Temperance and the Second-Person Perspective





Temperance, Second person, Relational virtues


The virtue of temperance with respect to food and drink is often assumed to be relatively straightforward, a matter of steering a mean between excess and deficiency. Given also that humans share the need to eat and drink with non-human animals, this topic might therefore seem promising to explore for possible connections between evolutionary research on morality and theological ethics. In this paper, however, I argue that many aspects of temperance go far beyond the Aristotelian account and can be understood principally as reflecting the fact that human beings are embodied relational persons. This second-person account can indeed be connected to theological ethics, but it is also one that draws principally from the discontinuities of human and non-human behaviour.


Aristotle. 1984. The Complete Works of Aristotle: The Revised Oxford Translation. Edited by Jonathan Barnes. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

Assal, Gil. 2001. “Prosopagnosia”. Bulletin de L’academie Nationale de Medecine 185, no. 3: 525–35. https://europepmc.org/article/med/11501261.

Augustine. 1942. The Confessions of St. Augustine. New York, NY: Sheed and Ward.

Bodamer, Joachim. 1947. “Die Prosop-Agnosie”. Archiv für Psychiatrie und Nervenkrankheiten Vereinigt mit Zeitschrift für die Gesamte Neurologie und Psychiatrie 179, no. 1–2: 6–53. doi:10.1007/BF00352849.

Chartrand, T. L., and J. A. Bargh. 1999. “The Chameleon Effect: The Perception-Behavior Link and Social Interaction”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 76, no. 6: 893–910. doi:10.1037/0022–3514.76.6.893.

Dalrymple, Kirsten A., Sherryse Corrow, Albert Yonas, and Brad Duchaine. 2012. “Developmental Prosopagnosia in Childhood”. Cognitive Neuropsychology 29, no. 5–6: 393–418. doi:10.1080/02643294.2012.722547.

Eilan, Naomi, Christoph Hoerl, Teresa McCormack, and Johannes Roessler. 2005. Joint Attention: Communication and Other Minds: Issues in Philosophy and Psychology. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Farah, M. J., K. L. Levinson, and K. L. Klein. 1995. “Face Perception and Within-Category Discrimination in Prosopagnosia”. Neuropsychologia 33, no. 6: 661–74. doi:10.1016/0028–3932(95)00002-K.

Freiwald, Winrich A., Doris Y. Tsao, and Margaret S. Livingstone. 2009. “A Face Feature Space in the Macaque Temporal Lobe”. Nature Neuroscience 12, no. 9: 1187–96. doi:10.1038/nn.2363.

Kass, Leon R. 1999. The Hungry Soul: Eating and the Perfecting of Our Nature. Chicago: Univ. Of Chicago Press.

Klin, Ami, Sara Sparrow, Annelies Bildt, Domenic Cicchetti, Donald Cohen, and Fred Volkmar. 1999. “A Normed Study of Face Recognition in Autism and Related Disorders”. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 29: 499–508. doi:10.1023/A:1022299920240.

Legge, Brenda. 2002. Can’t Eat, Won’t Eat: Dietary Difficulties and Autistic Spectrum Disorders. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Lewis, C. S. 2012. Screwtape Letters: Letters from a Senior to a Junior Devil. London: William Collins.

MacIntyre, Alasdair C. 2007. After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory. Notre Dame, IN: Univ. of Notre Dame Press.

Perrett, D. I., P. A. Smith, D. D. Potter, A. J. Mistlin, A. S. Head, A. D. Milner, and M. A. Jeeves. 1985. “Visual Cells in the Temporal Cortex Sensitive to Face View and Gaze Direction”. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences 223, no. 1232: 293–317. doi:10.1098/rspb.1985.0003.

Pinsent, Andrew. 2012. The Second Person Perspective in Aquinas’s Ethics: Virtues and Gifts. New York, NY: Abingdon, UK.

—. 2017. “Who’s Afraid of the Infused Virtues? Dispositional Infusion, Human and Divine”. In The Virtuous Life: Thomas Aquinas on the Theological Nature of Moral Virtues, edited by H. Goris and H. Schoot, 73–96. Leuven: CT: Peeters.

Rolls, Edmund T. 2007. “The Representation of Information about Faces in the Temporal and Frontal Lobes”. Neuropsychologia 45, no. 1: 124–43. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2006.04.019.

Stump, Eleonore. 2010. Wandering in Darkness: Narrative And The Problem Of Suffering. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

—. 2018. Atonement. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

The Divine Office. 1974. The Liturgy of the Hours According to the Roman Rite, as Renewed by Decree of the Second Vatican Council and Promulgated by the Authority of Pope Paul VI. I: Advent, Christmastide & Weeks I-9 of the Year by The Divine Office: Good Imitation Leather | ThriftBooks. London: Collins.

Thompson, Peter. 1980. “Margaret Thatcher: A New Illusion”. Perception 9, no. 4: 483–84. doi:10.1068/p090483.

Visser, Margaret. 2017. The Rituals of Dinner: The Origins, Evolution, Eccentricities and Meaning of Table Manners. London: Penguin.

Yin, Robert K. 1969. “Looking at Upside-down Faces”. Journal of Experimental Psychology 81, no. 1: 141–45. doi:10.1037/h0027474.




How to Cite

Pinsent, Andrew. 2020. “Temperance and the Second-Person Perspective”. European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 12 (3):101-15. https://doi.org/10.24204/ejpr.v12i3.3408.



Special Issue - Evolutionary Research on Morality and Theological Ethics