The state of having good, healthy desires; not craving unworthy or harmful things.

Complementary virtues

Temperance is often linked to self control. Aristotle drew the distinction this way: a temperate person is not tempted by the wrong things in the first place; someone with self-control has such temptations but is able to resist them.

Contrasting vices

  • intemperance
  • self-indulgence
  • being unchastened
  • perhaps “anhedonia” would be the rarer extreme

Virtues possibly in tension


How to acquire or strengthen it

Self-indulgence is a coping strategy for dealing with stress. If you over-rely on it, you may want to strengthen some of the other coping strategies.

Notes and links

  • Notes on Temperance (David, LessWrong)
  • Aristotle on temperance — it’s kind of related to courage: courage properly moderates our response to unpleasant things (fear), temperance to pleasant things (appetite). It’s subtly different from continence: temperance allows you to not be overly tempted by tempting things; continence allows you to resist temptation even when you are overly tempted by tempting things. The two virtues are ways of working on the same skill from different sides.
  • In Greek, the word Aristotle uses for “self-indulgent” or “intemperate” is the same one used for “unchastened” as in a spoiled child. Aristotle thinks this is apt, as temperance is about disciplining the needy child inside of us, so that none of our appetites exceed in strength the control of our reason.
  • Skills You Need: Self-Control
  • OOO: temperance/indulgence

Mentioned elsewhere

Inspirational quotes

  • “Eat not to dulness; drink not to elevation.” ―Benjamin Franklin
  • “Temperance permits us to take meat and drink not only as physic for hunger and thirst, but also as an innocent cordial and fortifier against the evils of life, or even, sometimes, reason not refusing that liberty, merely as matter of pleasure. It only confines us to such kinds, quantities, and seasons, as may best consist with our health, the use of our faculties, our fortune, etc., and show that we do not think ourselves made only to eat and drink here; that is, such as speak us to be what we are.” ―William Wollaston
  • “If sometimes you feel that in spite of all your wishes to gain triumph over your passions, they gain victory over you, do not think that you cannot conquer them at all. You have only proven that you weren’t able to this one time. A good groom does not drop his reins when he cannot stop his horses at once but tries again to pull the reins, and eventually the horses stop. So if you could not resist the temptation once, continue your fight, and in the end not your passions but you will gain the victory.” —Tolstoy