Book 03
Chapter 10
Which pleasures temperance and self-indulgence relate to.

Virtue is activity of the soul. Courage is a virtue of the irrational part of the soul. Temperance is also a virtue of the irrational part, so let us go on to temperance next.

Temperance and self-indulgence are both about pleasures, though not every pleasure. We can see that this so when we find that there are pleasures for which it would not sound right to say that such-and-such a person is temperate with regard to them (or that such-and-such a person is self-indulgent about them). For instance, say that some person is a lover of honor and takes pleasure in getting honor. Now, if that person were doing something to try to win more honor, we would not say that they were being self-indulgent, like as if they were eating or drinking too much. And if the same person decided instead not to go for honor, we would not then say they were showing how temperate they were by holding back. These do not sound right, and so we can tell that temperance and self-indulgence are not about each and every pleasure, but only certain pleasures. Now, let us try to figure out which they are.

First, we can rule out the pleasures of the mind. For instance, when it comes to spending time on learning or listening to stories or telling stories, the mind takes pleasure in these, but no one ever calls someone 'self-indulgent' about these things.

Besides the pleasures of the mind (e.g. honor and learning), there are the pleasures of the body. Now 'pleasures of the body' seems like it is going to fit with temperance and self-indulgence, but let us see if we can find any pleasures of the body that do not fit. Well, here again, if we think about people who take delight in gazing out over nature or on beautiful works of art, we can say that that is pleasure in vision. Likewise, those who love to listen to beautiful music take pleasure in hearing. Yet for neither of these are the words 'self-indulgent' or 'temperate' used. (Even though it does seem like it may be possible for someone to spend too much time gazing or listening, as well as not enough.)

Both sight and hearing are senses. Now, what about the other three senses? Well, as far as smells go, there are those who take delight in the smell of perfumes or flowers. But again, no one accuses people of going too far here, nor do they congratulate them as being temperate for resisting an urge to sniff at things for too long. But, sometimes there are people who hang around food being cooked, and because they cannot yet eat it, they sniff at the aroma instead. These people do get called self-indulgent, but that is not on account of the sense of smell itself, but rather because such people are already known to have great and unrestrained appetites, and hanging around the kitchen is evidence of it. Anyhow, we are going to rule out pleasures that come from the sense of smell itself as being self-indulgent by themselves.

We also note here that there are no animals (besides man) that take pleasure from any of these senses. Dogs do not take delight in smelling rabbits, but in eating them. However, the scent does tell the dogs that the rabbits are there, and it makes them get excited. Likewise, lions do not take delight in listening to oxen lowing, but in eating them. But the lions know that the oxen are near from the lowing, and it can appear as if they are taking delight in the sound.

Now, as for the remaining two senses, both animals and humans get pleasure from them. And when people get too much pleasure out of these, it makes them seem to be no more than brute beasts or slaves to their passions.

But, then again, perhaps we should take away taste also. The purpose of taste is to be able to tell the difference between things. There are people whose job it is to do this: winetasters and those that season dishes. Now, maybe these people do enjoy their work, but they can hardly be said to be either temperate or self-indulgent in doing their job. Also, picture to your mind a person that is extremely self-indulgent. Do you see someone that eats and drinks slowly and savors the taste? Or do you see someone quickly gulping down everything so fast that, like a beast, they hardly stop to taste it? I am reminded of how it is said that a certain gourmand wished that his neck could be as long as a crane's, and the meaning is that he took pleasure in the swallowing. In any case, to take too much pleasure in eating and drinking and sex seems to be about taking too much pleasure from the sense of touch, and it is animalistic, and it is a matter of reproach.

For other things that people take delight in with regard to touch (a massage, for instance), if those things do not really have to do with appetites, then self-indulgence and temperance do not really apply there either.


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