16 June 2018

Is restraint an unfashionable virtue?

Restraint is empathy with your future self

31 December 2017

A defence of Aquinas's views of temperance

'Aquinas on temperance' by Reginald Chua in New Blackfriars.

30 December 2017

Childhood self-control predicts adult success

An old thesis backed up by a recent longitudinal study in New Zealand.

28 February 2017

"Willpower doesn't exist"

Not sure how the author managed to finish the article, http://nautil.us/issue/45/power/against-willpower

08 December 2016

Self-control is empathy with your future self

New article in The Atlantic.

25 September 2016

Self-control through accountability to others

St Andrew's University will hold a conference on 'Self-control through accountability to others', May 8-9, 2017. Does promising you'll be self-controlled help you actually be self-controlled? Or do you have to have a good degree of self-control already for that to work?

14 July 2016

Judy Stove on Jane Austen's sophrosyne

Judy Stove discusses Jane Austen's moral instruction in sophrosyne (self-restraint) in her paper 'Instruction with amusement: Jane Austen's women of sense,' Renascence 60.1.

08 December 2014

The Philosophy and Science of Self-Control

A research project on this theme is active at Florida State University ... more

10 September 2013

"Hedonic Hunger"

Don't blame lack of self-control, "scientists" have now discovered you can blame your "hedonic hunger" instead.

07 May 2013

Food science

"Betcha can't eat just one". The food giants have ways to get around our mechanisms to restrain overeating.

19 January 2013

SelfControl: the app

Need to restrain yourself from continually checking Facebook and email? SelfControl, the app, will lock you out of sites you name for a fixed period. (That's for Macs; the version for PCs is Cold Turkey).

05 December 2012

Stephanie Jarrett's Liberating Aboriginal People from Violence

Stephanie Jarrett's impressive book, Liberating Aboriginal People from Violence, is to be published by Connor Court in Jan 2013. It will give a comprehensive account of Australian indigenous violence, its causes, and what can be done about it. Info here. All are welcome to the book launch in Sydney, Jan 29, 2013 ... invite.

Self-control and glucose

Self-control is essential. Glucose helps. According to a review of Baumeister and Tierney's Willpower.

11 May 2011

Old philosophy badged as new science?

Scientific American Mind has an article on the "science" of self-control. Funny how like the traditional philosophy of temperance it is.

04 February 2011

Akst on self-control

The Australian of 2 Jan 2011 published an extract from Daniel Akst's book, We Have Met the Enemy: Self-control in an Age of Excess. It's strong on Aristotle's need for training to automatize self-control.

09 January 2011

America back to spending like there's no tomorrow

A simple but effective article by a developmental psychologist from the Science of Virtues project on the need to get beyond "greed is good".

30 October 2010

Gopnik's Philosophical Baby on Restraint

An extract from Alison Gopnik's great book on infant development, The Philosophical Baby (p. 159):

"The executive-control one-cookie/two-cookie experiments were first done back in the sixties. Years later they turned out to be a remarkably good predictor of teenage success at school. Children who were more able to defer gratification when they were five years old became teenagers who were more likely to be rated as competent and mature, and their SAT scores were consistently higher than those of children who couldn't tolerate the delay.
Some psychologists have even suggested that teenagers who literally don't feel they have a future are most likely to behave self-destructively. Michael Chandler looked at teenagers in aboriginal communities in Canada. These teenagers are notoriously at risk for suicide, as well as less drastically self-destructive actions. Chandler found that adolescents at risk for suicide had a less coherent sense of themselves. They were less likely to connect their current, past, and especially future selves than children who were less at risk."

[ref: M. Chandler and T. Proulx, 2006, 'Changing selves in changing worlds: youth suicide on the fault-lines of colliding cultures', Archives of Suicide Research, special issue: Suicide among indigenous peoples: The Research, 10 (2) (Mar 2006), 125-40.]

05 October 2010

Judy Stove on self-control in education

Judy Stove's article, 'Self-control: the neglected key to education', appears in Quadrant 54 (10) (Oct 2010), 70-75.

03 October 2010

The "inner voice of reason" promotes self-control

Some empirical research on how keeping in tune with the inner voice telling you to stop promotes self-control.

30 March 2010


James Franklin gives his views on prudence, a virtue close to temperance but more cognitive, on ABC Radio National's Spirit of Things program on Easter Sunday ... details

18 March 2010

Toilet training report

Anna Christie's new report for the Restraint Project on (lack of) toilet training was featured in a Sun-Herald article on Mar 14, 2010.

