Stoic News

By Dave Kelly

Saturday, December 04, 2004

An ingenuous account of the doctrine of the mean

"The 'false doctrine of the mean', which Hursthouse attacks, is that to every virtue there correspond two and only two vices. It is clear that this is false: it should be no less clear that Aristotle does not hold it. On the contrary, he is inclined to say that to any virtue there will correspond a great number of vices; he insists that evil is manifold, for example at 1106b28-35:

'Again, it is possible to fail in many ways (for evil belongs to the class of the unlimited, as the Pythagoreans conjectured, and good to that of the limited), while to succeed is possible only in one way (for which reason also one is easy and the other difficult - to miss the mark easy, to hit it difficult); for these reasons, also, then, excess and defect are characteristic of vice, and the mean of virtue;

'For men are good in but one way, but bad in many.'"


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