Golden Means

It is interesting that the Golden Mean can refer either to the Aristotelian Mean or to the Golden Ratio.

The Aristotelian Mean situates virtue in the middle or a moral continuum with deficiency at one extreme and excess at the other. For instance the virtue of courage is found between the deficient state of cowardice and the excessive state of rashness.

A similar idea is present in the Kabbalistic Sefirot, where attribute of God are presented in complex balance with one another. For instance Gevurah, “severity” is balanced with Chesed “love”. If these two attributes fall out of balanced relation they cease to be Gevurah and Chesed but instead degenerate into hatred or sentimentality.

In some forms of Chassidism, the mean between Chesed and Gevurah is not precisely at the mid-point. The ideal is to lean toward Chesed. It seems the same idea could be applied to courage, that perhaps the ideal is tilted toward rashness.

A crazy part of me wants to suggest the ideal point is not at the 50% point, but in fact at the 61.8033988749894…% point.


I would like to propose that the virtue of responsibility falls between limitless obligation and limitless freedom.

But it is interesting to ask: in this virtue mean which extreme would be the deficiency, and which the excess? Is excess taking for oneself too much freedom? Or is excess taking on too much obligation? If there is a preferable tilt, which way does it go?

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