Aristotle on virtue as a mean (3) – the hard part

Many ways to fail

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Again, it is possible to fail in many ways (for evil belongs to the class of the unlimited, as the Pythagoreans conjectured, and good to that of the limited), while to succeed is possible only in one way (for which reason also one is easy and the other difficult – to miss the mark easy, to hit it difficult); for these reasons also, then, excess and defect are characteristic of vice, and the mean of virtue;


For men are good in but one way, but bad in many.

Aristotle – Nichomachean Ethics, Book ii

This might seem depressing, but I find it reassuring: there’s a reason why getting things right seems hard – which is to say, it’s not just you.

And things aren’t as bad as this if we apply Aristotle’s point to organisations and projects. There are far more ways to fail than to succeed, but there are usually multiple ways to win, too. Our work is to find them.

I'd love to hear your thoughts and recommended resources...