Front Page Titles (by Subject) QUESTION CXLI.: OF TEMPERANCE. - Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 2 (Summa Theologica - Secunda Secundae Pt.2)
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QUESTION CXLI.: OF TEMPERANCE. - St. Thomas Aquinas, Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 2 (Summa Theologica - Secunda Secundae Pt.2) 
Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas. A Translation of the Principal Portions of the Second part of the Summa Theologica, with Notes by Joseph Rickaby, S.J. (London: Burns and Oates, 1892).
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§ 1. Nature inclines to that which is proper to each. Hence man naturally seeks after the delight proper to himself. But because man as such is rational, it follows that those delights are proper to man that are according to reason; and from these temperance does not withdraw him, but rather from those which are against reason. Hence clearly temperance is not contrary to the inclination of human nature, but in accordance with it. But it is contrary to the inclination of bestial nature not subject to reason.
Article II.—Is temperance a special virtue?
R. In the usage of human speech some common nouns are restricted to that which is principal in the class denoted by them: as the name of the City is understood eminently of Rome. Thus then the name of temperance may be taken in two ways: in one way in its general signification, and in that way temperance is not a special but a general virtue, since the name signifies a certain attempering, or moderation, which is the work of reason upon human actions and passions; and that moderation is common to every virtue. But if temperance is considered in the eminent use of the word, as something refraining the appetite from the things that most of all entice and allure man, in that way it is a special virtue with a special matter.
§ 3. Though beauty attaches to every virtue, yet it is singularly the attribute of temperance, for two reasons: first, from analysis of the general idea of temperance, which involves a certain regular and appropriate proportion, in which the essence of beauty consists; secondly, because the things from which temperance restrains us are the lowest things in man, and befit him in respect of the nature that he has in common with beasts; and therefore man is most exposed to degradation and disfigurement herein: consequently beauty is the singular attribute of temperance, as that virtue particularly removes what disfigures man.
Article IV.—Is temperance confined to the matter of the desires and delights of touch?
R. Temperance is about desires and delights as fortitude is about fears and daring ventures. But the fears and daring ventures with which fortitude is conversant, have respect to the greatest evils, those by which nature itself is extinguished, which are dangers of death. Hence in like manner temperance must be about the desires of the greatest delights. And because delight follows upon natural activity, certain delights must be all the more intense, the more natural are the activities upon which they follow. But to animals the most natural activities are those by which the nature of the individual is maintained by means of meat and drink, and the nature of the species by the union of the sexes; and therefore the delights of meat and drink and of sexual pleasure are the proper matter of temperance. But these delights attend the sense of touch. Hence it remains that temperance is in the matter of the delights of touch.
§ 2. Not all the delights of touch belong to the maintenance of nature; and therefore no need for temperance to be in the matter of all the delights of touch.1
§ 2. There are two ways of taking the phrase, necessary to human life. In one way we may call that necessary, without which the thing cannot be at all, as food is necessary to an animal; in another way we call that necessary, without which the thing cannot be in a suitable condition. Now temperance regards not the former necessity only, but also the latter. Hence the Philosopher says that “the temperate man goes after pleasant things in view of health or of a good habit of body.” But other things, that are not necessary to these ends, may be of two sorts. Some there are that are positive hinderances to health or a good habit of body; and these the temperate man in no way uses: for that would be a sin against temperance. Others there are that are not hinderances to these ends; and these he uses moderately according to place, time, and company. And therefore the Philosopher adds that even the temperate man “goes after other pleasant things,” that is, things not necessary to health or a good habit of body, “when they are not in the way of those ends.”1
Article VII.—Is temperance a cardinal virtue?
R. The moderation which is requisite in every virtue is particularly praiseworthy in regard of the delights of touch, with which temperance has to deal: as well because such delights are more natural to us, and therefore more difficult to abstain from, and to moderate the desires of them; as also because their objects are more necessary to the present life. And therefore temperance is a primary or cardinal virtue.
[1 ]The reduction of the two appetites of Food and Sex to Touch is a whim of Aristotelian physiology. If any one chooses to pass that over, he may still keep in perfect accordance with St. Thomas by saying that “Temperance is a virtue, which regulates by the judgment of reason those desires and delights, which attend upon the operations whereby human nature is preserved in the individual and propagated in the species.” Ethics and Natural Law, p. 90. (Trl.)
[1 ]This passage is well illustrated by Devas, Groundwork of Economics, § 147. (Trl.)