Aristotle 's Doctrine Of The Mean Essay

Aristotle 's Doctrine Of The Mean Essay

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Aristotle’s “doctrine of the mean,” I believe, may shed some light on the nature of moral virtues (virtues of character). The doctrine of the mean can tell us some things about moral virtues, but I would also that the doctrine of the mean ultimately creates a rather unhelpful and overly simplistic concept of morality. More than anything, I think the doctrine of the mean tells us more about Aristotle than the nature of moral virtues. First, we should define the terms we are discussing. When Aristotle talked about “moral virtue,” he considered it a state of character— character as opposed to “virtues of intellect” (which Aristotle also talked about). The doctrine of the mean is Aristotle’s analytical model for determining how people can best achieve this state. He is ever urging us to strive for the middle, the mean.
In Aristotle’s writing, he contends that in most things, those short of murder, adultery or theft, that there is deficiency and there is excess. Both of these are vices. In between them, at the mean, there is virtue. That is his doctrine of the mean. Just as with physical health, too little or too much can be detrimental, and so too with moral health. Aristotle uses the virtue of courage as one example of this doctrine. Courage is generally accepted as a good thing. With too little of it, people are reduced to cowardice. However, at the other end, too much of it leads to foolhardiness. The only way, Aristotle describes to the public, to be virtuous and courageous is to strive for the middle, the mean. Aristotle uses archery as a metaphor for why the doctrine of the mean is the key to excellence. To hit the bullseye takes precision. Too much variation in any direction, too much deficiency or too much excess, spoils that ...


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...ponder the nature of virtue.
While, yes, the doctrine of the mean does shed some light on the nature of virtues of character, it ultimately fails as a method of looking at moral virtue. Through Aristotle’s discussion of the doctrine we are shown several examples of moral virtue. He also makes us understand the dangers of excess. Some sense of relativity is implied in the doctrine, because inherent to it is the idea that even a good thing when pushed too far becomes bad. However, it fails to truly tell us anything about virtue. For instance, when does courage become cowardice or foolhardiness? The doctrine of the mean is purely a hypothetical pursuit that cannot be applied to our real lives, our real decisions, and our ability to live virtuous lives whatever that “virtue” may be. In the end, the doctrine of the mean is too circular, too indeterminate to be worth much.

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