Aristotle’s Golden Mean

Aristotle summarized this manifold excellence in his famous doctrine of the, “golden mean”. The happy man, the virtuous man, is he who preserves the golden mean between the two extremes. He is the man who steers the middle course between the shoals that threaten on either side to wreck his happiness. In every act, in every thought, in every emotion, a man may be overdoing his duty or underdoing it or doing it just right. Thus, in sharing his goods with other people, a man may be extravagant, which is overdoing it, or stingy, which is undergoing it, or liberal, which is doing it just right. In the matter of facing the dangers of life, a man may be rash or cowardly or brave. In the handling of his appetites, he may be gluttonous or abstemious or moderate. In every case, the rational way of life is to do nothing too much or too little but to adopt the middle course. The virtuous man will be neither supernormal nor subnormal, but justly and wisely normal. In The Rhetoric, he tells us that the virtuous man will act, “at the right times, with reference to the right objects, towards the right people, with the right motive, and the right way.” In short, he will at all times and under all conditions observe the golden mean. For the golden mean is the royal road to happiness. This view is relevant to an understanding of Aristotle’s theory of “Catharsis”.

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