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Temperance (virtue)

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Luca Giordano 017

Temperantia, by Luca Giordano

Temperance (Sophrosyne in Greek) is the practice of moderation. It was one of the five "cardinal" virtues held to be vital to society in Hellenic culture. It is one of the Four Cardinal Virtues considered central to Christian behaviour by the Catholic Church and is an important tenet of the moral codes of other world religions—for example, it is one of the Five Precepts of Buddhism.

Classically, temperance was defined as governing natural appetites for the pleasure of senses according to the bounds of reason. No virtue could be sustained in the face of inability to control oneself, if the virtue was opposed to some desire; this is why it is classified as a cardinal virtue, where "cardinal" signifies "pivotal."

The virtues of abstinence, chastity, and modesty are considered sub-classes of the virtue of temperance, as it governs the practice of eating and drinking, practice of sexual intercourse, and the restraint of vanity.

Temperance movements were originally aimed at generating temperance -- moderation -- in drinking of alcoholic beverages. In its prohibition aspects, it was wittily described by G. K. Chesteron as "an intemperate denunciation of temperate drinking."


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