#247 Aristotle’s Virtuous Mean

Versus the Vices of Excess + Deficiency

In our last +1, we talked about Seneca’s take on flexibility.

Quick recap: Too much flexibility and you’re fickle. Too little and you’re obstinate. (Quick check in: Do you tend to lean one way or the other?)

Aristotle tells us we can drop any virtue into a similar model such that we have a “virtuous mean” with a vice on either side: “a vice of excess” (too much of a certain quality) and a “vice of deficiency” (too little of that virtuous quality).

In this case, flexibility would be our “virtuous mean.” Fickleness is, essentially, too much flexibility. Aristotle would call that the “vice of excess.” Obstinacy, on the other hand, is too little flexibility. That’s the “vice of deficiency.”

You can drop all your favorite virtues into that little model. It’s a helpful way to frame things and see that too much of a good thing isn’t always a good thing. 😃

Let’s look at the virtue of courage. When we have too little courage, we have the vice of deficiency which is, of course, cowardice. We experience fear and then run the other way. But courage also has a vice of excess. That’s rashness.

There’s always a virtuous mean. We want to find it.

Today’s +1. What’s your favorite virtue?

What’s its vice of deficiency? And, what’s its vice of excess?

And, how do you tend to show up?

For example, for me, one of my favorite virtues is energy and enthusiasm. The vice of excess or too much of that energy is being ungrounded and all over the place. The vice of deficiency is lethargy. I tend to show up on the excess side when I’m missing the mark.

You?

Let’s do the work to cultivate another prized virtue of ancient times: Self-awareness.

As per the Oracle of Delphi: Know thyself!

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