Brandon Dahm on Virtue and Sleep
Brandon Dahm, ‘The Virtue of Somnience’, in American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly , 94 (4): 611-637. 2020.
In this session, Dr. Brandon Dalm discusses the virtue of ‘somnience’, a newly coined virtue that has a relation to sleep as its specifying character. Building on the virtue tradition of Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas, Dr. Dahm argues that we should identify a particular virtue related to sleep, both since sleep is an important sphere of human life taking up approx. one third of the average life, and since achieving a balanced sleep rhythm is of great significance for living a healthy and virtuous life in general. Employing the findings of contemporary sleep science, Dr. Dahm explains that sleeping well is crucial to bodily health and psychological well-being and has a profound impact on many important spheres of human life, such as those related to learning and education, sports and artistry, relationships and work. Consequently, he argues that there is a need for a virtue to orient the individual rightly with regard to sleep, and this virtue he calls somnience. However, though specified by sleep in this way, Dr. Dahm is quick to point out that somnience is not so much about sleep itself, since this is an unconscious activity of the human person, but rather is about matters surrounding sleep, all those things that influence whether or not one sleeps well or ill, and which is of particular importance today given the proliferation of electronic distractions. Dr. Dahm fits somnience into Aquinas’s account of temperance, arguing that it as a subjective part or species of temperance that can also be called ‘sleep-temperance’.