How is Virtue a Mean between Extremes?

According to Aristotle, a virtue is a mean between two extremes and he considers the two extremes as vices. One vice based on the excess side and the other on the defect side. In his discussion he relates these vices to feelings and actions and he eliminates the idea of calculating these extremes and mean mathematically. He explains this concept by use of daily human actions that are governed by a set of ethical rules. For example take a human being who is confident in his actions. The excess of this confidence will result to rashness and this may force the individual to undertake the activity hastily without considering the possible consequences and risks associated with the same. On the other extreme of defect there is cowardice. The extreme of cowardice may discourage the individual from carrying out the activity. The mean between these two extremes is the virtue of courage and this is the virtue that the individual will undertake.

This virtue of courage according to Aristotle is the mean between the two extremes and when the individual acts under this mean he/she will excel since there is a consideration of both ends. The individual is aware of the positivity of the success of his acts and he is also aware of the consequences and risks that may arise from the same on the other hand. He also adds that virtue is a disposition to choose and for one to determine the right position to take action on he/she must be wise. He considers a wise person as an individual who has the ability to see what the right course of action is when the individual is in a certain circumstance. He also adds that to obtain the mean is difficult and this is because many people tend to do what pleases them at the moment without considering what actually is right. On the other hand doing the right things to the right people and at the right time is also a difficult disposition to take. He adds that those who are willing to be intermediate between the two extremes must depart from their passions and dislikes and consider the right actions.

In real life situations Aristotle’s principle also applies. For instance, taking an example in regard to honor and dishonor, honor is an extreme on the positive side while dishonor is the extreme on the defect side. Focusing too much on the positive extreme may bring about pride and relying too much on the defect side may bring about disrespect. The balance between the two which happens to be mean between the two extremes is proper pride which is a virtue. Another real life example that tries to explain and support Aristotle’s words is the feeling of anger. On one extreme, individuals who are angered easily and suffer a lot from anger are known to be bad tempered. This happens to be the defect extreme. On the other positive extreme the individuals who are not easily angered and are able to control their anger are said to be short tempered. Both extremes have consequences and risks and the intermediate is the virtue of being good tempered and in this case this is the mean.

In conclusion, according to Aristotle the mean for both extremes is the virtue and this happens to be excellence. This principle is also evident and mostly applied in modern times to make decisions.








Works Cited

“Aristotle: Virtue as the Mean.” Aristotle: Virtue as the Mean. Web. 23 Jan. 2016. < publishing/AristotleVirtueAsMean.htm>.


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