The Golden Mean reappraises the relationship among the three forms of good that exist in modern Western thought: the good of aesthetic beauty and performance, the good of right and wrong, and the forces of social resentment that shape the public debate about what is appropriate to society's needs. The book explores how the good found in aesthetics is linked to the good found in the ethical codes that govern people's lives. These goods interact with the sense of the community expressed in society's envy of those exemplary few who possess the powers of the aesthetic, even as they too must subscribe to the same strictures by which ordinary people live. The book also demonstrates how the concept of a middle path, a straight and narrow way, or a golden mean develops to provide a measure by which people can make sense out of these seemingly disparate phemena. The Golden Mean argues that our current dilemmas both inside and outside the university should prompt us to see more clearly how the aesthetic and the ethical are intrinsically related. We need to reassess their relationship to the future of our ways of thinking and the development of our communities.
James S. Hans is Professor of English at Wake Forest University. He is the author of The Value(s) of Literature, The Fate of Desire, The Origins of the Gods, Contextual Authority and Aesthetic Truth, and The Mysteries of Attention, all published by SUNY Press; as well as The Play of the World, Imitation and the Image of Man, The Question of Value: Thinking through Nietzsche, and Heidegger and Freud.