Sôphrosunê | Encyclopedia.com (2024)

Sôphrosunê is the Greek virtue of self-control, or temperance, a virtue that Aristotle says lies between self-indulgence (akolasia ) on the one hand and insensibility (anaisthêsia ) on the other. In its earliest uses (Homer) the word means "soundness of mind," "prudence," "discretion," and is related to the verb sôphronein, combining sôs, safe, and phronein, to think, a verb related to phrên, an archaism for mind (literally, "midriff," "heart," "the seat of thought," according to the Greeks).

Although Plato dedicated an entire dialogue (Charmides ) to a discussion of the meaning of sôphrosunê, the notion of self-mastery is central to his ethical theory and he invokes it in many contexts, ranging from the Gorgias to the Republic to the Laws. Plato's central claim is that self-mastery is more than the mere abstention from certain forms of physical pleasurethat was the popular and sophistic characterization of the virtuehe "exalts" it (semnunôn, Laws 710a5) by equating it with phronêsis, practical wisdom. Already in the so-called "early" or "Socratic" dialogues (among which the Charmides may be counted) Plato had spoken not only of self-control but of all the virtues as reducible, in some way, to knowledge of one kind or another. Like the other "early" dialogues, the Charmides ends in aporia, puzzlement, about what sôphrosunê "really" is, but the suggestion is quite clear that it has to do with knowledge of what is the objectively best way for one to live. When, at Gorgias 491e, Callicles scorns self-control as a mere convention valued only by stupid, foolish people (êlithious ), Socrates mounts an argument to show that those who cannot master their own desires and inclinations cannot master anything, a theme he takes up again in the Republic.

Aristotle regards temperance as moderation regarding pleasures and pains, and he loosely associates this virtue with courage as the two virtues of the non-rational (alogon ) part of the soul (Nicomachean Ethics II.7, 1107b58; cf. III.1012 1117b231119b10). Aristotle notes that temperance applies more to physical pleasures and pains than mental, and rather more to pleasure than to pain. On Aristotle's account, the temperate person does not crave pleasures more than is right, nor does he crave the wrong sorts of pleasures. The self-indulgent, by contrast, will crave either greater quantities of physical satisfaction than is right, for example, more food than he needs for healthy sustenance, or else he will crave the wrong sorts of physical satisfaction. Aristotle maintains that the other vice opposed to temperance, insensibility, is not merely rare but quite unnatural in humans as well as other animals. The point of both temperance and self-indulgence is the satisfaction of desire, in the one case correctly achieved in the pursuit of human flourishing, in the other a disordered pursuit of pleasure for its own sake rather than for one's natural end. Insensibility, by contrast, is an outright denial of one's basic physical needs and, by extension, a contravention of one's natural end.

Post-Aristotelian philosophy is quite heterogeneous in its treatment of ethical issues. The central conception of the virtue of self-control still has to do with controlling one's desires, though in certain cases (see, for example, SVF 1.200201) it is connected more directly to the foregoing of pleasures. For the Stoics, sôphrosunê was counted among the cardinal virtues along with courage, prudence, and justice. Since their highest good was a life lived in accordance with nature (kata phusin ) the wise person is one whose understanding of nature and his place in it leads him to a kind of unity with nature, and they defined sophrosynê very generally as practical wisdom concerned with choice and avoidance (Plut. Stoic. rep. 1034ce). The Epicureans, according to Cicero (De finibus 1.14.478), associated self-control with peace of mind and harmony, by freeing us from the disruptions and consequences of an unbridled pursuit of pleasure. This has value, according to them, not in itself, but because it secures greater pleasure over the long run.

See also Aristotle; Hellenistic Thought; Homer; Pain; Plato; Pleasure; Virtue and Vice.


Macintyre, Alisdair. "Sôphrosunê : How a Virtue Can Become Socially Disruptive." Midwest Studies in Philosophy 13 (1988): 111.

North, Helen. Sophrosyne and Self-Restraint in Greek Literature. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1966.

Rademaker, Adriaan. Sophrosyne and the Rhetoric of Self-Restraint: Polysemy and Persuasive Use of an Ancient Greek Value Term. Leiden: Brill, 2005.

Santas, Gerasimos. "Socrates at Work on Virtue and Knowledge in Plato's Charmides." Exegesis and Argument: Studies in Greek Philosophy Presented to Gregory Vlastos. Phronesis suppl. vol. 1 (1973): 105132.

Young, C. "Aristotle on Temperance." Philosophical Review 97 (1988): 521542.

Scott Carson (2005)

Sôphrosunê | Encyclopedia.com (2024)


Are encyclopedias worth anything? ›

Old encyclopedias are attracting collectors primarily for two reasons: scarcity and information. As is the case with all rare books and other collectibles, the more scarce an edition is, the more likely it is to have a bigger spread between supply and demand, and thus the higher the monetary value.

