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A Criticism of Aristotle's "Golden Mean"

 
 
Warraq
 
Reply Sun 17 Nov, 2013 02:48 pm

Aristotle holds the view that moral virtues lie at the mean between extremes of excess and deficiency. For example, if courage taken to excess would manifest as recklessness and if deficient as cowardice. Thus, virtue is in the middle of two vices, that is called "the golden mean". However, that's inaccurate, for what are the extremes of the virtue of knowledge? Should we take a little from knowledge and a little from ignorance? Even though his mentor, Socrates, referred all virtues to knowledge!

Virtue takes nothing from the two vices, it is an independent line. Virtue isn't a mixture of vices because mixing vices will only produce vices. The opposite of asceticism is materialism, but that doesn't mean we have to take from both of them to be on the right path. We should be on a separate third line.

God said in the Quran: "Guide us to the straight path. The path of those You have blessed, Not of those who have earned Your anger, nor those who have gone astray", so the straight path is different from the path of those who earned God's anger –who have known the true path but refused it-, and different from the path of the people who have gone astray- who are seeking the right path but are taking the wrong route-. The right path is different from the two extremes not between them nor produced from them. The Quran used the Arabic word "ghair" in: ("ghair" of those who have earned your anger, "ghair" of those who have gone astray) "ghair" literally means: different, which is a more accurate word than which Aristotle used: between. The right path doesn’t take a little of the path of people who refuse the truth and a little of the path of stray people to produce Hegel's dialectic middle which will later have its opposite. And probably Hegel had improved Aristotle's idea to the idea of the dialectic, which implies that from two opposites a third thing is produced which has its own opposite thus producing a forth thing and so on, that's the movement of life according to his point of view.

Aristotle's logic makes vice the origin, and virtues are burden on vices, even though the opposite of this idea is what's correct. The origin of squandering is generosity, the origin of envy is love and admiration, and the origin of miserliness is economy and wise spending. Vices don’t have an existent foundation in human nature -that's why I call them artificial ideas-, so how can they be an origin? Vices are precarious while virtues are firmly founded in our nature. All vices ride on the back of virtues, without virtue vice wouldn’t have existed and not vice versa. Without good apples there wouldn't bad apples, without life there wouldn't be death, without good qualities there wouldn't be envy and jealousy.
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