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Aristotle’s Virtues


Sphere of Action Excess Mean Deficiency

or Feeling
Fear/Confidence Rashness Courage Cowardice
Pleasure and Pain Licentiousness Temperance (self Insensibility
(completely restraint/abstinence)
Honor/Dishonor Ambition Proper Ambition Unambitiousness
Anger Irascibility Patience Lack of Spirit
Self-Expression Boastfulness Truthfulness Understatement
Shame Shyness Modesty Shamelessness


First, the mean, toward which people aim, is not "halfway" between the two extremes.
Some people, who are inclined by nature, for example, towards extreme understatement
or self-depreciation, might have to travel "further" to get to "truthfulness" than a person
who is only slightly boastful by nature. It is the distance to the mean, so to speak, which
is more important than whether the mean is precisely halfway between the extremes.

Second, one should not look at the mean as synonymous with "moderation." That is,
sometimes people who have studied this chart get the impression that the doctrine of the
mean suggests you should be "moderately" modest or friendly or witty, etc. But, as
Aristotle says in several places, to be acting in the mean means that you are modest at the
right time, to the right degree, in the right relationships and for the right amount of time.
Sometimes, for example, it might be appropriate to be very angry at an obvious injustice.