Support Aeon

‘I am a friend of Aeon because I value freedom ... freely provided, intelligently presented information liberates us all.’

Roland M, USA, Friend of Aeon

Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview.
But we can’t do it without you.

Support Aeon

Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview. Our mission is to create a sanctuary online for serious thinking.

No ads, no paywall, no clickbait – just thought-provoking ideas from the world’s leading thinkers, free to all. But we can’t do it without you.

Support Aeon

ORIGINAL

The restrained brain

5 minutes

Self-restraint goes hand in hand with the good life. Can brain science help us get a grip?

Temperance was one of the four virtues identified by Plato’s Republic as essential to an ideal state – a framework that was later adapted by Catholicism and Thomas Aquinas. Meanwhile, one of the five articles of faith of the Sikh religion is the kacchera – a drawstring undergarment meant to guard its wearer against lust. Indeed, almost every major religious or philosophical tradition heavily emphasises the value of self-restraint as a pathway to a virtuous and satisfying life. It makes sense that impulse-control has been held in such high regard historically: the ability to curb destructive urges and prudently delay gratification makes life easier in the long run. So what does modern brain science tell us about the best ways to approach willpower? This Aeon Video original mines the work of the US neuroscientist David Eagleman and the US psychologist Walter Mischel (known for his controversial ‘marshmallow test’) to explore what modern psychology and brain science say about the best strategies for resisting those feel-good things – big and small – that we know are bad for us.

Director and Writer: Adam D’Arpino

Producers: Adam D’Arpino, Kellen Quinn

Research Assistant: Tamur Qutab

Narrator: Ashley Klanac

Get Aeon straight
to your inbox
Join our newsletter Sign up
Follow us on
Facebook
Like
Essay/
Love & Friendship
Love your frenemy

Envy is the dark side of love, but love is the luminous side of envy. Is there a way to harness envy wisely, for growth?

Sara Protasi

Essay/
Meaning & the Good Life
On coincidence

Lightning can strike twice and people do call just when you’re thinking of them – but are such coincidences meaningful?

Cody Delistraty