On having a good character - a new way of looking at Ethics

Wide agreement can be seen on the claim that if one has a good character, all else being equal, one will tend to perform worthwhile actions; will tend to “do the right thing.” This is an emphasis of Virtue Ethics.
Being good (by definition and observation) may result in doing good but not necessarily the other way around: even criminals may sometimes do something good; but of course cannot accurately be described as having a good character.

Furthermore, if one has a good character one will be likely to keep one’s promises, will honor one’s contracts, fulfill one’s obligations, be responsible, do one’s duty. That sort of conduct is what Deontologists advocate.

A person of good character will adhere to ethical principles – such as those offered at the end of the paper by M.C. Katz – Aspects of Ethics; or those offered in the final chapter of Ethics for the 21st Century: Keys to the good life – or at least will strive to do so. S/he realizes however that there are no moral absolutes. Ethical science, in common with other sciences, does not deal in absolutes.

Consequentialists say we should abstain from certain activities because undesirable effects will result. That they say is the reason why we should not murder, rape, kidnap, steal, or cheat. Many of this school hold that some outcomes, such as the greatest happiness for the most folks, are more desirable than others.

Does this happiness criterion establish – as they claim it does – outcomes that can be identified as objectively desirable? John Stuart Mill would argue that it is not only the number of people who experience the happiness but also the duration of the happiness must be considered. Also the quality of it matters: was it derived by pursuing, and coming close to reaching, a worthwhile goal? Such a goal, one of high value, would contribute to the end of helping each individual flourish, would enhance individual well-being.

Thus we see there need not be any conflict between the three most-dominant contemporary normative ethical theories, i.e., character ethics, action-outcome ethics, and duty ethics.

Is it not so - as Dr. M. C. Katz argues in his contemporary ethical theory is the case - that one’s actions are a reflection of one’s inner morality? He has shown, {in both his Basic Ethics: A systematic approach - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_S._Hartman Is it reasonable to claim that a theory that can accomplish this is superior to, and more-acceptable, than one which cannot?

Also, one of those value dimensions is used to define what the field of Ethics is. In the Hartman/Katz system, once “Intrinsic Value” is defined, Ethics itself is then defined as: the application of Intrinsic Value [In-value] to the individual, or to a group of individuals. Then the theory proceeds to define and explain “goodness,” “morality,” “integrity,” “conscience,” “hypocrisy,” “altruism,” “war,” “compassion,” “need,” “success,” “moral action,” and other relevant terms, relating them to one another… Do you know of any other Ethical Theory that does this or is even capable of doing this?

Comments? Questions? Critiques? Evaluations?

The answer to that concern is what I call “MIJOT”, Maximum Integral of Joy Over Time. That is the goal not only for individuals but also for entire societal decisions.

If you are not familiar with basic calculus, all that means is that one should track the degree of joy as often as possible, giving it an arbitrarily chosen scale, and then each day sum the total from the beginning and divide by the number of days (or which ever time units is preferred).

Joy is the perception of progress toward unconsciously accepted goals (even if the goals are irrational or the sensation is chemically obtained). Quite often the conscious mind has no idea of what goal was being perceived as progressing. The feeling of joy can arise at odd and mysterious moments.

The objective is to get that measure as high as possible. And the only way to do that is to ensure yourself a long harmonious life. Thus both priorities of happiness and survival become integrated into a single highest priority void of compromises - a clear target.

Socially, the concern is the same and the number of people is irrelevant in that it gets consumed into the integrated overall MIJOT sum. The best social decision (for laws or dictates) is not always about the greater number of people who might feel a little happier, but rather the sum total of all joy expected to stem from the decision over the greatest length of time (ie “If we all do this …, we will end up producing a long term joyous life for a great many people even though many of us might all have to temporarily suffer.” - The “go to war” scenario based on targeting MIJOT).

If studied, you would find that all ethics can be (and largely have been) derived from that one concern. It is the single priority in every living being that gives order to all other concerns.

… since you asked. :sunglasses:

… and feel free to try to shoot me down in favor of anything else you have in mind.

Jim, I believe you have made a major contribution to the science of Ethics. And I thank you for it, and wish you well in your future endeavors: May you have joy throughout the day, every day :exclamation:

I like your plea for transparency in administration at all levels of government all the time. The way you put it is: “As long as the authority is secretive, the population will be subjugated.”

YES. Let open meetings be the rule rather than the exception. In a democracy what is there to hide. We need not look upon others as our “enemy.” Instead we can define each of them as “a fellow human being, vulnerable and capable of suffering, probably misguided in some ways.”
We are all prone to exaggeration, conclusion-leaping, fumbling, making stupid mistakes - perhaps a touch of paranoia. Until we kill the ego, we are defensive of it. Once we gain true humility we are no longer defensive/offensive…we see no need “to go to war.” Wee don’t want to commit harm. We renounce violence.

Once we are wise, then as you wisely say: “The Wise gather together to help one another in EVERY aspect of living.”

This profound insight is a way of conveying that cooperation is central to ethical living, to living an ethical life. Does it, though, also make the point that there is not much use to talking to the unwise - who will probably be bored by your message, misunderstand it, or will be prematurely dismissive of it, or will be focused on their own narrow concerns and not be open to listening to you?

If I understood the calculus application, here is how I might phrase it:

Let’s say there are x waking hours in a day; and that joy (by which I mean enjoyment, happiness, pleasure, satisfaction, delight, entertainment, amusement, sublimity, ecstasy, etc.) - joy ranges from 1 to 5 - with 5 being the most. Now, at the end of the day, after x hours have elapsed, sum up the total joy-score you experienced so far, from the beginning of the day, as you rated each hour from 1 to 5. Divide that number by x in order to find your max-joy score.

Did you attain the maximum joy-per-day possible? And do you realize - are you aware - that every opportunity for service to others is a potential source of joy? Ethics, the science, does not recommend that one be a martyr. Yet there is a satisfaction in knowing that you have been really helpful to someone, and thus have made a difference. You did not live in vain.

And are you aware that if you have more years in your life your max-joy score can get larger? And if you deliberately aim for health, and for what makes us healthy, your chances of living longer are increased; isn’t that true? And if you share, your score goes up. If you work to find common ground you raise your score.

Is this on track as to what you meant, Jim?


My wife heard me speak aloud about the max-joy score, and what went in to calculating it, and she exclaimed: [size=100]"Just live :exclamation: "[/size]


Well thank you. I should have by now. I have been at it long enough (in both theory and practice). :sunglasses:

…and may you as well.


Very much.

It means that a wise man does nothing in vain. He says nothing in vain. His joy is seeing exactly how much he is accomplishing (“progressing”) with each tiny movement and syllable. He doesn’t turn down roads that do not lead him to where he is going. But then again, he does not presume to know what is at the end of every road. When in doubt, the wise man seeks only to enjoy the exploration. It is hard to explore in vain, no matter the road.

I have to apologize for describing that integral incorrectly. What I described would be the “running average”. The integral is actually the total accumulation, “the sum of the infinitesimal components”. So let me give you an example of a typical guidance for a first time student:

Get a new accounting notebook. Get a watch with a one hour chime alarm. For practice for a week, each time the watch chimes, think back over the last hour and try to gauge the approximate amount of joy you experienced during that hour on a scale from -100 to +100. Do this for 12 hours out of every day.

At the end of each day sum that day’s scores. For an average for the day, then divide that sum by the number of hours involved, 10. That will be your average for that day. Each day might have a total that is anywhere from -700 on a really, really bad day to to perhaps +700 on a really good day (although more likely to be around +/- 200). Then your daily average might be anywhere from -70 to +70. Keep in mind that you want to be honest but also want to encourage yourself to maintain a high score. Practice trying to get the honest scores for each day as high as possible without doing anything that cannot be continued throughout your life. The practice is training which becomes habit. Feeling more joyous is a good habit (not merely psychologically or spiritually, but medically - specifically for the adrenal gland and its many hormones).

And then at the end of the week, sum all of the days together and divide by 70 hours. That will be your week’s average. And by the end of that week, you should be able to look back on your life during that time and get a more clear picture of exactly what is inspiring more or less joy in you. But be careful not to blame your lack of joy on others. How much joy you feel is largely up to you (although not entirely). If you get angry at others because they keep you from your highest joy, it will be your anger that is condemning you from making progress in the future.

Imagine yourself continuing to do that throughout your entire life. Each month you total and average. Each year you total and average. Each decade you total and average. And of course only those with especially totals will need to total and average each century.

As you practice for as many weeks as it might take, your mind in begin to do the math internally and accomplish more joy automatically without you having to actually calculate it cognitively. You would not know what the exact numbers are, but you would certainly be able to sense that you are in control of your joy or at very least understand what is preventing you from attaining more bliss.

IJOT is the total sum of all of the hours that you estimated since you began the program. To maximize IJOT is the goal: MIJOT.

On a different note:

Socially you will discover that in order to obtain the highest possible total IJOT throughout your life, MIJOT, you must maintain a harmony (not a stagnation, but a strategic momentum - a “dance”) with your surroundings and especially any people involved. And when you see that in fact all of those living around you are actually subconsciously trying to do that same thing that you are (although most often unwittingly and inconsiderately), you can realize that they benefit most by being in harmony with you as well … but they seldom actually understand why. So teaching them cognitively (as I have just explained) and helping them with the practice, makes the degree of harmonizing exponentially increase for everyone involved.

Every task that you have in your life could use the cooperative acceptance and/or assistance of others. The others have that same concern. And that is WHY it has been suggested for many millennia that people should be considerate of others (“do unto others…”). It has never been merely about a great prophet spouting his utopic imaginings or commandments from God. It has been about the actual analytical reality of every living soul’s situation with both nature and Man.

A good governance doesn’t merely know these things, but takes the management time (even computer time) to carefully analyze which path will most probably lead to the greatest total IJOT for all it governs. If any governance is not seeking MIJOT, it is betraying itself and all it governs. And machines have no purpose but to serve Man’s MIJOT goal.

I suspect that the highest joy possible on any one day would be obtained through serious drugs. The problem of course, is that those days are numbered. The person who obtains a +100 on any given day, will probably not gain a high MIJOT unless he obtained it through a very unique and exceedingly clever process.


At the end of you life, if that time should come, you should hold proud your MIJOT score and add one more day’s points for being able to. MIJOT is that famously elusive “Meaning of Life”.

That is what you are doing. I am only trying to straighten out the path a bit for those who don’t know precisely how to “just live” in such a complex world. Such analytical thoughts are merely for those who lead the way.

With regard to Ethics I’d like to mention a couple of implications of living the Ethical life. This is addressed to anyone who considers himself or herself to be somewhat ethical.

The first is this: You, an ethical individual, a person of good character, will press for the right policies – those which embody Ethical principles – and, secondly, you will actively engage in Self-improvement, as a way of implementing and realizing Morality (self being true to true Self.) If you want to be moral, you are aware that you need to be continually improving; you need to aim for excellence in whatever projects you are pursuing; you shall aim to have your conduct and character match - to a better and better approximation - the highest vision of what a human being might be. You are engaged in a process of becoming more ethical.

I mentioned earlier the concept of policies which express Ethics; now I shall get specific by giving some examples. I was referring to policies such as: free education through the senior college level; a Peace Department in your nation’s federal government along with a cabinet Secretary of Peace who gives advice to the president; a requirement that millionaires and billionaires pay into the social security fund, and be entitled to collect a monthly check from it if they so wish; paid family-leave benefits; paid vacation time for low-level-job workers; updated maintenance of infrastructure at a quality level; equal pay for equal work, no matter age or gender; broadband and free internet access in all parts of the nation’s territory; complete transparency at all levels of government, especially for Congress or parliament; low-cost mixed housing for every city and suburb; rapid implementation of clean, green, decentralized energy; etc.

Comments? Questions?

Far, far too much speculation.

Well, it might show that they have that much good character. It’s not binary, so perhaps the degree of good character, whatever that is leads to a parallel degree of good actions. And vice versa, the more one does good, the better character one gets.

I am not sure I believe any of that, but your argument seems weak to me. The occasional good act may not be enough to change the whole character of a criminal, but that does not mean that acts cannot build character, that one can morally wag one’s own dog.

Though it would seem one must have a good character (or something in any case) for one to not only decide to have the goal of making things better for many but also to invest the time in all the calculations necessary. And then there is the whole cross cultural issue. A Viking might consider someone who never rapes the women in villages one defeats to be lacking in character. I can think of more complicated modern examples also. Say, who has the good character, the one who drops the A-bomb on Nagasaki or the one who becomes an objecter and refuses to fly the plane?

But how far into the future must one calculate? What if seeming good choices now lead to messes a long way down the line? Isn’t there really quite a bit of hubris in the consequentialist stance?

But there must be. The concept of 'regardless of the consequences I will never (fill in the blank: rape a child, retract my faith and so on) is something a consequentialist can never say, but deontologists can and do.

The problem, I think, with your argument is it is assumed that what is a good character and what is the good and thus from this second what is the good consequence is the same for everyone. And it isn’t. And there are things that consequentialists tend not to believe are OK and there are things that deontologists tend to think are not OK and these sets, while they overlap, differ and this must be connected to innate differences connected to the process one arrives at morals.

Further a consequentialist has no need for either good character or good actions. It is the consequences that need to be good. So really rather horrible actions are considered good because of what happens later. And if the guy hates everyone inside himself, this does not matter either, as long as his actions lead to bettering the common weal.

Not that I am a deontologist who dislikes consequentialism. They both seem loopy and limited to me. And everyone I have every met is a combination of the two. Generally with some hypocrisy involved, myself included. On this issue I will argue as a consequentialist on this as a deontologist and each time I will seem to at least implicitly be advocating what we could call one epistemology for arriving at the good over the other. And that is an irreconcilable difference. If one person is calculating future good effects and the other is moving from (divine?) rules about what one should do, they not only cannot agree on what to do - at least much of the time - but consider the other lost.

Greetings, Moreno

I agree with you.

I have long wondered - as you will note from a footnote in the paper A Unified Theory of Ethics - what are the limits on a “consequence”?? The concept is very vague. I don’t use it in my system of Ethics. In fact, the acknowledged inadequacies of each of those traditional academic schools of ethics is one of the reasons I have proposed a new theory, one that is evident in the references listed in the signature.

As I show at the end of the Preface to Aspects of Ethics, pp.6-7, wadeharvey.myqol.com/wadeharvey/ … ics%20.pdf
all three of these schools can be derived by an application of the tools of analysis provided in the latest theory presented in those readings below; a theory which is a synthesis of traditional ideas in the field of ethics.

Every system has faults, weaknesses or imperfections, including mine, yet I am ready to update , or even abandon, mine if a better system comes along.

It would be strange though to do without them. The person of good character where we do not look at consequences at all to evaluate this, as even part of the evaluation. Further in the OP you mention things the person of good character does. Like keeping promises. How do we know this is a good thing? IOW one may be able to shift away from looking at the consequences of an agent, but it would be very odd to not use some form of consequentialism when deciding what are good acts. The deontologists all look at consequences both in evaluation of character and in determining either what to do or how we choose at an abstract level what are good things/acts. Does your system eliminate the need for looking at consequences? How do you determine values?

I did follow a couple of the links and started to read your papers. I am afraid to get to answers to my questions and points, in this point and the previous, would require more work than I am willing to do. So if you care to respond to my various questions, great. If not, OK.

It’s nice to hear from you again, Moreno. We had such a useful discussion here at the Forum on the concept of “honesty.” I respect your views highly. You do philosophy well. I am, though, at a loss to understand how you could have, as you write, ‘started to read my papers’, since at the outset most of them take up the subject of how I “determine values.” Early, in each selection, I define “value” or I present Professor Hartman’s “Axiom of Value” - which is the definition of the term “good.” {Formal Axiology is the metalanguage for Ethics: thus it provides for us a Meta-Ethics.} [size=90][Admittedly, in the latest document, Ethics for the 21st Century, “good” is not taken up until the 3rd paragraph on p. 7.][/size]

:wink: How could you have missed it?? :wink:

Yes, my friend, you are correct: some work is required to digest the ideas and concepts in philosophy. If the reader puts in the time and effort, it may turn out to have been worth it. - :sunglasses:

I do indeed look at results that likely occur when one lives an ethical life, and I do recommend policies which people who care may work on to bring about, thus making for a better world; and I do refer people to technologies which I believe contribute to living an ethical life, a quality life. I don’t however speak of “consequences” because I am not sure what the word means. Where does one draw the line? Did the Big Bang lead to Donald Trump? …as a direct consequence? Or was it the Black Hole that preceded that Bang that led to him? :slight_smile: :wink:

Speaking of Trump, of what was Ferdinand Marcos or Robert Mugabe a consequence?

Of course, though in general if I am going to read a text, I will read a book or an article in a physical book or journal. And I will tend to read authors I have some confidence in - this confidence gained through various means.

For me the internet works well for interaction and shorter texts. To have sometime a Little more thought out than a dialogue, but less organized and finished than a book. An co-exploration with an ongoing interaction.

Whether my missing your sense of what the good is excusable or understandible or not, it is the case. Since you do not look at consequences, how do you determine what is good?

So you are a consequentialist to some degree. And yet, if consequentialism is flawed because, as you seem to agree, we do not know when the effects are not longer considered tied to the action or character, how can your own use of evaluating effects be valid? How do you know something has made for ‘a better world’ as you say.

You use the Word ‘results’ and seem happy to use that term. To me, in this context, it is a synonym for consequences. One could make the same wry remark about the Big Bang resulting in Donald Trump.

We can call you, in part, a resultist.

Well, if you thought something made for a better World, you must have drawn some lines. So you must have your own answer to this.

Whether my missing your sense of what the good is excusable or understandible or not, it is the case. Since you do not look at consequences, how do you determine what is good?

Many a writer these days publishes electronically. …especially if he wants to share his ideas freely with the world – and is not greedy for money.

I was hoping for interaction after you studied the concepts, and I do believe my works are shorter in text than the text in a book. For example, Ethics for the 21st Century, the first link below, is a booklet of only 15 or 16 pages (if printed out on both sides.) Isn’t that brief, considering all the ethics-relevant ideas it presents? Isn’t that shorter than a (regular) book on Moral Philosophy? {For ease in reading, I would recommend enlarging its font size to 16 before printing it, which would of course then result in extending its length - but it would be worth it. …to avoid any eyestrain, as well as to aid comprehension.}

That describes most of my documents pretty well, since they lack an index, and the contribution of an editor. Some books even have a Glossary. Still, I would venture that if you did have a bit more confidence in me, and thus did put in the time, and the thought and reflection, you would be pleasantly surprised.
…Might mention though, that years back I did author a hard-cover book that Branden Press wanted to publish.Lib. of Congress #8283-1012-2. Its title is SCIENCES OF MAN AND SOCIAL ETHICS: variations on the theme of human dignity. (250 pp.) It did have an index.

And as a bonus you would soon learn what “value” and “good” mean; and how they are analogous to “some” and “all” in Logic. That is, they are quantifiers of qualities. See the first two chapters of ETHICS: A College Course, and you will clearly understand.

Also, see the first three paragraphs here: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=179257
and - for more details - here you may wish to skip the quote; start with the 5th paragraph down, and follow the 7 steps of the logical argument: - viewtopic.php?f=1&t=179792

That is what I seek too; so check this post out, and let’s discuss it: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=182204

In all three of these threads posted, I define “value” and “x is a good C.” The definitions are not original with me; R. S. Hartman was the genius who devised them. I am merely communicating to readers his profound contribution to Philosophy.

Sure, I know that. And I not critical of it. I just don’t like to read long texts online. Further, so far, I tend to find more value in Reading things that manage to get published in books. But that is secondary. I am used to long texts in books. That’s me. I am not saying you should have a dialogue with me, even though I have not read your texts. It is a perfectly valid thing for you to do. Present some links to texts and ask for feedback. If you want to work with me and others in a dialogue centered process from the beginning, great. If not, not. A text of 15 or 16 sheets, two sided, is neither long nor short in any objective sense. But it is longer than I want to read. It might have grabbed me and I would have gone through it, but it did not. I do not say that as a criticism, I can’t remember the last time a text online has grabbed to read it when it is more that a couple of pages. Again, that’s me. Not me putting forward a this is how philosophy should be done.


I will respond there and leave this thread to the readers of online texts.

I have a related question for you thinkr.

How does your ethics theory answer the concern of someone willingly relying on others to do their lying, stealing, and murdering? Real world examples could be any of the many secretive organizations around the world; CIA, Mossad, MI6, Homeland Security,…