Thoughts on Aristotle’s Golden Mean

Aristotle’s idea of virtue is distilled from moderation, not excess. It’s been ruminating around in my brain for weeks now, and I drew a chart in my kitchen (the kids weren’t sure what to think, ha!). Ideas of how to set a course for living a meaningful and good life is one of the themes that permeates my life. There are many ways to do this, certainly religion offers some answers, humanism others, modeling from the behavior of others can also be effective. I do like Aristotle’s brain child of moderation though. It takes away the idea of right and wrong (I’m not saying that I advocate no right or wrong, because I do think there is inherently right and wrong). Instead, he suggests that there is wisdom in behavior that doesn’t smack of extremism in nature, either with a deficiency or excess.  Take pleasure, for example. There is nothing inherently right or wrong about pleasure. However living a life lacking pleasure, be it from too many rules, or not enjoying life through a kill-joy mentality or prudishness, in Aristotle’s theory, is just as unwise as the excess of pleasure as seen in over-eating, promiscuity, and general overindulgence in pleasure seeking behaviors.  Self esteem, again leaning on the same idea, can be deficient when one thinks too poorly of him or her self, with negative self thoughts and shame. An excess of self esteem would be seen as arrogance, pride, narcism, and vanity.  The golden mean of pleasure would be temperance and moderation. The golden mean of self esteem would be confidence and proper self love. Interesting thoughts, Aristotle!

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