Doctrine of the mean aristotle essay the poetics

I have argued that Aristotle's doctrine of the mean is not the simple (and false) platitude that we should seek everything "in moderation." Nor is it "an unhelpful analytical model" of the sort suggested by the continuum model discussed in sections II and III. Nor is it the simple-minded view that "every virtue... lies between two correlative faults or vices." And it cannot fairly be regarded as a rule or set of rules designed to tell us what, in particular cases, to do. Aristotle develops the notion of the mean, as we have seen, as part of his account of excellence or virtue. Excellence is preserved by the observance of the mean (1104a26). The best life for a human being, then, namely one which consists of "the active exercise of his psyche's capacities in conformity with excellence" (1098a16-18), consists in the observance of the mean. Hitting the mean is not so much a matter of hitting one particular point on a target as it is a matter of avoiding the variety of mistakes it is possible to make in a complex situation. Observing the mean -- and so virtue or excellence -- is primarily a matter of careful awareness and avoidance of errors. Excellence of character, like health, involves a balance of opposite tendencies to act and react, a capacity to respond in various ways when and as occasions demand. This is the crux of Aristotle's doctrine of the mean. Far from being, as Williams suggests, one of the "least useful parts of his system" it seems to me both central to that system and a helpful and illuminating piece of ethics.[]

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This is sufficient to show that Williams's claim that according to Aristotle "every virtue... lies between two correlative faults or vices" rests on an oversimple view of the doctrine of the mean. But this picture, replete as it is with possibilities for error, still does not capture an important part of what Aristotle is saying. Getting angry at the wrong people (1126a14) is not primarily a matter of getting angry at too many people. Nor is getting angry on occasions when anger is uncalled for (1126a18-20) a simple matter of feeling anger too often. And not getting angry when one should get angry (1126a4-9) cannot fairly be characterized as simply getting angry on too few occasions, or as a simple matter of reacting too mildly. Once again the continuum model seems misleading. The errors Aristotle is talking about cannot be so easily characterized. Excess and deficiency, it seems, are not to be unpacked in the simple quantitative way the continuum model suggests.

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We are now in a position to see why the simple quantitative model will not do as an account of Aristotle's doctrine of the mean. First, avoiding extremes is only one necessary condition for hitting a particular dispositional mean-state. It is not sufficient. The extremes must be avoided for the right reasons, for the sake of the noble. Secondly, how the extremes are best avoided is not as simple as the continuum model suggests. We do not effectively avoid the extremes simply by seeking moderation in everything. We do not avoid the extremes simply by aiming to land a shot within a certain range on (even several) one-dimensional continua, hard as that might be. What is excellent or commendable does typically lie within such a range, but its excellence or commendability consists of more than its place on various continua.

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Aristotle and Happiness - The Pursuit of Happiness

It should be clear that neither the thesis that virtues lie betweenextremes nor the thesis that the good person aims at what isintermediate is intended as a procedure for making decisions. Thesedoctrines of the mean help show what is attractive about the virtues,and they also help systematize our understanding of which qualitiesare virtues. Once we see that temperance, courage, and other generallyrecognized characteristics are mean states, we are in a position togeneralize and to identify other mean states as virtues, even thoughthey are not qualities for which we have a name. Aristotle remarks,for example, that the mean state with respect to anger has no name inGreek (1125b26–7). Though he is guided to some degree by distinctionscaptured by ordinary terms, his methodology allows him to recognizestates for which no names exist.

30/11/2010 · Aristotle develops the Doctrine of the Mean in Book II of the Nicomachean Ethics (NE). The mean is not an arithmetical mean, but …

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This enables us to see how Aristotle's treatment of the intellectualvirtues does give greater content and precision to the doctrine of themean. The best standard is the one adopted by the philosopher; thesecond-best is the one adopted by the political leader. In eithercase, it is the exercise of an intellectual virtue that provides aguideline for making important quantitative decisions. This supplementto the doctrine of the mean is fully compatible with Aristotle'sthesis that no set of rules, no matter how long and detailed, obviatesthe need for deliberative and ethical virtue. If one chooses the lifeof a philosopher, one should keep the level of one's resources highenough to secure the leisure necessary for such a life, but not sohigh that one's external equipment becomes a burden and a distractionrather than an aid to living well. That gives one a firmer idea of howto hit the mean, but it still leaves the details to be worked out. Thephilosopher will need to determine, in particular situations, wherejustice lies, how to spend wisely, when to meet or avoida danger, and so on. All of the normal difficulties of ethical liferemain, and they can be solved only by means of a detailedunderstanding of the particulars of each situation. Having philosophyas one's ultimate aim does not put an end to the need for developingand exercising practical wisdom and the ethical virtues.

17/04/2017 · DIEGO FUSARO: Nothing in Excess. Plato, Aristotle and the Doctrine of the Mean - Duration: 5:57. Diego Fusaro 158 views

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Rosalind Hursthouse makes this point against Urmson's way of construing the doctrine of the mean in her "A False Doctrine of the Mean," Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 81 (1980-81): 57-72, at pp. 60-61. []