The virtue of temperance

Aristotle’s ethical system is one from which we have some practical import into our lives. Concerning the golden mean, our behaviour is to be kept in a balance between excess and deficiency. To be virtuous is to avoid excess and deficiency in our moral character. To be fearful is the mean between cowardice and arrogance. This makes our agency somewhat difficult, insofar as we must assess what is the mean in all situations.

Sometimes anger or retreat may be the apt choice, compared to other ones; and those decisions may lead to difficult options with consequences. Also, what is fearful in one situation may not be fearful in another, and it is upt to the virtuous agent to know what is the virtuous behaviour. In a sense it may seem we have a revival of the Socrates’ paradox: ‘only the wise know what consists in wisdom’.

The recent reporting in the media of ‘fresh’ news stories beyond the already-worn stories of abused or missing children, economic downturn and its consequences, or celebritieshardenfreuder. One is of the opinion that the recent reporting on MP expenses seems to be more to the effect of a media-driven campaign masked as a public opinion scandal. However, what does not seem to be clear is that who benefits from this? Normally these newspaper and media outrages benefit a major political party, however, it seems that fringe parties may benefit more.

There seems to be an unfortunate excess of reporting in that other issues have been forgotten: housing, education, employment, for instance. Has it passed the eyes of my readers that the British campaign Iraq has ended and the troops have come home?

Recently I have considered that the appeal to excess and superlatives in our emotional repetoire seem much more appealing than begruding subtlety and nuance. It seems forgotten to me that the appeal to excess and defiency is a moral flaw, and also an aesthetic flaw. Where subtlety and conservatism is not the only respite of excess; we are left with difficult options; of being led to look and reflect as to what our course of action is when predefined paths are not reliable: that is the mark of proper agency and character, namely, the uncomfortable position of making difficult and balanced decisions.


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