Philosophical Courage

· dKo journal, Edgewise, Paleoblogs

I’ve been getting an Aristotle Quote of the Day on my (Google) home page. Today it was,
“Character is habitual action.”
And–totally apart from the content–I am thinking, “What guts! To say something so flat out straightforward, so intellectually committed as those four words.” And there is nothing obviously true about these words.
Where are the self-protective qualifications? Where are the noncommittal “Cover Your Ass” phrases and clauses? After all, Character is elusive and complex. Less obviously, so is Habit. So, complicate it! Sophisticate it up! Who could blame you? They say there is safety in numbers; in philosophy there is safety in supererogation.
I understand this sentence didn’t earn its living in the stark isolation I see on my computer. There is context par excellance in the celebrated chapter where it makes its home.
Nevertheless, if you were a philosopher who wanted to draw a connection between Character and Habit, there would a thousand insightful, subtle, and suggestive points that you could make, cautious, but still estimable points.
But this is Aristotle. He says what he thinks, and a philosophical view doesn’t get any more lucidly blunt than this. It rushes back to me why I revere him.
(By the way, he also says that you can change your character, not by a single act of will, but by a long succession of right choices, each one moving your character just a little bit in a better direction.)