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We have already said1 that it is right to choose the mean and to avoid excess and deficiency, and that the mean is prescribed by the right principle. Let us now analyze the latter notion.

In the case of each of the moral qualities or dispositions that have been discussed, as with all the other virtues also, there is a certain mark to aim at, on which the man who knows the principle involved fixes his gaze, and increases or relaxes the tension2 accordingly; there is a certain standard determining those modes of observing the mean which we define as lying between excess and defect, being in conformity with the right principle.

1 Cf. Bk. 2.6 esp. 6.15.

2 The words denote tightening and loosening a bowstring, and also tuning a lyre. The former image is suggested by the preceding words, but the latter perhaps is a better metaphor for that avoidance of the too much and the too little which, according to Aristotle, constitutes right conduct.

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