Temperance is the virtue of moderation.

It is easy to become consumed by our desires; children do it all the time. I want this, give me that, more candy, more soda, more toys, more play time. However if we choose to exercise self-control we can become the master of our desires. We can choose our pleasures rather than indulging mindlessly in limitless excess. We can choose to enjoy what we have rather than succumbing to an unending quest for all that we do not have.

Temperance is not abstinence, it is moderation. It is choosing enough rather than relentlessly pursuing more. It is exercising our ability to master our desires.[1] It is learning to cope with abundance.

Temperance is the decision to savor pleasure—intensifying its sensation—by shunning excess and thereby enjoy what we have so much more. It is choosing quality over quantity. It is choosing the middle way.[2]

Aristotle described temperance as the mean between the excess of prodigality—wild extravagance—and the deficiency of insensibility—insensitivity to deficiency.

The Virtue of Moderation


Aristotle described virtue as a mean—a balance—between deficiency and excess. Moderation, therefore, is essential to all virtue.

Everyday Temperance


Find a healthy and gratifying balance between deprivation and indulgence. Consider adopting some of these simple guidelines to practice moderation each day.


  • Don’t eat between meals
  • Enjoy dining with your family or friends. Eat slowly.
  • Enjoy savoring smaller portions.
  • Eat home cooked food.
  • Moderate or eliminate caffeine consumption, including coffee, tea, and energy drinks.
  • Moderate or eliminate sugar consumption, including soft drinks, candy, sweets, and other highly sweetened foods.
  • Follow the advice of Michael Pollan and: "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants".
  • Follow the advice of Benjamin Franklin and "Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation."


  • Limit alcohol consumption to one glass of wine or beer daily.
  • Never drink and drive.

Sexual Activity

  • Eschew pornography.
  • Be faithful to your committed partner.
  • Limit sexual activity to occasions initiated by your spouse.


  • Turn off the shopping channel.
  • Don't use shopping as a pastime, palliative, or form of entertainment.
  • Don't buy on impulse. Delay purchases until you can make a dispassionate decision about your true needs.
  • Save rather than borrow. Pay your credit card bill in full each month. Don't make purchases that require you to increase your personal debt.
  • Follow the advice of Benjamin Franklin and "Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.”


  • Stop smoking.
  • Stop gambling .
  • Stop talking about yourself. Let your accomplishments speak for themselves. Don’t regard yourself as more special than others. Talk less while saying more.
  • Follow the advice of Benjamin Franklin and "Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation."
  • Balance work, family activities, and play.
  • Integrate exercise into your daily activities. Turn off the TV, get off the couch, walk more.
  • Sleep 8 hours every night.
  • Moderate your "screen time" including video games, computer use, and smart phone use.
  • Exercise your self control and self discipline. Work to increase your impulse control; earn that second marshmallow.
  • Increase your emotional competency.
  • Get professional help if you suffer from any addictions or harmful compulsions such as tobacco use, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, inappropriate sexual activities, gambling, eating disorders, fanaticism, or excessive shopping.
  • Meditate, contemplate, and reflect.
  • Find the middle way.



Part 1: Choose one of the guidelines from the list above to integrate into your daily life.

Part 2: Track your progress for one week, then for one month.

Further Reading


Students interested in learning more about the virtues of temperance may be interested in the following materials:

  • McGonigal, Kelly (2011). The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It. Avery. pp. 272. ISBN 978-1583334386. 
  • Pollan, Michael (2007). The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. Penguin. pp. 450. ISBN 978-0143038580. 
  • Jackson, Tim (2011). Prosperity Without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet. Earthscan Publications Ltd.. pp. 286. ISBN 978-1849713238. 
  • Seligman, Martin (2003). Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment. Free Press. pp. 336. ISBN 978-0743222983. 
  • Barber, Benjamin R. (2008). Consumed: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults, and Swallow Citizens Whole. W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 416. ISBN 978-0393330892. 


  1. Gunn, Cameron (2010). "Chapter 1". Ben & Me: From Temperance to Humility--Stumbling Through Ben Franklin's Thirteen Virtues,One Unvirtuous Day at a Time. Perigee Trade. pp. 272. ISBN 978-0399536076. 
  2. Comte-Sponville, André (2002). "Chapter 4". A Small Treatise on the Great Virtues: The Uses of Philosophy in Everyday Life. Picador. pp. 368. ISBN 978-0805045567.