29 December 2009

Warrane monograph on Restraint Project

A monograph, Temperance Revisited: A call for restraint in contemporary Australia was published by Warrane College, UNSW (no. 18 in the Warrane College Monograph series; ed. by Phil Elias).

It contains four papers:

* Temperance in Australia: The Restraint Project (James Franklin)
* From Moral to Medical: The retreat of self-control in Australia in the twentieth century (Judy Stove)
* Self-control in the Big Scheme of Things (Andrew Mullins)
* Temperance and the Modern Temper: Aristotle and Aquinas revisited (Lucy Smith)

Copies are available from Warrane College or from James Franklin.

Final Report on Restraint Project Grant

The final report on the ARC Discovery Grant that supported the Restraint Project can be read here.

10 September 2009

Grog War republication

Alexis Wright's Grog War, on alcohol abuse in Tennant Creek, is to be republished in Nov 2009 ... details.

Very much needed, considering latest events there.

04 September 2009

Judy Stove in Romania

On behalf of the Restraint Project, Judy Stove visited and spoke at the Alcohol: historical and social aspects) conference in Alba Iulia, Romania, on Aug 28-29, 2009.

She spoke about the early Quaker missionaries in Australia, who founded the temperance movement, but were not advocates of abstinence. Her thesis was that their commitment to true moderation rather than abstinence was largely a function of Quaker pragmatism, but was also grounded in principles which rejected the prohibition of a practice just because it could be abused.

In her capacity as a visitor from distant Australia, she was also briefly interviewed by Romanian TV about the Restraint Project.

Full report

Under the Influence

Ross Fitzgerald's history of alcohol in Australia, Under the Influence, was to have been launched by NSW Health Minister John Della Bosca. Unfortunately he was busy in another part of the restraint terrain, having resigned in a sex scandal ... story.

18 July 2009

The long-term decline of violence

Steve Pinker writes on the long-term decline in violence (over the last few centuries). He lists the main speculations on the causes of this increase in self-control, while admitting we do not really understand it... article

08 June 2009

Emma Tom on the Aristotelian mean

Emma Tom's article 'Taking alcohol' has a very readable account of what Aristotle called the doctrine of the mean, as it relates to temperance: the right path lies between indulging in a binges and a buttoned-down joyless habit of abstinence.

04 June 2009

Roger Scuton on temperance

"Side by side with the poster on the school notice board that advises 12-year-olds on safe sex and free abortion, is the absolutist edict saying that thou shalt not smoke" ... full article

01 June 2009

Stephanie Jarrett on indigenous violence

Stephanie Jarrett's paper, 'Violence: An inseparable part of traditional Aboriginal culture', sponsored by the Restraint Project, is published on the Bennelong Society website. A shorter version appeared in The Australian, 10 June 2009, and coverage by Peter Coleman, Andrew Bolt and Christopher Pearson.

22 April 2009

Warrane Autumn Seminar, 2 May 2009

James Franklin and Judy Stove of the Restraint Project will speak at the Autumn Seminar on temperance at Warrane College, UNSW, on 2 May. They will be joined by Andrew Mullins, author of Parenting for Character ... details

17 April 2009

No medication, no control

Woman who fraudulently claimed Victorian bushfire payments says "I'm a different person when I'm not taking my medication, I have no control" ... story

05 April 2009

Self-deception and self-control

Mary Walker will speak on 'Self-deception and self-control' at the Australian Postgraduate Philosophy Conference, Macquarie U, on Apr 16... details

02 March 2009

Talk on Restraint Project, Mar 4, Sydney

Abstract: Restraint (temperance, self-control) is a virtue not much heard of since the Sixties, when autonomy and self-indulgence became the dominant ideals. But coping with economic depressions and temptations to addictions needs basic skills in looking after oneself, i.e. temperance. James Franklin will give a brief account of the 'Restraint Project', http://www.maths.unsw.edu.au/~jim/restraintproj.html

Time and Place for Philorum Group @ Central

1st and 3rd Wednesdays of every month.
18:15 for a 18:30 Start. Finish 21:30
(Feel free to come and go at any point during the night.)

The Members Bar, Floor 1
(Keep winding up to the top of the stairs.)
The Gaelic Club
64 Devonshire Street, Surry Hills
Sydney, Australia
(100 metres from a Central railway station exit.)

Cost: Free (Patronise the bar).


