an image or instantiation of the Form of the Good. The Form of the Good is the ultimate object of knowledge, what our intellect needs to know in order to grasp truth and reality.

    The Sun allows us to see with our eyes; likewise, the Good allows us to see truth and reality. Therefore, just as the brightness of the Sun affects how well we can see things, the prominence of the Sun in our chart tells us about how well we can ‘see’ the Good.

    Indirectly then, the Sun tells us how well we can use our intellect, because how intelligent we are depends on how well we can see the Good!

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