The Virtuous Hangover

21 Sep

Gchat Writing Date

Penny: So. I forgot my books. And I am at Starbucks. This may or may not be a productive use of our time. (Also, Aristotle is in the attic at my parents’…)

Polly: Fear not! For Aristotle is always on my bookshelf! As are Albert Cammypants, Platyface, Freddy Nietz, Marxy Mark, T-Hobbez, my gurl Ayn, the Presocratic Playahs, and some boring martyrs.

Penny: Is it bad that I just figured out how to pronounce Albert Camus yesterday? Should I be ashamed?

Polly: OMZ me too. Not yesterday. But recently. Recently enough to be ashamed.

Penny: Literally. Yesterday. And you know me and literally. I only use it literally. Ok. We’re getting distracted. I’ve had too much coffee. Have you had any?

Polly: No coffee. I haven’t even gotten to my hangover ramen yet. I’m still in that place where looking at food makes me a little physically uncomfortable but not so uncomfortable that I don’t notice how extremely hungry I am.

Penny: This is why I am antisocial 98% of the time. I had a glorious early morning run, gym sesh, shower and jaunt to Starbucks to read and drink my free birthday latte while I waited for you to wake up and get online. Temperance, Pol. Temperance is an astonishingly useful virtue. (And also a very strange first name.)

Polly: Yes, I was definitely intemperate last night. Aristotle is judging me. “The pleasures that concern temperance and intemperance are those that are shared with the other animals, and so appear slavish and bestial.”

Penny: Damn, I think Aristotle’s judgy face is better than mine.

Polly: Well there ARE caveats! “To enjoy these things, then, and to like them most of all, is bestial. For indeed the most civilized of the pleasures coming through touch, such as those produced by rubbing and warming in gymnasia, are excluded from intemperance…” So if instead of sharing a giant bottle of sparkling wine and talking about boys with my friend we instead… oh Zeus, I don’t know if I want to continue that thought.

Penny: “Sometimes I think I might try crystal meth. But then I think mmmm…better not.” Etc.?

Polly: Exactly. As rational and discerning creatures we ought to put our brainpower towards looking at situations and deciding what will really make us happy. My headache right now is a consequence I should have foreseen.

Penny: Ok, but isn’t friendship a virtue? Well, a certain kind of friendship? And don’t you think that temperance is perhaps a lesser virtue than friendship? Or a virtue within the greater virtue of friendship that can be exercised or sacrificed for the greater good as necessary? Or are we just fooling ourselves with convenient rationalizations?

Polly: Absolutely not. Aristotle also says that the one defining characteristic that separates us from the beasts is our ability to utilize ration. We can step back and observe the course of action within our situation that will result in the most Good.

Penny: So the real question- Was your intemperance in this instance in the service of the right kind of practice*?


*Practice, in the Aristotelian sense, is a pursuit containing virtues that furthers the practitioner’s purpose or telos. All practices are practiced in the lifelong quest for eudaimonia, or the ultimate good, and are only virtuous practices if they further this quest. For example, American Football is a practice. Playing catch is not a practice, though the art of throwing a perfect spiral is certainly a good within the practice of American Football. The virtuosity of this practice we will leave you to determine.


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