08 January 2009

Rudd's Handouts Feed Statewide Betting Binge

From The Age:

"When Kevin Rudd announced his $10.4 billion package of handouts to stave off recession, some said it was a gamble. The Prime Minister could hardly have known how true that would be. The millions of dollars handed to pensioners and lower-income families in the second week of December fuelled a betting and gaming binge across Victoria. 'We called it 'Kevin Rudd Thursday',' said the manager of one Melbourne Tabaret, revealing just how big a windfall gaming venues struck. Staff arrived at 8am on December 11 to find people queueing to play the pokies, cashed up with a minimum handout to single pensioners of $1400...."

Bank Deposits Guarantee a 'Moral Hazard'?

A recent piece in The Australian notes that the OECD has warned that the Australian Government's unlimited guarantee of bank deposits may encourage reckless lending, making the financial crisis worse. It claims Australia is "almost alone in extending guarantees to all corporate deposits as well as retail deposits."

Self-control and Religious Practice

An article in the New York Times argues that “The rituals that religions have been encouraging for thousands of years seem to be a kind of anaerobic workout for self-control.”

22 December 2008


I heard an interesting show on the radio (774) the other day, discussing the effect on children of observing parental drinking. A key speaker was from an organisation called DrinkWise, which advertises itself like this:

"DrinkWise is an evidence based organization focused on promoting change towards a more responsible drinking culture in Australia. DrinkWise aims to contribute to the development of a drinking culture in Australia that reduces alcohol related harm and thereby maximizes the benefits from moderate alcohol consumption...Reducing alcohol abuse and the harm it causes, lies at the heart of the DrinkWise mission for a healthy drinking culture. The long term aim is to see intoxication, ‘risky’ and ‘high risk’ drinking behaviour become socially unacceptable."

In March this year the Rudd government introduced a new campaign directed at reducing binge-drinking in Australia. It's called, 'Don't turn a Night out into a Nightmare'.

Madoff relied on "Irrational Euphoria"

"...If something sounds too good to be true, I keep reading, that must be because it is too good to be true. It is good advice as far as it goes and it raises the question of why so many wealthy, sophisticated savers were apparently conned into believing that Mr Madoff had come up with an investment strategy that allowed him to pay handsome returns even when the stock market was falling.

I asked a very senior regulator about this, a man who has been involved in formulating public policy for many years, and he said the answer was depressingly simple.People are prone to believe what they want to believe, he said, and in rising markets a kind of irrational euphoria takes hold in which we are not inclined to ask difficult questions..."

Full article on BBC News website.

16 December 2008

The Northern Territory Emergency Response

I didn't post about this at the time, but it's relevant to our project given Jenness Warin's presentation at our conference. In June 2007 the Liberal government of Australia launched an intervention in aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory, following the release of the 'Little Children are Sacred' report from the Northern Territory Board of Inquiry into the Protection of Aboriginal Children from Sexual Abuse. This report 'asked that Aboriginal child sexual abuse in the Northern Territory be designated as an issue of urgent national significance by both the Australian and Northern Territory governments...’.

The intervention was extremely controversial. Here is the Australian government website account of it.

George Newhouse in The Guardian writes, "The Australian government's intervention in Aboriginal communities is discriminatory and dehumanising."

ANTaR - Australians for native Title and Reconciliation - write, "We welcome the significant additional resources ($587 million) that have been directed towards Northern Territory Aboriginal communities as a result of the Intervention. However, ANTaR is also concerned that unless changes are made to the Federal Government's approach, its attempt to stop child abuse in Northern Territory Aboriginal communities will fail."

A useful overall summary of different views about responses to the intervention by different Australian groups is offered here.

A year later there have been some attempts to assess whether the intervention was effective. Thus in the Sydney Morning Herald in March, , Galarrwuy Yunupingu warns, "Children as young as 12 are still vulnerable to sexual abuse and manipulation by men selling alcohol, drugs and pornography in the mining town of Nhulunbuy in north-east Arnhem land", and claims, "The missionary days were good...The missionaries looked after the kids much better than the Government does today."

In the SMH in June , "Russell Skelton finds that the year-old intercession in Northern Territory indigenous communities hasn't lived up to the hype."

These links were grabbed somewhat at random. If anyone else has more, please post.

