Aristotle and the Doctrine of the Mean
Aristotle’s Nicomahean Ethics is a rich text of ancient wisdom, much of which has become ingrained into today’s rhetoric in many schools of thought in the western world. It is with Aristotle’s views on Virtue that this paper is primarily concerned, more specifically with his idea that to have virtue is to display attitudes and actions to a moderate and intermediate degree. Stan Van Hooft (2008) notes that, although Aristotle’s thoughts on this matter are logically sound for the most part, that his assertion that Virtue is the Mean was not his final, conclusive stance on the issue, and that this theory “is only a part of a bigger picture of virtue that he is …show more content…
It is here I begin to raise some of my own questions I was faced with whilst reading Aristotle. Is the person who does not desire indulgence and therefore has no need to act in that manner a more virtuous person than the one who does desire something, but chooses to forego some immediate gratification for the sake of something better? I would think much better of someone who, being perhaps pre-disposed to some form of addiction, perhaps genetically, would choose to forego the pleasure she would take from drinking because she wanted to stay as far away from drunkenness as possible. Does that lead to a deficiency of pleasure? I would say that it is prudence, and is therefore a virtue. Let me offer another example. In my faith it is common practice to fast from certain types of food for a period of time. I would call that person far more virtuous who chose to give up that pleasure for a time, rather than the one who simply never desired to eat rich foods. I think that virtue lies in the mean, yes, but I do not think that the mean is necessarily in one’s feelings, but rather in one’s actions. I find Aristotle rather altruistic in his suggestion that the man of good character is the man who desires or feels all things moderately (Book II, vi, 1106b 19-21).