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Aeric Estep: 'The principle of the golden mean would have us pursuing the wise virtue of courage in pandemic response.'

COURTESY PHOTO - Aeric EstepThe reality of this pandemic has been met, predominantly, by two vices: rashness and cowardice. While our default is obvious, the only suitable path is a third option.

During this pandemic, I have longed for moderation. Not the partisan moderation that is purposely stationed in the middle of a voting bloc to gain the most leverage over negotiations. Most of those described as moderates are just the median voter in an arbitrary spectrum between two ideologies.

If two positions are being argued, taking a mixture between the two is not a cause of moderation. It is a compromise, to be sure, but this is not the avoidance of vice.

I am referring to the moderation that can also be labeled the Aristotelian or golden mean.

Aristotle describes, in his "Ethics," the pursuit of virtue — the pursuit of excellence in character. Each virtue is a most desirable aim but also has twin, tempting vices of excess or deficiency.

For every virtue, there are ways to pervert it to a vice. Take truthfulness. Truthfulness, when virtuously pursued, yields excellence and is laudable — an honesty displayed in one's character. However, ramp up truthfulness to excess and you yield boastfulness. This represents a vice even if the statements proclaimed are true. Reduce truthfulness to a deficiency and you yield the vice of self-deprecation or mock modesty.

Our goal is not a compromise between the two vices, but avoidance of them and pursuit of the one proper virtue.

In life, there are vices that should be avoided and virtues that should be pursued. In practicing virtue, there is the potential for excellence. In vice, there is perversion of the good.

I have seen this dance between vices play out for the past two years. The principle of the golden mean would have us pursuing the wise virtue of courage in pandemic response. Courage informs a sober acknowledgement of the virus and its ramifications. Courage also directs a cautious implementation of measures that prevent the virus from ravaging our communities without crippling the communities we are trying to protect by isolation from human connection and businesses.

The vices on either side of this virtuous pursuit are rashness and cowardice.

One side of the spectrum would have us living as if the virus is of little or no concern. The most dramatic being a proclamation that it is all planned and a distraction in order to assert more government control. This is all a vice displayed.

The other vice would have us live in irrational fear, implementing overbearing restrictions and cowering at the presence of new cases despite the accessibility of the best means of protection: the vaccine and the antiviral medication coming to the shelves. This is also a vice displayed.

We must reject both vices and pursue, singlemindedly, the virtuous path.

We have seen too many vices on display and we need virtue. Virtue is ours to pursue and excellence is within our grasp. The twin vices are a constant temptation ready to pull our attention at the expense of our community.

Walk straight ahead. We need this pursuit of virtue in each individual, in every community, and in our government as a whole.

Let us walk the path of virtue and require it of our leaders as well. It is with courage that we will walk out of this pandemic.

Aeric Estep is co-host of the City on a Hill Podcast. He lives in West Linn.


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