The Doctrine of the Mean

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The doctrine of the mean states that for someone to be a good person they must occupy the “golden mean,” meaning a person may become virtuous by acting between the extremes of excess and deficiency. For example during war, the two extremes would be for a soldier to be rash or cowardly, but being courageous is the accepted golden mean. According to Aristotle, virtue lies in between the two extremes, which are the vices, and thus a virtuous person is one who can find the mean that is relative to his or her situation: that is the mean changes depending on the circumstances surrounding each decision. Using the previous example, a priest would never be expected to take up arms in battle, an act that would be considered cowardly in other situations. The priest, however, would not be viewed as a coward because of his beliefs and personal situation: for him the virtuous mean is to not take sides in conflict but instead to remain faithful in helping all people regardless in their position. The mean is a formula by which a person may act virtuously. There is not one right choice for every person in every situation, but rather there is one virtuous action for every situation, which is relative to each person and the surrounding circumstances. The mean between the two vices is not an absolute average: rather it is flexible and can vary with each individual. I believe that the doctrine of the mean is true, because every situation can present choices that can be deemed virtuous or not. Difficultly comes in determining the virtuous action and acting upon it. Finding the virtue takes practice and comes from learning through personal actions and habits and those of other people. Once we behave in a manner considered right, due to a good upbringing and a good constitution, being virtuous will follow. The doctrine of the mean is true, but how you apply it and act on it can pose difficulty. This difficultly is not necessarily a flaw of the doctrine, nor does it...
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