27 September 2016

Temperate Zone

Another of Aristotle's virtues that need not be exclusive to Athenian elites of his day is temperance.

Aristotle defines this virtue as the "moderation or observance of the mean with regard to pleasures."

He notes the difference between the pleasure of the mind and the pleasures of the body; it is with this latter pleasure that moderation assumes such importance. According to Aristotle, moderation should govern every individual's use of food, drink, and sex. With all of these pleasures, one ought to consider the right amount, in the right way, in the right social context, etc.

One vice regarding moderation is those who for whatever reason deny themselves the pleasures of food, drink, and physical intimacy. Few people exhibit this trait--"for this sort of insensibility is scarcely found in human nature." 

The most common vice regarding human appetites is overindulging--what Aristotle calls "profligacy." This is the behavior of gluttons, drunkards, whores, and whoremongers.

In his words, the profligate in no longer acting fully human--reasonably.

"That sense, then, with which profligacy is concerned is of all sense the commonest or most widespread; and so profligacy would seem to be deservedly of all vices the most censured, inasmuch as it pertains not to our human but to our animal nature."

He writes that to "To delight in things of this kind, then, and to love them more than all things, is brutish."

Profligates violate several moral principles. "Whereas people are called fond of this or that because they delight either in the wrong things, or to an unusual degree, or in a wrong fashion, profligates exceed in all these ways."

And this is one of those areas where both  secular conservatives and a religious conservatives see eye to eye--somewhat. The Bible repeatedly warns about gluttony, drunkenness, and fornication. And religious conservatives who take these warnings seriously and abide by them habitually, exhibite the kind of moral character that any secular conservative approves.

 For a secular conservatives, moderation serves as an example of good character. For the religious conservatives, moderation glorifies their god.

In either case, it yields good consequences for society. Obesity, alcoholism, drunkenness, illegitimacy, ignorance, and crime afflict the body politic because of the lack of moderation.

This is one reason why conservatives believe that most social problems and political problems stem from moral problems.

Aristotle called a life devoted to pleasures as "a bovine existence." Below, a herd of modern day heifers:

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