201_Aristotle_s_mean

201_Aristotle_s_mean - Aristotle The Doctrine of the Mean...

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Aristotle: The Doctrine of the Mean, Nichomachean Ethics 11.6-7 We may safely assert that the virtue ( areté )or excellence of a thing causes that thing both to be itself in good condition and to perform its function well. The excellence of the eye, for instance, makes both the eye and its work good; for it is by the excellence of the eye that we see well. So the proper excellence of the horse makes a horse what it should be, and makes it good at running, and carrying his rider, and standing a charge. If, then, this holds good in all cases, the proper excellence or virtue of man will be the habit or trained faculty that makes a man good and makes him perform his function well. Now, if we have any quantity, whether continuous or discrete, it is possible to take either a larger (or too large), or a smaller (or too small), or an equal (or fair) amount, and that either absolutely or relatively to our own needs. By an equal or fair amount I understand a mean amount, or one that lies between excess and deficiency. By the absolute mean, or mean relative to the thing itself, I understand that which is equidistant from both extremes, and this is one and the same for all. By the mean relative to us I understand that which is neither too much nor too little for us; and this is not one and the same for all. For instance, if ten be too large, and two be too small, if we take six we take the mean relative to the thing itself [or the arithmetical mean]; for it exceeds one extreme by the same amount by which it is exceeded by the other extreme: and this is the mean in arithmetical proportion.
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