The golden mean and the law of excluded middle

In classical Greek philosophy, especially that of Aristotle, the golden mean or golden middle way is the desirable middle between two extremes, one of excess and the other of deficiency. In other words, the best solution is somewhere between (or in the middle of) the extremes.

The three laws of thought were invented by Aristotle and established the foundations of logic under philosophy. The law of identity states that each thing is identical with itself. By this it is meant that each thing (be it a universal or a particular) is composed of its own unique set of characteristic qualities or features, which the ancient Greeks called its essence. The law of non-contradiction tells us that a statement cannot be both true and false at the same time. Another philosophical construct that treats of the middle is in the law of the excluded middle. In other words, a statement must be either true or false, it cannot be partly true and partly false. Another interpretation of the law of the excluded middle is to say that categories are mutually exclusive and you cannot put something in one category unless you exclude it from the other.

In the golden mean the middle is desirable and important and in the the law of excluded middle it is rejected and useless. Logical contradictions abound in philosophy, science, mathematics, metaphysics and many other areas of intellectual pursuit.

Fatalism is a doctrine that events are fixed in advance so that human beings are powerless to change them. A dilemma is a usually undesirable or unpleasant choice. A dilemma would not exist if there was a middle choice that was more desirable that either of the other two. For instance, a gunman forces you to choose between suicide (your own death) and murder.  Fatalism will not allow a third more desirable choice. The law of the excluded middle would have to be nullified or false for this to happen.

So far this philosophical wandering has proceeded under the premise that laws (philosophical and otherwise) are immutable. However, classical Greek culture evolved in a time of great idolatry and left out reference to the one true God. When Jesus came into the Hellenistic world of Judea, the Greek trained religious leaders posed many philosophical questions to try to trap him. His answers astounded them because he saw their logic and their arguments and was able to refute them from a perspective of the one true God. From this viewpoint the intent of God’s law are more important than the letter. Grace abounds to forgive us if we find ourselves faced with tough choices from which there seems to be no escape.

Finally we also can refute the philosophical difficulties posed by classical Greek idolaters. The crucifixion of Jesus and his resurrection defeated all arguments posed by Satan. We can be forgiven for all our sins by laying claim to the ‘horns of the altar’ (that is by accepting the atonement sacrifice of Jesus Christ and placing our trust in Him) rather than being impaled on the horns of a dilemma.

1 Corinthians 1:25 New International Version (NIV)

For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.