Study Guide

The Nicomachean Ethics Book 2, Chapter 9 (1109a20-1109b29)

By Aristotle

Book 2, Chapter 9 (1109a20-1109b29)

  • Ultimately, Aristotle says, it's really hard to be a "serious man" (or one who focuses on virtuous living) because it takes work to figure out what the mean of the moral virtues is.
  • While it's natural to behave in certain ways—like being angry—it takes real education and thought to figure out if one should be angry at all and how much.
  • In order to hit the middle target, we have to be able to leave the extremes behind in the first place—also a hard task.
  • Which is why so few people behave well.
  • The only way to do this is to examine ourselves well and know how we fail in these situations. What are our usual vices? In what ways are we excessive or deficient?
  • And then we have to make a beeline for the contrary.
  • The mean can also be hard to hit because public perception of what is "just right" can be debatable.
  • Aristotle says that we have to aim for the middle, but incline toward the more acceptable extreme if we have to err.