'Science of Virtues' project in Illinois

Jokes about current US state politics aside, we have just come across this site , which appears to have something in common with our project. They describe themselves as follows:

"The Arete Initiative at the University of Chicago is pleased to announce a new $3 million research program on a New Science of Virtues. This is a multidisciplinary research initiative that seeks contributions from individuals and from teams of investigators working within the humanities and the sciences. We support highly original, scholarly projects that demonstrate promise of a distinctive contribution to virtue research and have the potential to begin a new field of interdisciplinary study."

15 December 2008

A Rare Case of Voluntary 'Salary Restraint'

What Theodore Dalrymple was talking about (see 5 posts ago) seems not to have disappeared entirely, though this story stars a historian.

"Quentin Skinner stepped down as Regius professor of modern history at the University of Cambridge this year at the age of 67.... Alison Richard, vice-chancellor of Cambridge, offered to keep Professor Skinner on at the history faculty's expense. But Professor Skinner said that, although he would have liked to stay after almost half a century at the university, he was "too expensive" and the faculty would be better served by employing two younger members of staff at the same cost...."

Stats on youth risk-taking

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has a 2008 report on 'Risk taking by young people'. Some of the incidents, such as self-harm, seem too deliberate to be called "risk-taking", exactly.

12 December 2008

Binge-Drinking amongst NZ Uni Students

A news article describing a survey just carried out by the NZ Alcohol Drug Association (ADA) on NZ University students' drinking (around 2500 students filled out a questionnaire on the Web). It found a third of students had blacked out during binge drinking, and 37 per cent reported binge drinking at least once in the past week.

Australian (views on) temperance

An interesting snapshot of current popular thinking on the issue of restraint (both the libertarian line of the commentator and the many responses he receives below).

Our Conference

I really enjoyed our conference last Saturday. Thanks to all who participated.

The talks were:

“Welcome. Overview of the Project”
James Franklin (UNSW)

“Addiction and the Elements of Self-control”
Jeanette Kennett (ANU and Monash University)

“Mistakes in restraining petrol sniffing”
Jenness Warin

“From the Culture of Wowserism to the culture of Healthism: Law, Custom, Fashion and Etiquette in Australian Smoking, 1900-1990s”
Ian Tyrrell (UNSW)

“A Case of Life and Death: Crime & Self-Control in Gin Lane"
Judy Stove (Research Assistant, Restraint Project)

“Restraint, Art and Moralism”
Craig Taylor (Flinders University)

“Pornography, Censorship and Strategies for Self-Regulation”
Gerald Keaney (University of Queensland)

“The Phenomenon of Extended Childhood Incontinence: Abandonment of Toilet-training of Today’s Infants & Toddlers”
Anna Christie

“Summing up. Where to From Here?”
Catherine Legg (University of Waikato)

Copies of many of the talks are now available on the conference website.

If anyone who attended the conference is reading the blog and would like to discuss any of the issues further - please feel free to post here.

09 December 2008

British stiff upper lip

Here, by Theodore Dalrymple, a mixed view of "typical" British restraint, from a refugee from the Nazis who appreciated it but eventually found it limiting.

05 December 2008

Bill Cosby preaches black self-reliance

Another interesting article from the Atlantic Monthly which I've been meaning to post for some time. Charts a journey Bill Cosby has been taking "from TV Dad to outspoken social critic":

"From Birmingham to Cleveland and Baltimore, at churches and colleges, Cosby has been telling thousands of black Americans that racism in America is omnipresent but that it can’t be an excuse to stop striving. As Cosby sees it, the antidote to racism is not rallies, protests, or pleas, but strong families and communities. Instead of focusing on some abstract notion of equality, he argues, blacks need to cleanse their culture, embrace personal responsibility, and reclaim the traditions that fortified them in the past. Driving Cosby’s tough talk about values and responsibility is a vision starkly different from Martin Luther King’s gauzy, all-inclusive dream..."

"The Return of Goodness"

In Prospect Magazine, Edward Skidelsky argues, "Contemporary liberalism's insistence that morality is a mere matter of rights and obligations empties life of its ethical meaning. We need a return to the virtue ethics of the pre-moderns, and a renewed conception of the good life".

Is Pornography Adultery?

I thought this piece from the Atlantic Monthly was both thoughtfully-written and potentially quite challenging.

27 November 2008

Indigenous violence rooted in culture

James Franklin's article 'The cultural roots of Aboriginal violence' (November Quadrant), argues that there is continuity between the violence of pre-contact Aboriginal society and present-day violence. The article is heavily based on the studies of Mornington Island society by the anthropologist David McKnight.

