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Friday, June 8, 2012

Sophrosyne: The Simple Meaning of Moderation


Sophrosyne was the goddess of moderation, self-control, temperance, restraint, and discretion. She was one of the good spirits who escaped Pandora's box when the woman first lifted the lid and fled back to Olympus, abandoning mankind. Her Roman equivalents were Continentia and Sobrietas. Sophrosyne was one of the cardinal virtues, consisting in a harmonious state of rational control of one's desires. In Aristotle the temperate person is one who can abstain or indulge appetites to the right degree without a severe effort of will; the person who needs the effort of will is not temperate, and needs to be content.


We see several examples of sophrosyne in literature including the story of Cupid and Psyche. Aphrodite was furious about her son Cupid-Eros’ affair with (Psyche exclaims:] “But what am I to do, now that I'm becoming a laughing-stock? Where shall I go, how shall I curb in this scoundrel? Should I beg the assistance of my enemy Sobrietas (Sobriety, Temperance)? So often alienated from me through this fellow's loose living.”

Plato’s Symposium is another perfect example of sophrosyne, as Socrates talks about moderation of one’s actions and the honor in doing so. Socrates also asserts that the highest purpose of love is to become a philosopher or, literally, a lover of wisdom. A lover of wisdom often accompanied better judgment and temperance for other’s ideas. Consequently, the symposium was a drinking party, but according to Aristophanes, “ we should, by all means, avoid hard drinking, for I was myself one of those who were yesterday drowned in drink” .

The epicureans also practiced sophrosyne, as they also abstain from bodily desires such as sex and appetites verging on denial. Epicurus argued that when eating one should not eat too heavily, for it could lead to disappointment later, such as the grim realization that one could not afford such delicacies in the future. Likewise, sex could lead to increased lust and dissatisfaction with the sexual partner.


"Cupid and Psyche Sculptural Wall Frieze in Antique Stone"
"Cupid and Psyche Bonded Marble Bust"
Cupid and Psyche and Other Tales from the Golden Ass

3 Comments:

Jim O'Donnell said...

No food? No sex? Sophrosyne is not for me.

Lauren Axelrod said...

Hehe, and everyone else I know Jim.

Dumbbells For Sale said...

hi
its avery good post i like it
dror

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