What network of habits permeates our actions?

What network of habits permeates our actions?

I think that we are in a period that might be called a “fork in the road”. If we do not find a better path into the future there very well may not be a future for humanity.

I think we have the capacity, i.e. brain power, but we lack the character, sophistication, and will to do the things that will lead to a revolutionary adjustment. This is, I think, a time when young people either get off their ‘intellectual couch’ ditch their intellectual ‘Twinkies and chips’ and get an intellectual life or their children my not have an opportunity.

I say that an ‘intellectual life’ is necessary but not sufficient for their future. I say that the day when the ‘happy mean’ is sufficient is dead and gone.

What is character? Character is the network of habits that permeate all the intentional acts of an individual.

Character is an important component for an ideal intellectual. I would say that an ideal intellectual would have the same kind of character as does an ideal journalist.

One significant advantage engineering, physics and much of the natural sciences has is that they speak in mathematical terms. The individuals often speak in formulas or mathematical verbiage that is clear and concise and understandable by all the members. The use of every day words like habit can be confusing because of a lack of clarity. One might also think of attitude as a proper way to describe what I call habit.

What is character? Character is the network of habits that permeate all the intentional acts of an individual.

I am not using the word habit in the way we often do, as a technical ability existing apart from our wishes. These habits are an intimate and fundamental part of our selves. They are representations of our will. They rule our will, working in a coordinated way they dominate our way of acting. These habits are the results of repeated, intelligently controlled, actions.

Habits also control the formation of ideas as well as physical actions. We cannot perform a correct action or a correct idea without having already formed correct habits. “Reason pure of all influence from prior habit is a fiction.” “The medium of habit filters all material that reaches our perception and thought.” “Immediate, seemingly instinctive, feeling of the direction and end of various lines of behavior is in reality the feeling of habits working below direct consciousness.” “Habit means special sensitiveness or accessibility to certain classes of stimuli, standing predilections and aversions, rather than bare recurrence of specific acts. It means will.”

Because each job requires a different type of character a journalist would make a lousy military officer and vice versa.

What might be the ideal character traits of these two professions? It seems that the military officer should be smart, well trained, obedient and brave. The journalist should be smart, well trained, critical and intellectually honest. The journalist must have well-developed intellectual character traits and be skillful in critical thinking. The military officer should be trained to act according to a distinct program in critical circumstances.

The role of the journalist in wartime has evolved dramatically in the last 50 years. During WWII the journalist acted as cheerleader and propagandist. During the Vietnam War the journalist often played the role of critical analyst. While one can see some positive reasons for the cheerleader and propagandist I will assume that overall this is not a proper role for the journalist in a democracy. The ideal journalist must always be a critical analyst and communicate honestly to the reader the results of her investigation.

Since most people unconsciously seek opinion fortification rather than truth they become very agitated when they find news which does not fortify their opinion. Thus, most people have low opinions of journalists. Nevertheless, it is no doubt the ideal journalist who presents the facts fairly, accurately and in a balanced manner. The ability ‘to connect the dots’ in each situation is of primary importance for the ideal journalist. Knowledge is important but understanding and critical thinking is more important.

Quotes from John Dewey Habits and Will