Is there anything wrong with the idea that to be moral is to have an excellent character?If you think that there is something wrong with this idea please explain what it is.  If you think there...

Is there anything wrong with the idea that to be moral is to have an excellent character?

If you think that there is something wrong with this idea please explain what it is.  If you think there isn't anything wrong, please explain why.

Asked on by jontyjunior

11 Answers

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

This depends on how you define morality and how you define character.

If you define morality as acting for the right reasons, then you would need a good character in order to act morally.  But if morality simply consists of doing the right thing, then an excellent character is not needed.  I could well do good things out of greed or pride.  Then, I would have a poor (to my mind) character but would be acting morally.

Similarly, do I have to want to act morally in order to have an excellent character?  If so, then I would need an excellent character in order to act morally.  But what if I don't want to act morally but I do so anyway?  Does that mean I have a bad character because I want to act in bad ways?  If so, I could act morally without having a good character.

bullgatortail's profile pic

bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I believe both of these ideas pretty much go hand in hand. There may be slight semantic differences in the definitions of morality and good character, but someone with positive character traits will generally have high morals and act accordingly. I agree that morality is harder to define, and people have differing opinions about what is moral and immoral (the argument about abortion, for example); but if a sane person acts in good conscience about the decisions he makes--decisions that are beneficial and not harmful to others, and are not made out of greed or a need for power or financial gain--I would say he still has pretty high morals. 

belarafon's profile pic

belarafon | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Both terms are largely subjective; standards change almost weekly. I would say that a moral stance -- being ethical beliefs -- contributes to but does not dictate your strength of character. Many people are scrupulously honest in business but loose in their marriage, and vice versa, and dozens of other combinations. It's not something that can be nailed down unless you accept X as your baseline; in other words, if you are Catholic, the standard Catholic morals contribute to your strength of character as measured against other Catholics. You might not be as moral compared to another standard.

brettd's profile pic

brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Morality, while the definition tends to shift over time and across the population and regions, tends to be more specifically defined than character, which is a more general assessment of a person's actions and beliefs.  The idea that something "builds character" is a common sentiment and expression, but we don't tend to assign a lot of specific ideas to that sentiment.  Morality, on the other hand, we attempt to define all the time, and argue over what morality is.  So the two things are not completely linked in my opinion.

stolperia's profile pic

stolperia | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

As others have said, morality and excellent character are different types of mindsets. Asking if it's wrong to assume that one is required in order to exhibit the other is like asking if it's wrong to have apples and oranges at the same meal. They are two distinct sets of attitudes and actions, which may or may not overlap without necessarily impacting the other.

litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

We usually define moral as doing the right thing. Some may have a narrow, incomplete definition of character as having morals.  One in part defines the other.  However, different cultures have different ideas of what it is to be moral and to have character.  Morality changes with society.

lmetcalf's profile pic

lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

I too agree that these two things tend to go hand in hand, as having good morals will help to shape good character.  Having a strong moral compass will help a person to make the best choices in his life.  Without morals, what would help a person make the best choices? You can't have excellent character without good morals.

literaturenerd's profile pic

literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I have to agree with it depending upon definitions of morality and character. For each person, both morality and character differ. Therefore, some may argue with the point in question. While some may think yes, others may think no.

User Comments

exrogbro's profile pic

exrogbro | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

i think if a person has the characteristic of sincerity and honesty then the two are connected, charakter and  morality, but if a person is not honest  and sincere then his actions in public may seem good and he may present a certain picture about himself but when it would come to a real issue he then would show another side, another pattern of behaviour.

mercedes bellevue

bhawanipur's profile pic

bhawanipur | College Teacher | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted on

Character means possessing good qualities that make them distinct from others. On the other hand morals are principles and beliefs concerning right and wrong behavior. A person, having excellent character, also may not have moral i.e. principles to judge the right or wrong. A person may have morality, proves in the society but in his personal life he may not have excellent character.

In my village there is person called having excellent character but he was annoyed and behaved other way that day when his son stole a cow, sold in the market and was caught red handed by people. The man of excellent character was perplexed.

Its very difficult to have both of the two together by some person. Because it is also a set of mind. Mind changes when its result of aspiration goes other way.

jontyjunior's profile pic

jontyjunior | Student, College Freshman | (Level 1) Honors

Posted on

I would agree with this answer as each person will define what it is to be moral and to have a good charcter differently depending on their own values.