Topics Worth Investigating

  1. Examine carefully how Confucius' Doctrine of the Mean differs from Aristotle's Doctrine of the Mean as discussed in Book II 6-7 of the Nicomachean Ethics:[1]

    In everything that is continuous and divisible it is possible to take more, less, or an equal amount, and that either in terms of the thing itself or relatively to us; and the equal is an intermediate between excess and defect. By the intermediate in the object I mean that which is equidistant from each of the extremes, which is one and the same for all men; by the intermediate relatively to us that which is neither too much nor too little—and this is not one, nor the same for all. For instance, if ten is many and two is few, six is the intermediate, taken in terms of the object; for it exceeds and is exceeded by an equal amount; this is the intermediate according to arithmetical proportion. But the intermediate relatively to us is not to be taken so; if ten pounds are too much for a particular person to eat and two to little, it does not follow that the trainer will order six pounds; for this also is perhaps too much for the person who is to take it, or too little—too little for Milo,[2] too much for the beginner in athletic exercises.

  2. Analyze how Confucius' statement of the principle of reciprocity ("What you do not like when done to yourself, do not do to others") differs from the Golden Rule expressed in Matthew 7:12 and in Luke 6:31. In your answer, You might wish to consult the logical relation of contraposition in a logic textbook in order to compare the various formulations.

  3. Confucius writes, "The superior man does what is proper to the station in which he is; he does not desire to go beyond this." Does this statement imply that the superior man follows the philosophy of ethical relativism? Cannot his actions be objectively determined?

  4. Explain "the outgoings of sincerity" according to this citation from the Book of Poetry, "The approaches of the spirits, you cannot surmise; and can you treat them with indifference?"



Aristotle. Ethica Nicomachea. Book II Chapter 6 Lines 25-35. Translated by Richard McKeon.


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