Matilda Amundsen Bergström at Eurozine:
At it’s core, temperance means finding, respecting and defending boundaries – especially one’s own. This is sometimes equated with a form of non-action, or as abstention from excess and extremes – especially in relation to bodily pleasures connected to alcohol, food and sex. As a concept, however, temperance offers a much richer array of meanings. Philosopher Alasdair Macintyre, for example, has defined temperance as the choice to not use power which is at one’s disposal. Another possibility is to understand temperance as a practice of dispensation – one which includes being without that which one desires, admitting that every fulfilled desire has consequences, and inquiring into desires and their origins. The latter is an especially significant aspect of the Greek sophrosyne, which could be translated both as temperance and self-knowledge. Yet another alternative is to view temperance as a practice of actively being with others, a form of self-restraint which turns one’s attention away from oneself towards others. From that perspective, many currently popular expressions of self-restraint, such as exercise, dieting or voluntary celibacy, are not temperate since they are motivated by the individual’s own desires. Neither do enforced limitations such as laws banning smoking or drugs have anything to do with temperance, since the virtue involves the choice to act in a certain way as much as the action itself – acknowledging the boundary as well as adhering to it.