Hypothesis on Temperance

Suppose you want to indulge some immoderate pleasure. The urge for it is the same one Augustine described: do you think you could live without it forever? This is an odd argument: I’m supposed to indulge something now so that I’ll have it in the future? 

No, no, no, the appetite shoots back – you want to act in accord with a principle that will make you lose everything in the future! This is also odd – no one can enjoy anything qua future. You might just as well point out that I should despair that all I ever get to enjoy is what I enjoy now, and not what I will be able to.

The irrationality of all this makes it hard to spot, but sooner or later some researcher will get around to noticing how we talk ourselves into enjoying things now because we don’t want to lose them in the future. The Romans 13 passage Augustine famously reads in the tolle, lege story speaks to this, as it demands that we make no provision (πρόνοια) for carnality, i.e. simply stop looking to it in the future.

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