13 November 2008

A Related Conference

This weekend there is a conference at the University of Sydney Law School entitled "Free Will: Moral and Legal Responsibility". It includes some papers by philosophers which seem relevant to our project.

For further details see here.


29 September 2008

Australian Temperance: Miniconference 6 Dec 2008

The Restraint Project will hold a Miniconference on 'Australian Temperance: On the virtues of self-control and moderation in Australian life past and present. It will be at UNSW, Saturday 6 Dec 2008 ... details.

16 September 2008


Anna Christie spoke on her Restraint Project work on toilet training on ABC Radio National's Counterpoint program on Sept 15 ... download mp3

23 July 2008

Story on Indigenous Violence Database

The Australian of July 23 has a story on the Australian Database of Indigenous Violence.

02 July 2008

Australian Database of Indigenous Violence

The Restraint Project has sponsored the creation of an Australian Database of Indigenous Violence (trial version) to highlight the lack of restraint of violence in remote communities.

Positions filled

The Restraint Project has employed as Research Associates, half-time for 8 months, Ms Judy Stove and Mr Andy Crosbie.

25 April 2008

Research Associate job advertised

The Restraint Project has a short-term Research Associate position (or two halves), advertised ... more

01 April 2008

Casual workers sought

The Project is working towards a database of (Australian) indigenous violence. Casual workers are sought to read cases and create database entries. Basic literacy skills are needed and the work can be done anywhere. Enquiries to j.franklin@unsw.edu.au

06 February 2008

Toilet training, first place to learn self-control

Anna Christie has produced a preliminary report on the increasing age of infant toilet training in Western countries over the last few decades. This is a major change in early learning of self-control, but there appear to be no (repeat, absolutely none) studies on the effect of this huge societal experiment. Anyone with information should post a comment.

Judy Stove on Akrasia

Judy Stove presented a paper, 'The Dragged-Around Slave and the Leaky Jar: Akrasia and Akolasia in the Protagoras and Gorgias' to the Australasian Society for Ancient Philosophy (ASAP) panel, Australasian Society for Classical Studies Conference, 29 January 2008, Christchurch, New Zealand.

26 September 2007

Gambling addict: Red carpet treatment

Interesting story here about how Crown Casino, Melbourne, treated a gentleman with an admitted gambling addiction and $30 million.
His reaction - to sue the pants off them - is also a strategy worth considering.

27 July 2007

Fetal alcohol syndrome

In today's (July 27) Australian, some attention finally to the problem of fetal alcohol syndrome in remote communities. The clearest case where temperance is essential and non-negotiable is surely where drinking seriously damages newborn babies ... article

13 July 2007

More on Porn's Effect on Relationships

Naomi Wolf on "why porn turns men off the real thing".

"Not tonight, Honey - I'm logging on".

10 July 2007

It looks as if there'll be major debate about "traditional values" in the UK, with the former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith releasing a report of the "Social Justice Commission", advocating policies to strengthen the family etc, in the face of the growth of an underclass ... Melanie Phillips' preview

18 June 2007

Happiness and Restraint

At the Happiness and Its Causes Conference, Sydney, 15 June 2007, I gave a brief presentation on `Happiness and restraint'. It's printed in The Australian's Higher Ed Supplement of 20 June (illustrated with a still from Casablanca).

15 May 2007

Temperance movement in Goulburn

Liam Langham of the University of New England asks for info on the temperance movement in the Goulburn district, 1880s and later. If anyone has ideas, let me know (j.franklin@unsw.edu.au) and I'll pass them on.

06 April 2007

Credit card debt for "experiences"

Lisa Pryor's latest column in the SMH is excellent as usual. She points out that a lot of the temptation leading to splurging on credit cards is not to buy stuff, like electronic hardware, but "experiences".
She writes:

"A lot of young people with credit card debt think they are buying abstract nouns - experiences, memories, togetherness, exploration and freedom.

When you use debt to buy abstract nouns you can explain away the guilt. You are not a shallow materialist living beyond your means if you slap air fares, mobile phone bills and scuba diving lessons on the plastic. Oh no. You are simply living life to the fullest. The anti-consumerist consumerist says things such as "you can't put a price on memories", "keeping in touch is more important than money" and "I have no regrets because I've had some fantastic experiences". Been there, done that."

01 March 2007

Narcissism index goes through roof

In the latest research abusing the younger (US) generation, it's revealed that their scores on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (questions like "If I ruled the world, it would be a better place") have been heading skywards since 1982. The researchers say "narcissists tend to lack empathy, react aggressively to criticism and favor self-promotion over helping others."

