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Nicomachean Ethics': The Importance of Temperance

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It is extremely hard to avoid the attractions of worldly pleasures in today’s world. There are many distractions that can deviate us from our goal of happiness. According to Aristotle, temperance is necessary for happiness because balance indulgence and insensibility. I intend to explain why temperance is problematic, and extremely hard to achieve in terms of Aristotle’s definition. Throughout the course of this paper, I will analyze some of the key concepts Aristotle believes are necessary for temperance. Furthermore, there will be explanation as to why these views are contradictory to his beliefs throughout Nicomachean Ethics.

Temperance is necessary in decision making because it acts as a barrier for our personal desires. We must have temperance in everything we do, in order to make proper decisions. In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle describes temperance as the ability to abstain from being excessive or defective regarding our pleasures and emotions. In other words, it is the restrictive nature that occurs when we attempt to avoid certain things. When analyzing the importance of temperance, we must first acknowledge how important it is in the daily facets of our lives. As soon as we wake up in the morning, we are cited with decisions that require some type of thought process. Furthermore, we must understand that temperance is a result of all the virtues properly aligning. One cannot have temperance and exhibit the character of a coward. We must also understand that temperance, and other virtues are not inherently given to us as a trait. He compares this to teaching a rock to roll upwards. Virtues like temperance are developed through the situations and experiences we go through.

One of the questions we must first ask is how temperance can be achieved. He states that in order to achieve temperance, we must perform temperate acts. This must be an action that is not excessive or deficient. Temperate acts are accomplished when we do not indulge ourselves in pleasure. If we can achieve this without pain, then we are temperate. But how often do we avoid our desires without pain?

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On the other hand, one could argue that Aristotle addresses this by saying that the temperate man may exhibit some type of pain when refuting pleasurable desire. True temperance is described as making the right decision through habitual thought. It is not a decision led by desire, therefore there is no struggle in the action. To validate this, we can explain some daily situations that we do out of habit, with no thought of being indulgent or insensible.

So, if we may exhibit some pain, although we make the right decision, is this true temperance? The question arises of how we can be truly temperate if we still experience the exact thing Aristotle tells us inhibits true temperance. Aristotle supports this by referring to the person who avoids indulgence, and experiences pain as a continent person (Morse). True temperance seems nearly impossible to achieve, for we will always struggle to resist out pleasures. It is in our nature to desire so continence must suffice.

Temperance is not actually possible in Aristotle’s terms. To be truly temperate we must concern ourselves first with the other virtues Aristotle explains. Aristotle’s description of how we can achieve temperance is quite confusing and contradictory, as described previously. It must be acknowledged that continence is possible, and much more realistic for us to achieve. We are judged by the acts we commit, not the acts we think of. A continent man still makes the makes right decision, even if he is pained.

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Nicomachean Ethics’: The Importance of Temperance. (2022, September 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 1, 2023, from
“Nicomachean Ethics’: The Importance of Temperance.” Edubirdie, 15 Sept. 2022,
Nicomachean Ethics’: The Importance of Temperance. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 1 Feb. 2023].
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