In medio stat virtus : Virtue stands in the middle

In medio stat virtus : Virtue stands in the middle.

Virtue is in the moderate, not the extreme position. – Horace

Voltaire said : The better is the enemy of the good.

Variant translations:
The perfect is the enemy of the good.
The best is the enemy of the good.

In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle defined a virtue as a balance point between a deficiency and an excess of a trait. The point of greatest virtue lies not in the exact middle, but at a golden mean sometimes closer to one extreme than the other.

For example:

Generosity lies in between miserliness and extravagance.

Courage lies in between cowardice and foolhardiness.

Confidence lies in between self-deprecation and vanity.

Virtue, by definition, is a characteristic that promotes individual and collective well being. A vice, on the other hand, does not promote well being. What is surprising to me is that a virtue stands between two vices.

Now, this is something to think about. The present day paradigm is being the best. We all are told that we have to be the best at what we do. And we even strive for it.

We give up things just to be the best in what we do. We encourage children to be first in class. In fact our lives are so competitive that we call it a rat race. We drive ourselves hard and get burnt out.

No wonder this puts things out of perspective. We feel miserable when we cant be the best. We don’t forgive our own mistakes.

Pushing to extreme cant be a balanced way of life, even if the extreme is perfection. Being the best may be good for business, but it may not be good for the spirit.

3 thoughts on “In medio stat virtus : Virtue stands in the middle”

  1. Thank you. Your lovely words arrived at just the right time.

  2. I searched my house for a sentimental paper (a dear friend had written the Latin down for me and I was unsure of the “virtu” vs. “virtus” spelling. thus the paper search). Unable to find it, I used my phone to do a phrase search. Your site was illuminating. Such a deeper feeding from reflecting on your teaching.

    And I ended up realizing that if I had found my original little slip of paper, I never would have encountered your site… And I would have not added any new reflections upon this very familiar (and treasured) phrase.

  3. I return here frequently. I have some memory loss, and I’m always googling the spelling of In media stat virtus. When I read this article, I remember how I loved it, and I’m glad it is still here for me to return. One thing is for sure in my mind. What sets humans apart from the lower creatures, is wisdom. Thank you.

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