The Golden Mean

The Rhetoric Chapter 21 pg. 286
The Golden Mean
“Aristotle saw wisdom in the person who avoids excess on either side. Moderate is best; virtue develops habits that seek to walk an intermediate path (286). Aristotle called this theory of virtue the golden mean. Within the framework of emotional proof, this idea “struck a responsive chord” (283) with me. As far as I am concerned, moderation and balance in all aspects of life, are the key to happiness, health and success. Think about all the diet programs that push portion control and moderate eating. This also brings to mind healthy relationships, where neither person is too dependent or co-dependent on the other. Workaholism is a disease just like alcoholism, and both are due to overconsumption of their drug of choice (work or alcohol). Extremists are on either side of the spectrum, but nowhere near the middle; thus there is no such thing as a “happy medium” for them. Their life scale is in black and white, and disregards gray. The gray area is the healthy balance in the middle of the two extremes. I enjoyed the suggestions that Aristotle gave for using the golden mean in other aspects of communication in our relationships. He suggests truthful statements as opposed to lies or brutal honesty. Notice how lies and brutal honesty are polar opposites, but truthful statements falls nicely in the middle. He also suggests self-disclosure over secrecy or soul-baring, and courage instead of cowardice or recklessness. I think these suggestions can be utilized not only in our everyday interactions with others, but also in our intimate interpersonal relationships. This “happy medium” and moderate way of life will strengthen our relationships with others. To honor Aristotle's love for metaphors I will close with one that sums up the golden mean. Too much of a good thing.

2 comments:

  1. I think that you touch on a very important aspect of the golden mean in regards to moderation and balance in one's life. This is something I think most people know or at least think they know, but actually applying it is another thing. Especially with overconsumption (with work, food, sex, drugs/alcohol), or an addiction that one is not even aware of. Most people who suffer from the diseases you mentioned (workaholism and alcoholism) do not usually recognize they are suffering from a disorder. I think that finding a happy medium is important for everyone to strive for rather than being one extreme or the other. For instance, an extremist example (in eating habits) would be someone who is obese and someone who is anorexic. I too enjoyed the aspects of using the golden mean in relationships, because I feel this is something that is applicable to me. And you couldn't be more right on the nose, that there is such a thing as having "too much of a good thing." :)

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  2. I definitely agree with what you said about moderation and balance being the key to happiness, health and success. It is definitely easy to let ourselves indulge in too much of a good thing. I really liked all the examples you used of ways people can stay moderate in the things they do, or "in the gray area." The Golden Mean is a very valuable tool in helping us all understand how we can make our relationships better.

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