Researcher ORCID Identifier
Date of Submission
Campus Only Senior Thesis
Bachelor of Arts
Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE)
2023 Alice Shi
The purpose of this thesis is to provide a comparative analysis of the virtue of moderation across two canonical philosophical texts: Plato’s magnum opus the “Republic” and Aristotle’s late masterpiece “Nicomachean Ethics”. The topic of moderation, used interchangeably with the term temperance, is important because it allows us to resurrect age-old wisdom from the thinkers of Ancient Greece on how to live a morally virtuous life, and potentially form connections that are applicable to contemporary life. More importantly, it addresses a gap in research which has not yet been explored before—comparing the ethical views between the two classical works. This contrast allows the reader to clearly see the similarities and differences in how both intellectual giants approach the same virtue. Hence, by undertaking a comparative analysis of their works, we can gain deeper insight into the ontological perspectives and ethical ideologies of Plato and Aristotle.
The organization of the thesis will be structured as follows: first, I delineate the main arguments and relevant concepts needed to understand Plato and Aristotle’s positions on moderation, in that order. In the expository aspect of Plato’s section of this thesis I will adopt the organizational structure that Annas employs for the sake of clarity in dissecting and analyzing Plato’s arguments. I employ such a framework because it enables us to better see the relationships between his claims about the virtues, parts of the soul and its hierarchy, the connection to the tyrannical individual, and ultimately its relationship to Plato’s central question of justice and virtue. For Aristotle, I first delineate his twofold structure of the soul before delving into an exploration of the virtue of moderation, which Aristotle refers to as temperance. Afterwards, I also describe central concepts necessary in grasping Aristotle’s account of temperance, including the doctrine of the mean and the distinction between peculiar and natural appetites. Subsequently, I expound upon Aristotle’s portrayal of the intemperate, incontinent, and brutish man that is used organizationally in juxtaposition with Plato’s picture of the tyrannical man.
After I evaluate each account of moderation by both philosophers, I put forth six contributions in an attempt to engage in the critical inquiry of both texts. I examine potential counterarguments and either draw on objections raised by other scholars, such as Sachs or Curzer, or I put forth my own original contributions based on claims made in the primary texts. From there on, I advance the discussion of the objections put against the philosophers’ theories by premeditating on behalf of how Plato or Aristotle would respond. For some of the arguments I expand upon potential perspectives that other academics may broach, or offer additional points which augment the philosophers’ rebuttals, including offering my own views.
Finally, I conduct an appraisal of the key similarities and differences about moderation in the architectonic of both philosophers’ outlook. Specifically, I offer two main points of similarity and four points of divergence in regards to each philosophers’ respective account of moderation in the individual. Following the comparison, I recapitulate the main ideas that are established throughout the thesis and depict some of the broader implications of temperance and moderation. In closing, I put forth some of my reflections on Plato and Aristotle’s account of moderation, in addition to offering my opinion on which philosopher’s position I find more compelling.
Shi, Alice, "The Good Life: Plato, Aristotle and the Question of Virtue - A Comparative Analysis on Moderation & Temperance in the Individual between Plato & Aristotle" (2023). CMC Senior Theses. 3395.
This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.