Enlightenment Quotes on Temperance

"Among the kinds of emotions, which, by the last proposition, must be very numerous, the chief are luxury, drunkenness, lust, avarice, and ambition, being merely species of love or desire, displaying the nature of those emotions in a manner varying according to the object, with which they are concerned. For by luxury, drunkenness, lust, avarice, ambition, &c., we simply mean the immoderate love of feasting, drinking, venery, riches, and fame. Furthermore, these emotions, in so far as we distinguish them from others merely by the objects wherewith they are concerned, have no contraries. For temperance, sobriety, and chastity, which we are wont to oppose to luxury, drunkenness, and lust, are not emotions or passive states, but indicate a power of the mind which moderates the last-named emotions. …

Again, I have already pointed out, that temperance, sobriety, and chastity indicate rather a power than a passivity of the mind."

Benedict de Spinoza
The Chief Works of Benedict de Spinoza, vol. 2
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Library Topic: What is Temperance?

"Virtue is the faculty of getting and preserving that which is good; and the faculty of doing many and great things well.

The kinds of it are these:

1. Justice, which is a virtue whereby every man obtains what by law is his.

2. Fortitude, which is a virtue by which a man carries himself honourably and according to the laws, in time of danger.

3. Temperance, which is a virtue whereby a man governs himself in matter of pleasure according to the law.

4. Liberality, which is a virtue by which we benefit others in matter of money.

5. Magnanimity, which is a virtue by which a man is apt to do great benefits.

6. Magnificence, which is a virtue by which a man is apt to be at great cost.

7. Prudence, which is an intellectual virtue, by which a man is able to deliberate well concerning any good leading to felicity."

Thomas Hobbes
The English Works, vol. VI
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Library Topic: What is Temperance?
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"In the command of those appetites of the body consists that virtue which is properly called temperance. To restrain them within those bounds, which regard to health and fortune prescribes, is the part of prudence. But to confine them within those limits, which grace, which propriety, which delicacy, and modesty require, is the office of temperance."

Adam Smith
A. Millar
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"To abstain from pleasure too, to curb and restrain our natural passions for enjoyment, which was the office of temperance, could never be desirable for its own sake. The whole value of this virtue arose from its utility, from its enabling us to postpone the present enjoyment for the sake of a greater to come, or to avoid a greater pain that might ensue from it. Temperance, in short, was nothing but prudence with regard to pleasure."

Adam Smith
A. Millar
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"There are qualities which greatly aid and strengthen a good will; but they have not any inward worth of their own, and will be found always to presuppose a good will, which limits the praise they deservedly carry, and prevents us from regarding them as absolutely and in every respect good. Temperance, self-command, and calm consideration are not only good for many things, but even seem to compose part of the worth of personal character. There is, however, much awanting to enable us to designate them altogether good, notwithstanding the encomiums passed upon them by the ancients. For, apart from the maxims of a good will, they may be perverted; and a calm, resolute, calculating villain is rendered at once more dangerous and more detestable by possessing such qualities."

Immanuel Kant
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The author laments the absence of temperance in young girls.

This blog post discusses different translations of temperance and occurrences in the Bible.

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This article explains America's three "temperance" movements, each of which featured a health-conscious push for the elimination of alcohol and other drugs.

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This brief blog post explores ancient thought of sophrosune, highlighting the contributions of Neo-Platonist philosopher Proclus.

Chart or Graph

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A drawing of a tombstone referencing the temperance/Prohibition movement.

Analysis Report White Paper

For Aristotle, practical wisdom and the virtues of character—courage, temperance, liberality, and the rest—are intimately bound up with one another. Virtue of character, he says, consists 'in a mean state…that is defined by principle (logos), that is, by the principle by which the practically wise person would define it'

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Aristotle argues that temperance is the mean concerned with pleasure and pain. Most commentators focus on the moderation of pleasures and hardly discuss how this virtue relates to pain. I consider the place of pain in Aristotle’s discussion of temperance and resolve contradictory interpretations by turning to the following question: is temperance ever properly painful?

The aim of this essay is not to compare Hume and Kant on all matters ethical. Instead, we examine several key areas of ethics in which we can reasonably see Kant as responding to or influenced by Hume, or in which comparisons between their theories are particularly interesting.

Peter Geach is reported to have said that temperance is far from being an interesting subject, but 'rather a humdrum common sense matter'. I hope to show that his opinion proves that he did not know the early history of the concept, nor what Nietzsche did on it. My subject will therefore be 'temperance', or sophrosyne, or in Nietzsche's language: measure.

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In what follows I will first say a bit more about what temperance is, starting with Aristotle. Then I will discuss the psychology of temperance by ruminating about how it is possible for a physical or 'animal' appetite to become rational, and say a little about how a person becomes temperate.

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Primary Document

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