Aristotle - Ethics - Precis by David Furley
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Precis of Aristotle’s Ethics [David Furley]
Each of the virtues is a state of being that naturally seeks its mean relative to us. According to Aristotle, the virtuous habit of action is always an intermediate state between the opposed vices of excess and deficiency: too much and too little are always wrong; the right kind of action always lies in the mean. (Nic Ethics II 6). Thus, for example:
with respect to acting in the face of danger,
courage is a mean between
the excess of rashness and the deficiency of cowardice;
with respect to the enjoyment of pleasures,
temperance is a mean between
the excess of intemperance and the deficiency of insensibility;
with respect to spending money,
generosity is a mean between
the excess of wastefulness and the deficiency of stinginess;
with respect to relations with strangers,
being friendly is a mean between
the excess of being ingratiating and the deficiency of being surly; and
with respect to self-esteem,
magnanimity is a mean between
the excess of vanity and the deficiency of pusillanimity.
Notice that the application of this theory of virtue requires a great deal of flexibility: friendliness is closer to its excess than to its deficiency, while few human beings are naturally inclined to undervalue pleasure, so it is not unusual to overlook or ignore one of the extremes in each of these instances and simply to regard the virtue as the opposite of the other vice.
Although the analysis may be complicated or awkward in some instances, the general plan of Aristotle's ethical doctrine is clear: avoid extremes of all sorts and seek moderation in all things.