Moderation

First, happy World Philosophy Day!

Speaking of philosophy, in my post last week about the wisdom of Socrates, I suggested that he lost his head in his attachment to Alcibiades. And the phrase “lost his head” is appropriate, because in ancient Greek the opposite of doing so was σωφροσύνη, which although usually translated as “moderation” or “temperance” literally means “mind-saving” or “mind-keeping”.

Moderation sounds boring. It’s so damn reasonable! To those who relish more passion and excitement, it even smacks of selling out. Yet I think moderation is underrated.

First and quite obviously, as Socrates discovered, losing your head can get you in an awful lot of trouble. Countless human beings throughout history have gone astray through unreasonable levels of fear, greed, desire, anger, and other emotions.

Second, you don’t need to be immoderate in order to experience the wonders, joys, and pleasures that life has to offer. Too often we are offered only the choice of pure reason vs. pure emotion, but it doesn’t take much reflection to realize that this is a false alternative.

Indeed, as Socrates himself argued at length in Plato’s dialogue Philebus, the union of pleasure with mind and wisdom produces the most beautiful of lives for a human being.

There’s no shame in being moderate and reasonable in life. Or, as I sometimes like to put it: Dare to be dull!

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