On Reading Well
Karen Swallow Prior
The Great Gatsby
By F. Scott Fitzgerald
And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
2 Peter 1:5-6
Chapter Two of On Reading Well by Karen Swallow Prior is a study of Temperance drawn from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. The topic is older than that novel of course and much has been written about its attributes. One of the leading ancient voices was that of Aristotle.
As Karen wrote in Chapter Two
For Aristotle temperance concerned the physical appetites we share with animals: the desires for food, drink, and sex. For both humans and animals, these appetites are necessary to perpetuate life (whether individually or as a species), but they are also the source of pleasure. The Catholic Church, following Aristotle’s understanding, teaches that temperance “ensures the will’s mastery over instincts and keeps desires within the limits of what is honorable,” but expands the role of temperance as governing “the use of created goods.”
Aristotle viewed temperance as related to the appetites humans share in common with animals. What are more expansive applications of temperance?