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Appearing in Greek thought at least as early as the Delphic Maxim nothing to excess and emphasized in later Aristotelian philosophy, the golden mean or golden middle way is the desirable middle between two extremes, one of excess and the other of deficiency.[1]

For example, in the Aristotelian view, courage is a virtue, but if taken to excess would manifest as recklessness, and, in deficiency, cowardice.

History

Western philosophy

Crete

The earliest representation of this idea in culture is probably in the mythological Cretan tale of Daedalus and Icarus. Daedalus, a famous artist of his time, built feathered wings for himself and his son so that they might escape the clutches of King Minos. Daedalus warns his beloved son whom he loved so much to "fly the middle course", between the sea spray and the sun's heat. Icarus did not heed his father; he flew up and up until the sun melted the wax off his wings. For not heeding the middle course, he fell into the sea and drowned.

Delphi

Another early elaboration is the Doric saying carved on the front of the temple at Delphi: "Nothing in Excess" ("Meden Agan").

Cleobulus

To Cleobulus is attributed the maxim: Mέτρον ἄριστον "Moderation is best"For example, in the Aristotelian view, courage is a virtue, but if taken to excess would manifest as recklessness, and, in deficiency, cowardice.

The earliest representation of this idea in culture is probably in the mythological Cretan tale of Daedalus and Icarus. Daedalus, a famous artist of his time, built feathered wings for himself and his son so that they might escape the clutches of King Minos. Daedalus warns his beloved son whom he loved so much to "fly the middle course", between the sea spray and the sun's heat. Icarus did not heed his father; he flew up and up until the sun melted the wax off his wings. For not heeding the middle course, he fell into the sea and drowned.

Delphi

Another early elaboration is the Doric saying carved on the front of the temple at Delphi: "Nothing in Excess" ("Meden Agan").

Cleobulus

To Cleobulus is attributed the maxim: Mέτρον ἄριστον "Moderation is best"[2]

Socrates

Socrates teaches that a man must know "how to choose the mean and avoid the extremes on either side, as far as possible."[3]

In education, Socrates asks us to consider the effect of either an exclusive devotion to gymnastics or an exclusive devotion to music. It either "produced a temper of hardness and ferocity, (or) the other of softness and effeminacy."[citation needed] Having both qualities, he believed, produces harmony; i.e., beauty and goodness.[citation needed] He additionally stresses the importance of mathematics in education for the understanding of beauty and truth.[citation needed]

Plato

Proportion's relation to beauty and goodness is stressed throughout Plato's dialogues, particularly in the Republic and Philebus. He writes:

SOCRATES: That any kind of mixture that does not in some way or other possess measure of the nature of proportion will necessarily corrupt its ingredients and most of all itself. For there would be no blending in such a case at all but really an unconnected medley, the rui

Another early elaboration is the Doric saying carved on the front of the temple at Delphi: "Nothing in Excess" ("Meden Agan").

CleobulusTo Cleobulus is attributed the maxim: Mέτρον ἄριστον "Moderation is best"[2]

Socrates

Socrates teaches that a man must know "how to choose the mean and avoid the extremes on either side, as far as possible."[3]

In education, Socrates asks us to consider the effect of either an exclusive devotion to gymnastics or an exclusive devotion to music. It either "produced a temper of hardness and ferocity, (or) the other of softness and effeminacy."[citation needed] Having both qualities, he believed, produces harmony; i.e., beauty and goodness.[citation needed] He additionally stresses the importance of mathematics in education for the understanding of beauty and truth.[citation needed]

Proportion's relation to beauty and goodness is stressed throughout Plato's dialogues, particularly in the Republic and Philebus. He writes:

SOCRATES: That any kind of mixture that does not in some way or other possess measure of the nature of proportion will necessarily corrupt its ingredients and most of all itself. For there would be no blending in such a case at all but really an unconnected medley, the ruin of whatever ha

SOCRATES: That any kind of mixture that does not in some way or other possess measure of the nature of proportion will necessarily corrupt its ingredients and most of all itself. For there would be no blending in such a case at all but really an unconnected medley, the ruin of whatever happens to be contained in it.

PROTARCHUS: Very true.

SOCRATES: But now we notice that the force of the good has taken up refuge in an alliance with the nature of the beautiful. For measure and proportion manifest themselves in all areas of beauty and virtue.

PROTARCHUS: Undeniably.

SOCRATES: But we said that truth is also inclined along with them in our mixture?

PROTARCHUS: Indeed.

SOCRATES: Well, then, if we cannot capture the good in one form, we will have to take hold of it in a conjunction of three: beauty, proportion and truth. Let us affirm that these should by right be treated as a unity and be held responsible for what is in the mixture, for goodness is what makes the mixture good in itself.

(Phlb.

(Phlb. 64d–65a)

In the Laws, Plato applies this principle to electing a government in the ideal state: "Conducted in this way, the election will strike a mean between monarchy and democracy …"

In the Eudemian Ethics, Aristotle writes on the virtues. Aristotle’s theory on virtue ethics is one that does not see a person’s actions as a reflection of their ethics but rather looks into the character of a person as the reason behind their ethics. His constant phrase is, "… is the Middle state between …". His psychology of the soul and its virtues is based on the golden mean between the extremes. In the Politics, Aristotle criticizes the Spartan Polity by critiquing the disproportionate elements of the constitution; e.g., they trained the men and not the women, and they trained for war but not peace. This disharmony produced difficulties which he elaborates on in his work. See also the discussion in the Nicomachean Ethics of the golden mean, and Aristotelian ethics in general.

Eastern philosophy

Islam promotes the

Islam promotes the golden mean in many instances. The Quran states an example in finance, in that a person should not spend all he makes as not to be caught needing, and not to be stingy as to not live a comfortable life. Muhammad also had a saying "خير الأمور أوسطها" meaning the best choice is the middle ground/golden mean one. In Quran (Chapter 'The Cow', verse number 143) it is said that, "We have made you a balanced, moderate nation".

Quran quotes the example of two groups of people, calling one of them extremely greedy (Chasing the wealth of the world) in Chapter 'The Cow' verse 96 and to the others as inventors of monasticism (over-zealousness in religion) in Chapter Al-Hadeed verse number 27. Islam councils its followers to abstai

Quran quotes the example of two groups of people, calling one of them extremely greedy (Chasing the wealth of the world) in Chapter 'The Cow' verse 96 and to the others as inventors of monasticism (over-zealousness in religion) in Chapter Al-Hadeed verse number 27. Islam councils its followers to abstain from both these paths of extremities and adopt moderation in chasing the world and practicing religion alike.

Not the least the Quran emphasises that the Muslim community ( Umma) is a ’middle nation’ / a 'just community' / an Umma justly balanced / a moderate nation / a midmost nation (ummatan wasaTan) in verse 2-143: a middle between extremism and sloppiness.

Many Hindu texts emphasize middle path. For example in verse 6:16 of Gita warrior Arjuna is told by Sri Krishna that "Yoga is not for one who eats too much, or eats too little, sleeps too much or does not sleep enough.

ModernityJacques Maritain, throughout his Introduction to Philosophy (1930),[9] uses the idea of the golden mean to place Aristotelian-Thomist philosophy between the deficiencies and extremes of other philosophers and systems.

Quotations