Volume 80, Issue 4, Fall 2006
Howard J. Curzer
Aristotle’s Mean Relative to Us
The article argues that Aristotle takes the mean to be relative neither to character nor to social role, but simply to the agent’s situation. The “character relativity” interpretation arises from the contemporary common-sense impulse to hold people who must overcome obstacles to a lower standard than people who easily act and feel rightly. However, character relativity vitiates Aristotle’s distinction between what moral people should do and what people should do to become moral. It also clashes with Aristotle’s principle that the virtuous person is the measure of which actions and passions are virtuous. The “role relativity” interpretation arises
from the contemporary common-sense impulse to hold people in different social roles to different standards. However, role relativity vitiates Aristotle’s distinction
between the good person, on the one hand, and the good ruler, subject, doctor, soldier, and citizen, on the other. It also clashes with his claim that children, natural slaves, and women are inferior to adult, naturally free men.