this being determined by principle, that is,1
as the prudent man would determine it.
And it is a mean state between two vices, one of excess and one of defect. Furthermore,
it is a mean state in that whereas the vices either fall short of or exceed what is right
in feelings and in actions, virtue ascertains and adopts the mean.
Hence while in respect of its substance and the definition that states
what it really is in essence virtue is the observance of the mean, in point of excellence
and rightness it is an extreme.2
Not every action or emotion however admits of the observance of a due mean. Indeed the
very names of some directly imply evil, for instance malice,3
envy, and, of actions, adultery, theft, murder. All these and similar actions and feelings
are blamed as being bad in themselves; it is not the excess or deficiency of them that we
blame. It is impossible therefore ever to go right in regard to them—one must
always be wrong; nor does right or wrong in their case depend on the circumstances, for
instance, whether one commits adultery with the right woman, at the right time, and in the
right manner; the mere commission of any of them is wrong.
One might as well suppose there could be a due mean and excess and
deficiency in acts of injustice or cowardice or profligacy, which would imply that one could have a medium amount of excess and
of deficiency, an excessive amount of excess and a deficient amount of deficiency.
But just as there can be no excess or deficiency in
temperance and justice because the mean is in a sense an extreme,4
so there can be no observance of the mean nor
excess nor deficiency in the corresponding vicious acts mentioned above, but however they
are committed, they are wrong; since, to put it in general terms, there is no such thing
as observing a mean in excess or deficiency, nor as exceeding or falling short in the
observance of a mean.7.
We must not however rest content with stating this general definition, but must show that
it applies to the particular virtues. In practical philosophy, although universal
principles have a wider application,5
those covering a particular part of the field
possess a higher degree of truth; because conduct deals with particular facts, and our
theories are bound to accord with these.
Let us then take the particular virtues from the diagram.6
The observance of the mean in fear and confidence is Courage.