Defending the Doctrine of the Mean Against Counterexamples: A General Strategy

Pacific Philosophical Quarterly (Online First):1-24 (2024)
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Abstract

Aristotle’s doctrine of the mean states that each moral virtue stands opposed to two types of vice: one of excess and one of deficiency, respectively. Critics claim that some virtues—like honesty, fair-mindedness, and patience—are counterexamples to Aristotle’s doctrine. Here, I develop a generalizable strategy to defend the doctrine of the mean against such counterexamples. I argue that not only is the doctrine of the mean defensible, but taking it seriously also allows us to gain substantial insight into particular virtues. Failure to take the doctrine seriously, moreover, exposes us to the risk of mistaking certain vices for virtues.

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Nicholas Colgrove
Augusta University

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