Website owner: James Miller
Where do character traits come from? According to Aristotle a person acquires a character trait by repeatedly doing a thing. What makes for an unjust person? What causes the character trait of "unjustness"? According to Aristotle this character trait is caused by a person repeatedly doing unjust acts. What causes the character trait of profligacy? Profligate. Lost or insensible to principle, virtue, or decency. Funk & Wagnalls Dictionary What would make a person lost or insensible to principle, virtue, or decency? According to Aristotle this character trait is caused by a person spending his time in drinking. What happens? Drink robs him of those restraining forces that would normally prevent him from doing wrong, immoral, bad things. Under its influence he repeatedly acts in dissolute ways. He thus acquires the character trait of profligacy. What causes the personality trait of carelessness? According to Aristotle people acquire this character trait through leading disorderly (undisciplined) lives. According to Aristotle: "Activity in a certain thing gives a man that character --- dispositions are attained through actually doing things." (Ethics, Book III; The Philosophy of Aristotle, p. 324) Also, according to Aristotle, a man who has become unjust or profligate or careless, cannot stop being so just by wanting to stop. Just as a man who is ill cannot become healthy just by wanting to. The unjust or profligate or careless got that way through actions taken of their free choice but once they have become that way it is not possible for them to be otherwise. The following excerpt comes from Aristotle's Ethics, Book III (see The Philosophy of Aristotle, p. 324, 325): "But perhaps the man's character is such that he cannot take care. Well, people themselves are responsible for getting like that, through living disorderly lives: they are responsible for being unjust or profligate, the former through evildoing, the latter through spending their time drinking, and so on. Activity in a certain thing gives a man that character; this is clear from those who are practicing for any contest or action, since that is what they spend their time doing. Not knowing that dispositions are attained through actually doing things is the sign of a complete ignoramus. Also, it is absurd to say that the man who acts unjustly does not wish to be unjust (or profligate, when it is a case of his doing profligate acts). If a man does acts, not in ignorance, that will make him unjust, he will be voluntarily unjust. However, he will not stop being unjust and become just merely by wanting to. Nor does a sick man suddenly become healthy. It may happen that his illness is voluntary because his way of life is unrestrained and he disobeys his doctors. At the start, it was possible for him not to be ill; but this is no longer so, once he has let things go. It is like the man who has let the stone go and cannot recover it. However, letting it go was in his power, since the principle of action was in him. Similarly with the unjust and the profligate: at the start it was possible for them not to become like that; that is why they are voluntarily so. Once they have become that, however, it is impossible for them not to be so." In other words, according to Aristotle, character traits such as unjustness, profligacy, carelessness, etc. are just habits (they are not inherited). They are formed (as all habits are formed) by actions, which being often repeated, become fixed personality patterns. There is a proverb that says something like "Habits begin as threads and end as cables". Bad habits enslave people and that is what happens with unjustness, profligacy, carelessness, etc.. The characters of most people are formed when they are children. The habits they acquire when they are in the process of growing up are those that determine their life-long character. One's character and personality is pretty much "set" in his younger years by the choices he made as a child (my view). Feb 1984 More from SolitaryRoad.com:
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