26 February 2007

Cross-cultural again

A Serb mate send this news story on how they do anger management back home ...

23 February 2007

Project report, first year

We have submitted this report on the first year of the Restraint Project to its funding body, the ARC.

17 February 2007


Review of new book damning pornography.

"In Pornified (an awful choice of title for an interesting book), Pamela Paul builds a sustained argument showing the detrimental effect of pornography on American life. The initial chapters are fairly neutral in tone, but as the book progresses her stance against pornography becomes more pronounced. Her assumptions are not religious and she does not repeat old anti-porn arguments that insist the pornography leads to rape. Rather, she provides evidence that most pornography is degrading to women; men use pornography in secret and especially with Internet pornography, they tend to spend hours each week using it, and this changes their expectations of how their female partners should look and behave and thus hurts their relationships; many men start using pornography compulsively, and drift into more hardcore pornography, bestiality and child pornography; children and young people are starting to learn about sex from pornography and model their behavior on what they see..."

21 January 2007

`The Queen'

The movie The Queen has interesting themes. Helen Mirren, playing HM in the week of Diana's death, asks for "restrained grief and sober mourning" in accordance with the values of the World War II generation. Fat chance. In our age, the fake grief of the conspiracy-theory fuelled millions who'd never met Diana was considered sufficient reason to force the Queen to exhibit her own emotions live on TV. It's an outrage.

09 January 2007

Judy Stove on Greeks

Judy Stove's paper for the Restraint Project, `Nothing too much: self-control from Homer to Aristotle', is published in Classicum 32 (2) (OCt 2006), 19-31. Great work!

11 December 2006

Links of Interest

The following Philosophers Zone link has two interviews that may be of interest:

"Converging on happiness" discusses some Aristotle.

"What is Morality? " interviews Stan Van Hooft on his book on Virtue Ethics


The following article is by an Economics academic, "Time Inconsistency, Self-Control and Remembrance". (lots of formulae!)


08 December 2006

Weber: "Unrestrained" capitalism?

In view of the election of a Labor leader who's been abusing "unrestrained capitalism", this remark from the intro to Weber's Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism is interesting:
"Unlimited greed for gain is not in the least identical with capitalism, and still less its spirit. Capitalism may even by identical with the restraint, or at least a rational tempering, of this irrational impulse".

05 December 2006

Violent video games

A new imaging study of the adolescent brain allegedly shows that violent video games "stir up the brain's emotional-response center while reducing activity in regions linked to self-control".

02 December 2006

School Principal and Pornography: 'Moral' or 'Lifestyle' Issue?

I thought this story was an interesting one from our perspective. A primary school principal was found with 'adult' pornography on his work computer. Parents were very divided over whether this was grounds for dismissal. He was initially allowed to keep his job, but then a couple of days later (which, it's worth noting, included further inspection of the computer concerned), decided to resign.


I'm interested in this because according to the liberal perspective which it is increasingly taboo to challenge in popular culture, there should be no problem with what a school principal views in private, as long as it does not affect the quality of his work (and in this case he seems in fact to have been an exceptionally high achiever).

Yet it seems this is not what where people's true moral intuitions lie in cases such as this...?

NZ Drinking Age Legislation Again

Another attempt was made to raise to 20 the age at which New Zealanders can buy alcohol from bottle shops (although it allowed for 18-20 y.o.s to buy and consume drinks on licensed premises). One of the bill's aims was to stop the current widespread practice of 18 y.o.s buying large quantities of alcohol for 14 & 15 y.o. friends. When the legal age for buying alcohol was 20, it was argued, the 'trickle-down' got to 17 & 18 y.o.s and thus was not so bad. There were howls of protest from 18 y.o.s about their rights, with little thought given to the argument that they might have forfeited those rights by buying alcohol for 14 & 15 y.o.s when the drinking age was lowered and they were in effect trusted to behave responsibly.

The bill was defeated. Reading between the lines it seems there was much backroom manoeuvring going on:

Story here.

