Though Socrates's discussion of temperance in Gorgias initially appears rather specific and therefore of limited impact, its key role in the attainment of virtue quickly renders its impact far-reaching. Temperance (separate from its application) signifies a certain quality of self-control and discipline. In this sense, it is a fairly simple and non-contentious concept.

Socrates goes on, however, to define such integral notions as power, justice, and proper living (among others) to a large degree by reference to temperance. In this way, individual power lies in slowly tempering desires into nothing, justice lies in tempering the balance of power so that all maintain equal shares, and virtue consists in tempering the body and soul into a balance of fitness, justice, and the good. Consequently the establishment of a clear definition of temperance ultimately serves as a foundation by which to resolve most of the dialogue's main issues.

This clarification and elevation of temperance frequently returns to Plato's writings throughout his life, since for him understanding and pursuing virtue (known now to be based upon temperance) represent the ultimate human activity.