Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics

Courage and Aristotle's Doctrine of the Mean

For Aristotle, the doctrine of the mean is a moral frame of reference by which each manÃÂÂs character can be better understood. When applied to specific virtues such as courage, it illuminates what Aristotle believes to be the complex relationship among the agent of virtue, his judgment, and his character. However, the worth of the theory of the mean is its recognition of manÃÂÂs moral autonomy, an independence that is made necessary by the incomplete and inconclusive nature of AristotleÃÂÂs doctrine.

AristotleÃÂÂs account of virtue in the Ethics is given structure through its organizing principle, the doctrine of the mean. He first develops virtue as a mean through the analogy of art. He writes, ÃÂÂA master of any art avoids excess and defect, but seeks the intermediate and chooses this ÃÂ" the intermediate not in the object but relatively to usÃÂ? (1106b5). Thus, the standard by which every art does its work well and by which the good artist is judged is by looking toward the intermediate. For Aristotle, virtue is ÃÂÂmore exact and better than any art.ÃÂ? Thus, as an art, virtue too ÃÂÂmust have the quality of aiming at the intermediateÃÂ? (1106b10). He states that he is here concerned with ÃÂÂmoral virtue,ÃÂ? the body of...

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