01 December 2006

Learning Self-Control: The Marshmallow Studies

From the transcript of the latest Philosophers Zone:

Neil Levy: "There's a wonderful set of studies showing how children gradually learn self-control, the so-called Marshmallow Studies, after the reward that was given to children. Children are asked just to delay gratification in these studies. They were told, 'You can have one marshmallow now, or two marshmallows if you wait. You can have one marshmallow whenever you like. If you wait long enough, I'll give you two.' Very young children can't wait; within a few seconds, they're eating the first marshmallow. The older the child gets, the longer it can wait, and the length of waiting, the ability to defer gratification, is a very good predictor of a whole range of other achievements later in life. So for instance, it's a very good predictor - much better than IQ I believe, predictor of academic success. The child is learning how to delay its gratification to make itself a single being able to pursue goals which are maximally beneficial to itself, or which it perceives as maximally beneficial to itself, and it does that by learning a set of techniques which distract the self, distract the parts that want immediate gratification, which squelch them, which weaken their power. And I think these are the kinds of mechanisms that unify the self."

20 November 2006

Triumph of the Airheads

A very readable new book is Shelley Gare's Triumph of the Airheads. It's very angry about lots of things, from dumbed-down postmodern education to businesses in the grip of their Human Resources departments. From our point of view the interesting chapter is the one on mindless spending on "lifestyle". Unlike some complainants about this sort of thing, Gare knows exactly what she is talking about - for years she was editor of newspaper "lifestyle supplements".

03 November 2006

Judy Stove's paper on restraint in Jane Austen

Judy's paper, "Instruction With Amusement: Jane Austen's Women of Sense", is accepted by Renascence. Congratulations.

06 October 2006

Cognitive restraint paper

I gave a talk on `Cognitive restraint' at the Catholic Institute of Sydney's Biennial Conference in Philosophy, Religion and Culture on Oct 1. Abstracts of the papers are at www.cis.catholic.edu.au/biennial_conference.htm

11 August 2006

Smoking Ban Deters Gamblers

I was intrigued to read the following story in last weekend's NZ Herald. Apparently the smoking ban in pubs (brought in Nov. 2004) has inadvertently dramatically reduced gambling as well:


08 August 2006

First publication by Restraint Project

Susan Moore's `The virtue of restraint' (on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice) was published in Annals Australasia July 2006, 34-37.

31 July 2006

The Epistemology of Temperance

What is the epistemology of temperance? IOW, how do we know enough is enough? Does anyone have any thoughts on this? As I see it, the three main approaches to this traditionally have been:

1) consult a religious text and do what it says blindly

2) some kind of Aristotelian naturalistic theory of human flourishing (I take it this is the line you are most interested in pursuing, Jim...?)

3) stop when it starts to feel bad (a.k.a. 'intuition')

Could there be any way of integrating 2) and 3)? It strikes me that 3) on its own is not enough - that this what "The Sixties Experiment" showed. OTOH one might argue that the way 12-step programs work at the end of the day is purely by forcing one to sit with the true consequences of one's own excessive behaviors and feel them.

Violence in Maori Communities

There was a horrible murder in NZ a few weeks ago - twin babies Chris and Cru Kahui were given injuries in their family home which resulted in both of them dying in hospital. The police have been as yet unable to charge anyone with their murder as the extended family have closed ranks. According to the media, a self-dubbed 'Tight 12" who were all present at the scene have pledged to not tell the police anything so that the case cannot be solved.



Anyway, this has prompted a certain amount of public soul-searching amongst prominent Maori concerning the violence in Maori communities. Alan Duff, author of "Once Were Warriors", has come out with a very conservative (though perhaps excessively jaundiced) line, and once again, liberal welfare reaps criticism rather than praise:


28 July 2006

NZ Again: Encouraging People to Commit to Education

Another set of ads on New Zealand TV at the moment encourage the population to "get there with learning". I like these ads - they exude a positive, inspirational tone which could be well worth emulating. I see now that they are targeted solely at the Maori community:


but they do air on the mainstream channels.

New Zealand Govt confronts Kiwi obesity...

27 July 2006

More On The Alcohol Issue: New Zealand Status Quo

The de facto drinking age here in New Zealand, since 1999, is 18 (before that it was 20). Though strictly speaking (I just found out) this is not actually the legal drinking age but the legal alcohol purchasing age.

In 2005 there was a bill put forward in Parliament to raise the drinking age back to 20. Doctors were significant campaigners for it:



But the bill was defeated.

Recently, there has been an ad campaign on TV, "It's not the drinking. It's how we drink" (!) with quite vivid scenarios depicted of people making idiots out of themselves in various ways. More details here: http://www.alcohol.org.nz/CampaignItsNotTheDrinking.aspx. It would be interesting to look at some statistics regarding these ads' effectiveness.

