Acta Cogitata: An Undergraduate Journal in Philosophy


In this paper I examine the historical direction taken in ethics in relation to one’s personality and character, from a stable and static view to one that incorporates movement and flexibility. I begin by examining Plato and Aristotle’s understandings of character, using such concepts as Virtue and the Good as abstract and static ideals towards which development should lead. I then briefly examine Augustine, Kant, and Mill’s theories of what defines an ethical character, showing that the strict view was applied to varied and even opposing views of the ethical. Finally, I examine three very different views, those of Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and James, which view character development and ethics not as a process aiming towards a set goal, but defined and expressed moment to moment. The ethical character is flexibly determined, through choice and decision making, the expression of the will to power, and the focus on the concrete and existent.

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