Sunday, July 18, 2010

The scale of virtue

In Chapter 8, Aristotle discusses how all of these virtues and vices stand on a scale with respect to each other. So to begin, there are three kinds of dispositions: too much, too little, and just right. The "too much" and "too little "are vices, and the "just right" are skills/virtues.

Each of these are relative to each other. The "just right" is the excess of "too little", and the "just right" is too little with respect to the "too much". Further, the two extremes are the most opposed: "too little" is much farther away from "too much" than it is from "just right".

Sometimes, though, the "just right" is slightly closer to the "too little" than the "too much", and sometimes it is closer to the "too much" rather than the "too little". For instance, being courageous involves having a slight tendency to stand up to danger than to run from it. But moderation involves abstaining more often than indulging.

There are two reasons for this. Sometimes, the "just right" is actually more like the "too much" (or "too little"). For instance, being rash is a little bit more like being courageous than it is being cowardly, so the "just right" is closer to the "too much" in that case.

But sometimes, we are drawn to one of the extremes more than the other, in which case, we need to overcompensate a little bit and aim slightly in the other direction. For instance, pleasure is extremely attractive, so to teach us moderation, we want to err on the side of abstinence.

3 comments:

Mike said...

Can we gather from this that Goldilocks was properly Aristotelean?

JT Paasch said...

Definitely. So wise for her age.

Mike said...

She could have just mixed the hot with the cold instead of moving on to that third bowl. Or even waited for the hot porridge to cool. Who did she think would be washing those dishes?