Know Thyself: How's your character?

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Previously we established that we react to life in a combination of unconscious and conscious responses. See Part 1 - Can you Change?

It is our temperament that determines our initial response to experiences, and our character that decides whether we run with that response, amend it, or reject it.

Temperament is an involuntary set of predispositions that, by-and-large, we did not consciously influence and cannot change.

Character, however, is changeable. It is also voluntary. We have varying degrees of choice in the shaping, development and use of our character.

In this article I want to examine what influence we can exercise over our Character.

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Morality and Conscience

At its most basic, a persons character can be divided into two facets, best defined by the words Morality and Conscience.

Morality refers to those convictions we hold as to what is acceptable and unacceptable, right and wrong, good and evil. As children we learn moral principles, and the moral facet of our character begins to develop its framework. As time passes, we develop adult reasoning faculties. As adults we encounter new information and experiences; some of which amend or completely change our moral framework.

It is upon this framework that conscience hangs. Conscience is that facet which defends those convictions back to us.

Both facets of our character are the product of many influences. But as we pass from childhood into adulthood (or more precisely, into adult reasoning) our own choices become the key contributor —or detractor— of our character.

But how do we ensure our choices contribute to and don't detract from our character?

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...and Moral Codes

Although not within the scope of this article, before we can attempt to measure the truth of any moral code, we must accept a standard by which to measure it.

People choose various standards, the chief of which are listed below:

  • Cultural Relativism

  • Situational Ethics

  • Naturalism and Behaviorism

  • Emotive Ethics
  • Traditional Absolutes

See more: Measuring Morality

Moralities Source

Which Source of Morality do you Adhere to?

See results without voting

Character

A person of strong character is not necessarily someone whose moral framework is correct, but someone who is convicted that it is correct, and lives according to that conviction.

If they have no moral convictions, or, though convicted, choose not to live by them, they are exhibiting only a lack of character.

Therefore, ones character is measured by:

  1. A conviction-based mindset to living life, and

  2. Choices that adhere to those convictions

If we live without conviction, or live in contrast to those convictions, we are not being a person exhibiting character, but rather an absence of it.

Therefore we cannot judge peoples character by their moral code.

Rather, Moral codes must be judged by a standard other than conviction and conscience.


In Part 3 we'll examine why people violate their conscience

Laws: for when we lack conscience or conviction

References

Measuring Morality. Lou Whitworth Probe.org

David Desteno, Professor of Psychology, Northeastern University

The Moral Sense test Cognitive Evolution Laboratory, Harvard University

Thought experiments Joshua Knobe Professor of philosophy and cognitive sciences at Yale University

© 2014 Richard Parr

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Comments 4 comments

MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean

I enjoy this. I thought to do an article on conscience, but I know that I could not do as good job. I appreciate the definitions of temperament and character as well as the list of codes by which we measure morality. A good teaching hub and voted up.


parrster profile image

parrster 2 years ago from Oz Author

@MsDora ~ Thanks. It is a challenging subject, there are so many conscience theories. I have tried to keep it simple -so I can understand it- without taking away from it's complexity and importance.


vespawoolf profile image

vespawoolf 2 years ago from Peru, South America

It's good to know that although temperament is inborn, character can be molded. I definitely need to go back and read some of your related articles, especially about moralities. Thank you for this well-written article.


parrster profile image

parrster 2 years ago from Oz Author

@vespawoolf ~ thanks for the feedback. Glad you found it helpful.

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