10 July 2006

Tom Frame on temperance

The latest (July/Aug) Quadrant has a most interesting article on temperance by Tom Frame, the Anglican bishop for the Australian Defence Force. With his permission I've put it on our website. It's at http://www.maths.unsw.edu.au/~jim/frameontemperance.pdf

29 May 2006

Muslim "Just say no"

Today's (29 May) SMH has Mulism sex education plans: based on "Just say no" and lack of information the way Catholic sex education was in the old days:

24 May 2006


Hello all, work on the website is now happening and we are hoping for feedback and advice as far as content etc.. Jean and I discussed this some months ago as a means of perhaps reaching a wider audience and to highlight areas of 'common ground' between those generally opposed in their general thinking regarding ethics be it theoretical or applied. Though this website is affilliated with the restraint project it is a separate thing as we are wanting to promote a dialogue with others working in the same or related areas. If any of you have ideas (suggested links etc..) or content you would like to contribute please contact Jim who can organise with myself and Bec the website builder.

04 May 2006

Wierzbicka book, re epistemic restraint

Of interest is the new book by Anna Wierzbicka (ANU), English: Meaning and Culture. It's about how the English language in particular incorporates a favourable view of being reasonable and balanced. From the blurb, "She dissects the ideas of `fairness' and `reasonableness' and shows that, far from being cultural universals, they are unique creations of modern Anglo culture." She gives a lot of credit to Locke for doing it.

What I've been up to

Hi guys! Sorry it's taken me a while to join up - I was overseas on a conference trip. Anyway, my contribution at the moment is very much on the side of 'epistemological self-control'. With the very able help of Daniel I'm slowly getting my head around the current landscape in virtue epistemology. A lot of work currently being done in the area seems to me at least so far to be a relatively shallow trading in -isms. In-depth discussion of plausible examples is rare.

Christopher Hookway has an interesting paper on 'epistemic akrasia'. One example he examines in detail is that of a mother who receives word that her son has committed a horrible crime and naturally doesn't want to believe it. This can be a genuine epistemological analogue to ethical akrasia, but only if the mother is actually aware that she is, for example, refusing to examine or accept all available evidence. Part of his conclusion is that some of our epistemic virtues are 'managerial' - correct husbanding of finite epistemic resources.

I've also just come across a paper by Michael Bishop entitled, "In Praise of Epistemic Irresponsibility: How Lazy and Ignorant can you Be?" (Synthese 2000). But I haven't read it yet.

Ideally I'd like to work up a paper on this stuff for the AAP, but don't have much time left...

02 May 2006

AFR Magazine piece on the project

Last Friday's (Apr 29) Australian Financial Review Magazine (p. 16) had a piece on the Restraint Project, based on an interview with me. Hard to say how it worked, but it managed to mention Aristotle, Jane Austen, Jean Curthoys etc.

26 April 2006

Austen and Ancients Update

Hi all Restraint team

Just a note to let you know what I've been doing since November. First of all, working on Self-Control in Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility and Mansfield Park - complementing Susan's work on Pride and Prejudice. Till 1900, Fanny Price was a favourite heroine, but then no one had a good word to say for her, for the next 90 years - paralleling the fate of self-control itself.

Since then, I've started looking at the ancient Greek concept of _sophrosune_ (self-control). Because that's a very big subject, I'm focusing at present on a few key texts - Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, Euripides' Hippolytus, Plato's Charmides and Republic, and Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics. _Sophrosune_ meant a whole lot of things, from wisdom, to self-control, to minding your own business, to, in the New Testament, sobriety. Cicero translated Plato's _sophrosune_ as _temperantia_, which leaves us with temperance - in its greater and lesser meanings. It was always a complex thing.

Please post, or email me (sgwilsonact@hotmail.com), with any thoughts or comments.

Cheers, Judy

20 April 2006

Galak article on `Damaged people'

There's a very interesting article we need to take notice of in this month's (Apr) Quadrant:
`A damaged people' by Michael Galak. The idea is that societies where people don't quietly queue (e.g. Russia and remote Aboriginal communities, both of which the author knows) have very high levels of public anxiety similar in principle to abused people in normal societies. The people in those disturbed societies are depressed, shout in public, harm themselves and others, have no initiative etc. Those of you with access to Quadrant might like to read it and post a comment; others interested can ask me and I'll send a copy.

19 April 2006

G'day Jim, so better sign Cathy up to members/admin eh??