The Golden Mean and the Misuse of Philosophy

“Would you rather ride in the car with motion sickness for two hours or feel fine and ride for six?”

 

This was a question posed by William, my 11-year-old son to Adam, his 9-year-old brother. Adam quickly replied that queasiness in the car was awful. However, a ride in the car for six hours would be really bad, too! He inquired about a middle ground. There is always a compromise, right?

 

Neither option is particularly palatable to some. I would not have much of an issue with riding in a car for six hours, but my sons regard it as torture. When an unpleasant option is placed before us, we assume there is always a way out. It has become somewhat of a motto in modern lifestyle–something better always comes along, I don’t have to make hard decisions.

 

Parents, and even a few doctors, have embraced this ideology when it comes to vaccinating children. Adam’s indecision on the car trip hypothetical provides insight into the minds of those charged with the care of young people deciding to delay vaccinations. Instead of proceeding with the usual inoculation pace that the CDC prescribes, the decision makers and their accomplices use a prolonged schedule to administer pain-preventing aid. Their reasoning is that vaccinations are so dangerous, they simply cannot subject their children to something that might harm them. Vaccinations are not dangerous, but nevertheless, that is the way of thinking amongst these parents. The catch-22 occurs with the possibility of their child or patient contracting a fatal or debilitating disease by not vaccinating.

 

So what’s the solution? Fight the hypo! The two decisions seem to be on the opposite ends of the spectrum. Why not let logic aid us in this quandary? Why not utilize Aristotle’s Golden Mean? The Golden Mean encourages the decision maker to find the two extremes and to situate themselves somewhere in the middle. Thus, extremism is averted and an inclusive compromise is made.

 

The mean, in the case of vaccinating or not, is doling out smaller doses of the vaccination over an extended period of time. Another problem solved by the inappropriate application of a rudimentary logical technique.

 

However, there is a problem. Aristotle’s Golden Mean is meant to apply to morality, not scientific facts. Applying any moral philosophy to something as concrete as the law of gravity would find oneself quite dismayed with the result of ┬ájumping from a three-story building to test gravity because it is in between the Empire State Building and the bottom step on your staircase.

 

This misapplication of a beloved moral philosophy to justify poor decisions is becoming rampant amongst all camps in public discourse-primarily social media. Relativism has come back in vogue. Social Darwinism, Darwinism’s ugly brother, has returned as a philosophy used to justify hatred and mistreatment of the disadvantaged. Neo Nazis embrace single sentences or phrases from Nietzsche while disregarding his overall message. Thoughtful lines are taken from existentialists and then misapplied to the topic because they had little to do with the original intent of the philosophers. These brief snippets are then distilled into memes to achieve a more potent stupid that justifies one’s general negative outlook on their targeted society.

 

Yes, the Golden Mean tells you the appropriate amount of affection to treat your doctor with, but it does not tell your doctor how much treatment of your infection is appropriate.

 

-The Saint

 

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