The Virtue of Temperance: Temperance is the first virtue that perfects mans ability to act well with ones self from within ones self. For it brings order to the concupiscible appetite, and thus to the emotions of love, hate, sensible satisfaction, desire, aversion and sorrow as they bear upon a pleasant good. Temperance in the modern world: This forgotten virtue offers a practical way to live lives of social responsibility amid rampant habits of consumerism.
Temperance regulates, according to reason and the pursuit of virtue, the attraction to pleasure of the senses. Taste, touch, sight, hearing, and smell are all in accord with the pursuit of the “good life” and involve pleasure, but there is need of this virtue to moderate or order our desires. Temperance is the virtue that moderates our attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of things of this world. It ensures the will’s mastery over instincts and keeps desires within the limits of what is virtuous.
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Certainly temperance does involve moderation in regard to food, drink and sex. But it also functions in regard to other things as well. Temperance is the Avoidance of all Things Harmful and the Moderate Use of that Which is Good. Temperance is connected to detoxification in that, if we are temperate and keep the bad out, we won’t have to go through the detoxification process or at least the detox process will be easier.
In the preservation of health, every man requires a certain quantity of food. This food varies according as the man is young or old, and strong or weak. However, there is with every man a certain amount of food, which may be called enough, and when this enough is exceeded in the case of any man he is said to be intemperate. In all matters connected with eating and drinking, we should be strictly guided by prudence and temperance. A man who eats more than he requires is called a glutton, and he who is too much fond of delicate dishes, is an epicure. Therefore, if any person seeks enjoyment in eating and drinking, he greatly lowers himself in the estimation of the people.
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Many times, people think of the word “temperance” only in connection with alcohol. One might remember the “temperance” movement of the 20th Century, where this nation succeeded in outlawing all alcohol from legal consumption for a time. It is considered one of the four cardinal virtues, for it is believed that no virtue could be sustained in the face of inability to control oneself, if the virtue was opposed to some desire. Temperance is generally defined by control over excess, so that it has many such classes, such as abstinence, chastity, modesty, humility, prudence, self-regulation, forgiveness and mercy; each of these involves restraining some impulse, such as sexual desire, vanity, or anger.
Why is temperance an important virtue? Because of self control. A person is only emotional to issues which affect him or her. If you are emotional beyond that then you are considered weak in making the best decisions. A person is considered more stronger if he is able to control their emotions. I personally become emotional when someone accuses me of something that i know i did not do. I try to contain my emotions but I end up getting ticked off at times.
Temperance is primarily about desires for the greatest pleasures, and the greatest pleasures result from the most natural operations, which are those that have as their purpose the preservation of the individual and the preservation of the species. The measure of temperance is the order of reason. The determination of the mean of reason depends upon the real needs of the present time. It depends upon intelligible human goods (life, truth, beauty, leisure, sociability, religion, etc). As we said above, the good has the aspect of an end. Human goods are intelligible ends.
The effects of drinking intoxicating liquors are still more injurious. Under the influence of intoxicating drinks people commit the most outrageous actions. All young men should always be on their guard against intoxicating drinks or drugs, for taking a little will induce them to take more. Sober men and women alike despise any man under the influence of liquor as a drunkard. He cannot work steadily and can scarcely perform what he undertakes.
For Buddhism, temperance is an essential part of the Eightfold Path. The third and fifth of the five precepts reflect values of temperance: “misconduct concerning sense pleasures” and drunkenness are to be avoided. For Hinduism, as well, temperance is a crucial component, especially in the act of self-denial.
Hunger and thirst are some of the most primal of urges, and thus are some of the hardest to control. Therefore, when seeking to gain self-discipline, one must start with the most basic appetites and work up from there. A man must first harness his inward urges, before tackling the more external virtues. A clear mind and a healthy body are prerequisites to the pursuit of the virtuous life.
To reject pleasure to the extent of omitting things that are necessary for our preservation is unreasonable and immoderate. Moreover, the use of reason depends upon the health of the body, and the body is sustained by means of food and drink. It follows that the good of human reason cannot be maintained were we to abstain from all pleasures.
Virtuous people should not seek to numb themselves in the pursuit of a good time. For surely there is something to be said about being fully present in every moment. At the heart of acting virtuously is the belief in personal responsibility. But excess drinking and personal responsibility are at odds. When drunk, a person cannot be said to be 100% in control of their choices. So if something goes wrong, they often blame the alcohol. A truly virtuous person is in control of themselves in every situation.
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Freedom and temperance: When all is said and done, it is question of raising children both for temperance and freedom at the same time. These two spheres can never be separated, since freedom permeates a person’s entire being and is the very foundation of all education. Education is directed to helping each person freely make the correct decisions that will shape his or her life. This process is not assisted by a protective attitude in which, for all practical purposes, the parents end up supplanting the will of the child and controlling each and every movement; nor by an excessively authoritarian attitude that leaves no room for the growth of the child’s personality and own judgment.
Intemperance brings about an arrest of emotional development, a personality arrest, so to speak. Intemperance is a childish vice. Unchecked concupiscence is like a child in a number of ways. Anyone who has raised children knows that a child left to himself does not attend to the order of reason, for example in his choice of food, or in his choice of things to play with. Taking a child to a department store can be very taxing; for there is virtually no end to what a child thinks he needs. In the same way intemperance strays from the order of reason. Moreover, a child left to his own will becomes more self-centered. Similarly, the concupiscible power left to itself, without the governance of reason, gains strength and becomes less and less able to subject itself to the direction of reason, like the spoiled child.
Temperance does not restrain; it guides us to be peaceful with what is, to discern what we are called to improve or to overlook, to have serenity of spirit no matter what our feelings about the situation we find ourselves in.
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