Maarten Maartensz:    Philosophical Dictionary | Filosofisch Woordenboek                      

 C - Character


Character: What human beings have made of themselves, given their circumstances, their needs, their talents, their shortcomings, their beliefs and their illusions.

There definitely is a personal character that human individuals have and retain throughout their lives, and it seems to be mostly based emotionally on one's basic motives and temperament, and intellectually one one's general intelligence and special talents and shortcomings.

All of these seem as definite and recognizable as a person's face, and as much related as one's face is to what is innate:

Apart from great trauma and serious accident, our main outlines and forms are born with us, and are what we try to make the best of in the circumstances and with events of life as we find and meet them.

The public character of the vast majority of men and women - the face they put on for others, as 'person' comes from 'mask' - is mostly intentional falsification: It is a balancing act made up of conformism, hypocrisy, illusion and fear, in which they pretend that they are and feel and believe what they know they are and feel and believe not, because they believe, with some justification, that pretending they are other than they really are and feel and think will help or protect them.

This phoney 'character', the false public face, that most men and most women have is not one they are born with, but one they acquire between ages 15 and 25, when they try to fit themselves into society, and soon learn that their native talents and courage are not large, and that duplicity and conformism are rewarded, and sincerity, individuality and thinking for oneself punished, and that the prevailing standards in society, from elementary politeness to politics and religion, are in most men and women more based on pretense, acting as if, make-belief, party-feelings and wishful thinking rather than on sincerity, skepticism, independent individual thought or reason.

See also: Conformism, Consciousness, Disposition, Ego, Hypocrisy, Person, Role, Self, Society


Hazlitt, Chamfort, Rochefoucauld

 Original: Mar 29, 2005                                                Last edited:12 December 2011.   Top