Temperance and Incontinence (NE III.10–12)

Howard J. Curzer

in Aristotle and the Virtues

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199693726
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191738890 | DOI:
Temperance and Incontinence (NE III.10–12)

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This chapter describes the sphere of temperance and Aristotle’s distinctions among temperance, intemperance, continence, incontinence, and three varieties of brutishness. A four-target, twelve-parameter model of temperance is proposed. Aristotle’s account is contrasted with the contemporary understanding of alcohol abuse. This chapter argues that (a) Aristotle’s account is compatible with his doctrine of the mean, (b) both courageous and temperate acts must have counter-goals, (c) neither must have external goals, and (d) temperate people are pained by the absence of appropriate objects. Aristotle’s account contains several minor errors. For example, Aristotle should not have (1) restricted the sphere of temperance to tactile pleasures, (2) defined “excessive amount” as enjoying pleasures “more than most people do,” or (3) maintained that a person who goes wrong with respect to one or two parameters is still temperate. Overall after a bit of tweaking, Aristotle’s account can enhance our understanding of temperance and its associated failure modes.

Keywords: temperance; incontinence; brutishness; sensual pleasure

Chapter.  9415 words. 

Subjects: Ancient Philosophy

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