Aristotle's theory of the mean has the advantage of considering the context of most of our moral decisions. Most famously, he gives us his view that acting ethically is always a mean between extremes. But he claims that some actions, like theft and murder, do not admit of a mean. Is Aristotle simply assuming that these acts are unethical, or does he have a reason to make this claim?

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Aristotle 's theory of the mean emphasizes that virtue is often found between the extremes of excess and deficiency—that is, that courage can be found as the mean of cowardice (a deficiency of courage) and brashness (an excess of courage). However, it is important to recognize that only virtues are...

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Aristotle's theory of the mean emphasizes that virtue is often found between the extremes of excess and deficiency—that is, that courage can be found as the mean of cowardice (a deficiency of courage) and brashness (an excess of courage). However, it is important to recognize that only virtues are able to be found through the mean, whereas actions must be justified through reason.

In this way, while Aristotle's theory of the mean is applicable to virtues such as courage, moderation, or generosity, it is not applicable to actions such as theft and murder. These actions must be justified through good reasoning. Thus, Aristotle classifies actions like theft and murder as unethical because he does not see how someone could justify them through reason.

Instead, these actions are usually motivated by base appetites and highlight an inability to control one's impulses. This is why Aristotle might consider execution ordered by a jury for the good of the community to be moral but a retributive murder carried out by one individual against another to be immoral.

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