What is the most trusted online encyclopedia? ›

Britannica's content is among the most trusted in the world. Every article is written, and continually fact-checked, by our experts. Subscribe to Britannica Premium and unlock our entire database of trusted content today.

Is Encyclopedia.com a trusted source? ›

Encyclopedia.com has more than 100 trusted sources, including encyclopedias, dictionaries, and thesauruses including The Columbia Encyclopedia, Oxford's World Encyclopedia, and the Encyclopedia of World Biography. with facts, definitions, biographies, synonyms, pronunciation keys, word origins, and abbreviations.

What is the best free online encyclopedia? ›

  • Scholarpedia. ...
  • Smithsonian. ...
  • Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. ...
  • The Canadian Encyclopedia. ...
  • Who2. ...
  • Wikipedia. ...
  • World Book. Trustworthy, professionally-authored encyclopedia in print since 1917. ...
  • World Digital Library. Archive of cultural heritage artifacts from libraries, archives, and museums around the world.

Are any old encyclopedias worth money? ›

The Internet has rendered vintage encyclopedias obsolete and today the value is primarily from people looking to have a set similar to the one that they grew up with. A complete 1967 white britannica encyclopedia sells for $50 or so at auction and for $120 to $150 from antique book dealers.

What can I do with my 40 year old encyclopedia? ›

Recycling encyclopedias

Call your local library and ask if you may donate your set to be sold. Put it up for giveaway on freecycle.org. If they're really old -- say, more than 100 years -- call a rare bookseller and ask if they're worth anything. Find out if a local recycler takes them.

Is Britannica more reliable than Wikipedia? ›

For serious errors, such as misinterpretations of important concepts, 4 were found in Wikipedia, and 4 in Britannica (1:1). The study concluded that "Wikipedia comes close to Britannica in terms of the accuracy of its science entries", although Wikipedia's articles were often "poorly structured".

How reliable is Britannica? ›

Britannica has been widely recognized as the ultimate reliable source for comprehensive deep research with Britannica School, Britannica Academic, and Britannica Library. Our image library is second to none, with ImageQuest featuring 3.25 million images from over 62 collections.

Who is behind encyclopedia com? ›

The website was launched by Infonautics in March 1998. Infonautics was acquired by Tucows in August 2001. In August 2002, Patrick Spain bought Encyclopedia.com and its sister website eLibrary from Tucows and incorporated them in a new company called Alacritude, LLC (a combination of Alacrity and Attitude).

What happened to the Encyclopedia Britannica? ›

In the 21st century, the Britannica suffered first from competition with the digital multimedia encyclopaedia Microsoft Encarta, and later with the online peer-produced encyclopaedia Wikipedia. In March 2012, it announced it would no longer publish printed editions and would focus instead on the online version.

Do they still sell Encyclopedia Britannica? ›

Its fiercest competitor of yore, The Encyclopedia Britannica, ended its print run in 2012 after 244 years in print. In a nod to our present digital age, World Book also offers its encyclopedia as a subscription service through the web.

What is the largest free online encyclopedia? ›

Wikipedia was founded by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger (both USA) as a free online encyclopedia that internet users can add to and edit. Wikipedia.com was launched on 15 January 2001.

What to do with old sets of encyclopedias? ›

Older encyclopedias make great set dressing and help fill up bookcases." * Nancy Shore of Salt Lake City says: "I donated my encyclopedia set to a charitable foundation that sent it to a school in the Philippines. There are many countries that would love to have our old books."

Do people buy encyclopedias anymore? ›

Today, up-to-date information flows freely thanks to the Internet. It's only a Google search away. Many people rely on Wikipedia, which is a nonprofit collaborative resource, for reference purposes. Despite that, some people and organizations apparently still buy paper encyclopedias.

Does anyone recycle encyclopedias? ›

Call your local recycling plant. They may have a specific set of rules for how to dispose of your encyclopedias and may even be able to pick them up from you. You can also use your old encyclopedias as a craft project. Take the photos inside and use them for scrap booking purposes.

Are encyclopedias still useful? ›

Yes, and yes. I still use my Britannica frequently and more rarely my New Columbia Desk Encyclopedia and my McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology. World Book is still being printed, sold mostly to libraries.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Lilliana Bartoletti

Last Updated:

Views: 5251

Rating: 4.2 / 5 (53 voted)

Reviews: 92% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Lilliana Bartoletti

Birthday: 1999-11-18

Address: 58866 Tricia Spurs, North Melvinberg, HI 91346-3774

Phone: +50616620367928

Job: Real-Estate Liaison

Hobby: Graffiti, Astronomy, Handball, Magic, Origami, Fashion, Foreign language learning

Introduction: My name is Lilliana Bartoletti, I am a adventurous, pleasant, shiny, beautiful, handsome, zealous, tasty person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.