The Golden Mean

In Book II of the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle discusses the Golden Mean, the mid-ground between deficiency and excess. For example, in social intercourse, the mean is wit, the deficiency boorishness, and the excess buffoonery. He believes virtue to be in-between the two extremes, and by living the mean we will become virtuous and good people. He admits that acting as the mean suggests is incredibly difficult, and it is easy to slip from the mean into excess or deficiency, since sometimes they are closely related. The question that must follow is whether the mean is always the good thing, or whether excess or deficiency is at times necessary or good. Is the mean the right thing to act upon, or does it breed mediocrity?


1 thought on “The Golden Mean”

  1. Excellent post! As for your final question, Aristotle actually answers it in the later parts of Nicomachean Ethics. He is by no means a relativist, but he states that we use phronesis to mediate between universal laws and particular circumstances. So the “golden mean” is ever-changing in particular circumstances, but it always adheres (even if loosely) to the rules-of-thumb that are universal laws.

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