Study Guide

The Nicomachean Ethics Book 2, Chapter 8 (1108b11-1109a19)

By Aristotle

Book 2, Chapter 8 (1108b11-1109a19)

  • Aristotle clarifies his structure of this spectrum by calling them the "three kinds of disposition, then, two of them vices" (i.e. the excess, the mean, the deficiency).
  • He speaks of their relation to each other: they're opposed. The extremes to the mean, the mean to both extremes.
  • The mean is also relative to the extremes.
  • So the mean is excessive when viewed from the deficient end of the spectrum, but deficient from the excessive end.
  • Got that?
  • So it is that the coward would see the courageous person (the mean) as reckless (the excess), and a reckless person would see the courageous as cowards.
  • Yet there's a likeness between each extreme and the middle term, since they each have something in common with the mean. But the extremes are totally opposed to each other.
  • So recklessness has a bit of courage in it, but has nothing in common with cowardice.
  • And some virtues have either deficiencies or excesses that are more hated in society. Recklessness (the excess) isn't so blameworthy as cowardice, according to Aristotle.
  • This happens for two reasons: 1) one extreme is closer to the mean than the other; 2) we incline toward one extreme, and therefore condemn it more as farther from the mean.