What is the Golden Middle? Aristotle’s Conception of the Golden Middle

What is the Golden Middle? Aristotle’s Conception of the Golden Middle

July 1, 2021 Off By Felso

The golden middle is the summary of Aristotle’s understanding of virtue. According to him, virtue is what is in the middle. Virtuous action is always the kind of tool that a person with practical wisdom would choose.

According to him, every action of every person has a definite purpose. Everyone is equipped to achieve this goal. For example, at certain points in the human world, there is avoidance of pain and directing oneself towards pleasure. In this context, according to him, it is necessary to stand against extremism. So in situations like avoiding pain and turning to pleasure, it’s best to stay in the middle.

From this point of view, today’s consumer society, based on the understanding of the golden middle, seems to have to listen to Aristotle about avoiding excesses and deficiencies and being in the middle.

followers of Aristotle; they think of virtue as good habits, like a kind of balance that one nurtures in one’s own character. The idea is to bring the idea of ​​”just as much as it should be” to the fore in our character, rather than “not too much” or “not too little”, so that what we do and how we react to it hits between two extremes: the golden middle.


Aristotle spoke of the golden middle in his “Nicomachus Ethics” as follows:

“He who runs away from everything, is afraid and can’t stand anything is a coward. He who fears nothing in any way and goes after everything becomes bold. Likewise, he who tastes every pleasure and does not stay away from any of them, like the hedonist and savage, who avoids all of them becomes emotionless.”

Is temperance the Golden Middle?

There is a common misconception that the Golden Middle teaching is a suggestion of temperance.

Since the middle is always between the two extremes, Aristotle seems to advocate moderation in everything. However, just because the middle is between what goes beyond and what lags behind, it does not follow that the virtuous person always acts in moderation.

For example, if you saw someone attacking a child, a measured response would obviously be inappropriate. Aristotle’s theory presumably supports aggressive intervention in these circumstances. Such behavior would be between indifference and the violent extremes of revenge.

Examples of the Golden Middle in Philosophy
The virtue of courage stands between two evils: insufficient courage is cowardice; Courage is too bold.
The virtue of wit is between bullshit and buffoonery; Modesty stands between shyness and shamelessness.
Those who enjoy every pleasure and avoid all of them like hedonists and savages who do not stay away from any of them become emotionless.
Golden Middle Examples
Video Lecture: What is the Golden Middle?

Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook