States of Character and their impact on Philosophy

This may sound like religious topic but it is spedifically intended not to be religious.

How does the state of a man’s character affect his philosophy?

I believe that men should be evaluated based upon their states of character. I believe that you never know the state of a man’s character until you invest enough time to get to know him. You have to spend time with him, talking with him, observing his day-to-day life, discovering who he his and how he is, before you know the state of his character. The state of man’s character is revealed in his daily “dance” in life. What he does, why he does it, how he does it, and when he does it. It is also revealed in his teaching and his writing. The philosophy he espouses will rarely be one that is in conflict with the state of his character.

For this reason, we live among strangers. Most people that we claim to know, we have very superficial knowledge, and they are mere acquaintances and associates, but we simply have not devoted enough time or gotten close enough to get to know their states of character.

Friendships are often based upon pleasure or usefulness. Young people often form friendships based upon mutual pleasure, as in sexual partners. As we mature, we often form friendships with people we find useful, as in business. But what pleases us today may change tomorrow. And what we find useful today, may change as our needs change. So friendships based upon pleasure or usefulness tend not to be lasting life-long friendships, but rather tend to be temporary and fleeting. On the other hand, the basis for life-long, lasting friendships is a common shared states of character. This is also the basis for lasting long-term successful marriages, that the couple see common shared states of character in one another.

People try to short cut getting to know the state of man’s character by asking pointed questions about his politics, his religion, his profession, his marital history, his criminal record, use of alchohol or drugs, and about his enthusiasms or passions. While these questions do form a framework and context for getting to know a man, nevetheless there is no shortcut for spending the time with a man that it takes to get to know him.

The criteria by which states of character should be evaluated I would call virtue or lack of virtue. I would define virtue as those actions which produce lasting, long-term happiness. I would define vice as those actions which are either the excess or deficiency of virtue and which produce unhappiness.

We need not resort to trial and error to discover what is virtue. We can learn from Other Peoples’ Experience (OPE). Throughout the ages men have made nearly every error possible to make, and have experienced the consequences of their errors in the resulting unhappiness. It is said he who does not study history is doomed to repeat it. There is nothing new under the sun. Through the ages, men have come to learn those actions by which lasting long-term happiness is produced. This ancient wisdom is available to us and can be learned by teaching and study rather than by experience alone. Virtue appeals to intellect and to reason, while vice appeals to man’s baser desires and to willfullness. Virtue is based upon understanding and knowledge, while vice is based upon error and fear.

Many religions incorporate virtue into their codes of conduct. But I am not speaking of any philosophy based upon religious authority. Rather I am speaking of the nature of man and what actually makes man happy.

Happiness escapes many men and they think that it is man’s nature to be unhappy. The masses of men are given over to self-indulgent lives based upon catering to their lusts and desires. They have traded long-term lasting happiness for temporary fleeting pleasures, and discovering that they are still unhappy, they deny that happiness is possible. Skeptics label as Utopian and unrealistic the idea that men can choose to act in a certain manner that will reliably lead to lasting long-term happiness. All of this is understandable. It is the very nature of vice to redefine virtue. Mention is made in ancient teachings of the “Reprobate Mind”. Of a mind that is so far steeped in vice that it is no longer able to distinquish between virtue and vice. Men rationalize that their actions are correct even though they are unhappy. Men of vice tend to identify vice as virtue and virtue as vice.

Politicians and leaders who are men of vice, tend to confuse the population by passing corrupt laws that actually reward vice and actually penalize or punish virtue. Such politicians barter for political job security by pandering to the lusts and desires of the masses of men who have chosen self-indulgent lives based upon instant gratification and pleasure seeking.

I believe that men make choices and that the choices they make mold their states of character. Actions become easy to repeat. Repeated actions become habits. Habits become States of Character. States of Character tend to repeat those actions by which they were formed.

I also believe that states of character once formed are very unlikely to change. Men of vice may choose virtuous behavior for a brief moment when it is to their advantage but it will only be momentary. A man of virtue may have momentary lapses in behavior but it will be an uncomfortable experience, in conflict with his core values, and not likely to form into a habit. It is unlikely for a man to behave in a manner that is inconsistent with the state of his character. Thus, a man of virtue tends to behave in a virtuous manner. And a man of flawed character tends to repeat and magnify his flaws. A snake will be a snake and should not be expected to be otherwise. Only a traumatic event will cause a man to reevaluate the state of his character and reexamine the choices he is repeating. Some severly emotional loss or near death experience, for example. Some bitterly harsh consequence of his error and vice, such as a divorce, getting fired, or imprisonment, for example. But even then, men of vice tend to fall back into the very same pattern of repeated behavior by which their unhappiness was created.

The philosophical upshot of states of character is that men tend to adopt philosophies that are consistent with their states of character. Much of philosophy and phsychology is an attempt to redefine philosophy in terms that are not in conflict with the states of men’s characters. This often explains conflicts and disagreements in philosophical discussions, because men of virtue and men of vice see the world very differently. It is one of the core edicts of philosophy that, all things remaining equal, one should try to adopt an explanation that is consistent with what is already believed to be true. And the state of man’s character has a major impact upon what he believes to be true.

If I read you correctly, what you are implying is man is his character. From this any philosophy he claims will be a result of that character?
I am not sure that that is a given… I mean for all his talk about power, Nietzsche certainly acted like he was terrified of women, or at least, strong women. Perhaps I am seeing a superficial contradiction that doesn’t exist once one delves deeper into Nietzsche… didn’t he write somewhere that he was basically a sycophant?

Back to the point at hand.

Lets assume that each person has their own nature, from which their character springs. Being human it follows that, perhaps in even the most extreme situations, we all share parts of the same nature.
Accepting at the most basic level that, as an animal, man has basic needs. Air, water, and food. Man could survive on this alone, but it seems that as Man moves up the ladder from animal to rational being, Man has more needs.
As a thinking creature, it could be that each man sees the world slightly differently, and as a result of this world view, he develops the sort of character he thinks conforms best with his view and adopts whichever philosophy it is that also conforms with this view and with his character.
This still puts man first before his character, as evidenced by the fact that men can sometimes choose to adopt a new character… not for the sake of personal gain, but in truly seeking some form of repentance.

Man being of the nature to see what is best, but also being of the nature to seek what is worst, often fails despite whatever sort of character he assumes. Unhappiness could be considered a kind of guilt… at some level we know what is right, we often fail to achieve this, guilt results.
It could be that “men of vice” and “men of virtue” see the same thing, and that one lives in pursuit of it, and the other lives in denial of it

Dang Caveman I thought you was readin’ my mind.

We do all share the common ancestor and instinctual urges, just not all of us are willing to use our free will in the pursuit of evil. ie, baseness, coruption, greed, whatever negatives…

In this, birds of a feather not only group together for some undetermined periods, they also don’t often change their spots :confused: :astonished: :wink: .

Not all people instinctually know that doing right, though often harsh, is the best policy.

“We got away last time, didn’t we? No bolts of lightning. It was right in the expedient, so isn’t it right, now?”

Don’t be fooled into thinking that just because it seems right, it is right, communism looked pretty good to some folks.

Caveman, I’d like to hear more.

Though you lost me at ‘should conform with the norm in philosophical debate’. If all those old philosophies were so worth while, why don’t we live under their system?

I say discard the ruins of past failures and build on your own new ground.

Don’t be trapped by the mistakes used to indoctrinate the masses.

Figure there is a reason only certain philosophers were favored in educational institutions?

The only reason christianity has survived to harass us in the 71st(?) century is that it bowed down before the ruling classes through out it’s history.

I disagree that each person has their own character, if you mean one they were born with. I also disagree strongly that men of vice or men of virtue are such by their inborn natures. No, I believe rather that character is a result of choice. And in the beginning all choices are open to a man. Man is born a blank slate with no character whatsoever.

And what is it that man make choices about? Actions! Man chooses what actions to take. And what dictates action? Desire! Man desires something and then chooses the ways and means to achieve that desire. It is said that reason is the slave of desire. What does that mean? That desire dictates the what and reason the how. Man reasons and uses his intellect to figure how to get what he wants. Just as you might desire a house, but you have to make choices about the ways and means to build that house.

And what is it that man wants above all other things. What is it that is sought for it’s own sake and not for the sake of anything else? It is happiness. All men desire to be happy. And they make choices about the ways and means to achieve happiness. It is possible, despite what the skeptics may say, to teach a man how to be happy. This is why guidance, instruction, nurturing and education are so vital to building a child into a man of virtue, teaching a child how to be happy. To learn to love those things that will lead to long-term lasting happiness.

This is where men of virtue and men of vice part company. They disagree sharply about what will make men happy. And since Virtue by my definition is those actions that lead to lasting long-term happiness, then it follows that only men of virtue will be successful in achieving happiness. Oh, yes, men of vice may achieve momentary happiness that comes from indulging an appetite or a lust, like a child unwrapping a new toy, but they will not achieve long-term lasting happiness.

And in their desire to be happy, men of vice and men of virtue will adopt radically different philosophies. Each philosophy will be grounded in the knowledge that choices have been made and that the resulting happiness or unhappiness thus achieved is unlikely to change. All things remaining equal, a man of vice is unlikely to ever achieve lasting long-term happiness. And all things remaining equal, the man of virtue is unlikely to ever be anything but happy. Both may experience momentary happiness or unhappiness, but it will be temporary and fleeting, and they will return to their normal states of character just as sure as a ball tossed into the air returns to the ground.

Why? Because actions are easy to repeat. And actions repeated form into habits. And habits mold into states of character. And states of character tend to repeat those actions by which they were formed. To say it another way, as you act so you become. And as you are so you act.

And states of character are equally unlikely to adopt philosophies that are in conflict with their very nature.

As to repentance, this is not a question of good or evil, but rather is a question of happiness or unhappiness. If there is any value judgement involved, let it be this. Long-term, lasting happiness is preferable to momentary fleeting happiness and much preferable to unhappiness.

Understand that I do not necessarily disagree with you.
But understand that the term “Men of Vice” implies more than just ‘unhappiness’. Plato might argue that a man of vice was unjust because he does not see the true good, thus he acts selfishly, which leads him ultimately to unhappiness. Many of the choices along the way would, no doubt, be considered immoral. Because what is moral (for Plato) is that which is good as acertained by the highest level of reason with NO influence from one’s animal passions.

But I don’t need plato to argue this.

If Man is a Blank Slate (which I don’t think he is nor do i believe that Science holds this view any longer either, but I don’t need Science to argue the point) then it is man’s very nature to be born a blank slate. Furthermore, if Reason is a slave to desire then the slate isn’t blank. man is born with an innate desire for food. I could also argue the moment after the baby’s ass is slapped man also has a heaping helping of desire for air, but I digress.

Ditto happiness innately desires happiness then man is not a blank slate. Blank means blank right? Nothing, nada, zip zilch, zero. Etc.

Saying man is a blank slate and then arguing about innate desires and wanting happiness is inconsistent. I admit man has desires, the desire for happiness is probably chief among them. Recognizing this, your argument about a blank slate isn’t needed, in fact, the more I think about it, I believe it contradicts the rest of your point. Drop it and you lose little and gain alot.

Yes I agree that virtue is a result of choices. Choices influences by one’s nature expressed in one’s character and filtered by one’s personal philosophy.

Between that 'blank slate" of desires and desire for happiness (I am not rubbing it in, honest) and you acting on your innate desire for happiness is this thing called Consciousness, which, I believe, as informed by one’s character, decides which desires to pursue. For some, not all, your higher reasoning, your ‘philosophy’ may also argue on a path.

For all I know, that could be the scenario as it happens… if it is notice that it is one’s nature which starts the process, not character acting before desire but acting on it. You can mold your character however you like, that, in itself, might not change your desires. Or it copuld be the complete opposite, I am wise in that I know nothing (well except you can’t be born a blank slate and be born with innate desires). Other than that though… who can prove it one way or the other?

I agree to some extent. However, I believe that while in the beginning man has all choices open to him, due to inherent genetic differences, he will be more or less disposed towards certain choices than others. In saying this, I am in no way making excuses for a man who choses to live in vice rather than virtue.

Take for instance, someone who is born with a higher sex drive, due to genetics, than others. That person will be more predesposed to undertake promiscous sexual activity than someone with a lower sex drive. Thus, their higher level of hormones will enhance their desires in that particular area. I propose that this person will have more difficulty than others to remain virtuous in this area compared to someone with a inherent lower sex drive (if you consider participating in promiscous sexual activity to be a vice).

Of course in saying this, the above person is in no way condemned to give into their genetic predispositions, but it may be possible that some will find it harder to live a virtuous life.

PC, I agree that environment plays a large role, I’m very much like my adoptive father, however, my non-conformist nature did not come from him.
I think the divide is happy with what you have/not happy with what you have.

If you ain’t happy with what you have, you won’t be happy when you have it all, either.

If life is passed through live cells wouldn’t each cell have some memory?
It is, after all, an unbroken chain.

First, by my definition, Virtue is defined as those actions that lead to long-term, lasting happiness. Vice is defined as those actions which are the excess or deficiency of virtue and lead to unhappiness. So by my definition, men of vice means simply men who have chosen to act in ways that lead to unhappiness, nothing more, nothing less. I am not using vice or virtue in any other meaning.

Second, as to man’s original state. I did not mean that man is born without desires. Quite the contrary. I am flatly stating that all men are born with the very same desire. The desire to be happy. But what I am saying is that men choose the ways and means to achieve happiness. This choosing is where men part company. In the begginning, before man achieves the use of reason and intellect, there is no state of character. Until man begins to make choices and exercise his free will, then he has zero character. His character is a blank slate. Man is not born iwth a tendency to vice or to virtue.

Left on his own with no example to follow, with no teaching, no instruction, no guidance, no nuturing, without external influences, all men are equally likely to choose vice as to choose virtue. Judgement is not constrained by truth. Judgement has no preference for choosing truth over error, but merely for choosing. Judgement is a runaway horse as likely to run over a clift as not. It is reason and intellect that exercise restraint of judgment. It is reason and intellect that exercise foresight and that can understand the signifigance of judgements and thier long term consequences.

As to Plato, if I recall correctly, Plato would say that all vice is the result of ignorance and that no man would knowingly choose vice if he understood it for what it was. To Plato, a man of vice was merely a student in search of a teacher. The Tao Te Ching says, “What is a bad man but a good man’s student, and what is a good man but a bad man’s teacher”. Both Plato and the Tao, have a compassionate view of unhappy men. They are merely needing to be shown “the way”.

But I think where you and I disagree is the order of events. I believe you are saying that choices are influenced by character. I am saying the opposite. That character is the result of choices. It is not until a man begins to choose actions that his character begins to be formed. And that states of character once formed tend to repeat those actions by which they were formed.

I think one practical application of my philosophy may be this. It is impossible to act in a way without becoming that way. For example, you can not behave in a self-indulgent manner without becoming self-indulgent. And self-indulgent men tend to be self-indulgent. It’s like saying there is no such thing as “a little bit pregnant”. It seems to me that many people seem to beleive that their actions have little to do with who they really are. But the fact is as you act so you become.

It’s like saying, just because I cheat does not mean I am a cheater. Maybe not, but if you cheat then it is much easier to cheat again. And it is easy to form the habit of cheating. And any habit once formed is hard to break. And once you have formed the habit of cheating then you are a cheater. It is your nature to cheat. And it predictable that you will cheat again and again. In fact, it is unlikely that you will not cheat because states of character tend to repeat those actions by which they were formed. You cannot trust a cheater. You can only trust a cheater to cheat. A snake will be snake and you should not expect it to behave otherwise. Women could well benefit from this practical application of my philosophy in dealing with unfaithful husbands.

Another practical application is in child rearing. Teaching a child to love virtue and to take pleasure in those things that lead to long-term lasting happiness. Steering a child to act as you wish them to become. Being careful to reward and honor virtuous behavior, and to encourage the child to repeat virtuous actions. To set an example for the child of virtuous behavior. To be as you wish them to become.

Since you bring up the specific example of sex, I would like to use sex as an example of the practical application of virtue to a very normal and natural activity. There seems little doubt that sex can be a source of happiness and of unhappiness.

I believe that for any action a man chooses, it matters not only what he does, but also why he does it, how he does it, and when he does it. Virtue lies not simply in the action, but also in the motivation, the execution, and the timing of the action.

Take food for example, all men must eat to be healthy. Eating a healthy, balanced diet that produces a strong healthy body is a virtue. But over indulgence in food, to the point of ill health is the excess of virtue and is a vice. And under-eating to the point of ill-health is the deficiency of virtue and is likewise a vice. With food, it matters not only that a man eats, but it matters how he eats, why he eats, and how often he eats. These are all matters of choice.

So it is with sex. When is sex a vice? Well a sexual addiction that leads to over indulgence of sexual desires is clearly a vice. The promiscuous man over indulges his sexual desires and lacks temperance has chosen to act in a manner that will not lead to long-term lasting happiness. Like a drug addict, a sex addict is an unhappy person. They are in their own private hell. They have a monkey on their back. Just ask former US President Bill Clinton or his wife or daughter. But it is equally clear that prudishness to the point of being unable to enjoy natural healthy sexual activity is likewise the deficiency of virtue and thus a vice. Both are choices.

But I will not hesitate to be more specific. I do not want to get into a moral debate about sex but I do want to illlustrate my philosophy.

The virtue of sex is called chastity. I would define chastity as only engaging in sexual activity that is moral, legal, and that does not injure the reputation, health or peace of yourself or another. Basically, healthy, wholesome sex not in excess but in moderation, among consenting adults, that does not violate the law and does not violate community standards of morality or decency, and that does not harm yourself or others is the vitue of chastity. The excess of chaste I would call prudish and the deficiency of chaste I would call promiscuous. While prudish seems more like chaste than promiscuous, both are vice.

There are other virtues associated with sexual behavior. For example, in certain cultures there is a concept of purity. Purity is defined as staying within strict codes of rigidly defined behavior. Not straying outside socially acceptable boundaries. Staying true to one’s type and variety. Avoiding the impure and unclean that does not fit within one’s cultural boundaries. For a man living in such a culture, purity is a virtue.

Another example, one often scoffed at today, is the virtue of modesty. I would define modesty as not displaying or exposng in public those things that are private. Having or showing a moderate estimation of oneself. Timidity as a result of self reflection. Reserved. Not showy or flamboyant. Particularly, not to attract undue attention to oneself, behavior, clothing or possessions. Industrialized Western nations often seem to adopt a culture that embraces shamelessness, indecency, obscenity, exhibitionism, austentatious displays of sexuality. This culture is often offensive and shocking to peoples of Middle Eastern or Eastern cultures. In Western cultures, such behavior is often rewarded with fame and fortune. But do these actions lead to unhappiness? And people often seem to think that they can behave shamlessly, indecently, obscenely without becoming a shameless, indecent or obscene person. But as you act so you become. Such choices become easier and easier to repeat and do form into habitual behaviors. But do they lead to unhappiness? Personally, I think history teaches that the test of a Nation is the states of character it produces in its citizenry. And that as goes the character of its citizenry so goes a Nation.

Finally, I would make a careful distinction between sex and other sorts of activities such as prostitution and rape. These activities are not about sex but are about money and control. I see them as entirely different topics altogether.

I think this covers the virtues and vices associated with sex and sexuality. Now to your point, are some men born with higher sex drives and more active libido’s than other men. Yes, I think so. But I would avoid trying to define what is “normal” when it comes to either the frequency of sex or the length of lovemaking sessions. That seems a matter for a couple to decide. Rather, I would simply say that such men need to seek out sexual partners who are compatable. But I do not agree they face any unique challenges in defining the virtues or vices of sexual actions.

I hope this clarifies my philosophy, and it’s practical application.