Character is that which reveals moral purpose, showing what kind of things a man chooses or avoid.

[ἔστιν δὲ ἦθος μὲν τὸ τοιοῦτον ὃ δηλοῖ τὴν προαίρεσιν, ὁποία τις ἐν οἷς οὐκ ἔστι δῆλον ἢ προαιρεῖται ἢ φεύγει διόπερ οὐκ ἔχουσιν ἦθος τῶν λόγων ἐν οἷς μηδ᾽ ὅλως ἔστιν ὅ τι προαιρεῖται ἢ φεύγει ὁ λέγων.]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Poetics [Περὶ ποιητικῆς, De Poetica], ch. 6, sec. 17 / 1450b.9 (c. 335 BC) [tr. Butcher (1895)]

Original Greek. The key word êthos [ἦθος] is generally given here as "character." Alternate translations:

  • "Character in a play is that which reveals the moral purpose of the agents, i.e. the sort of thing they seek or avoid, where that is not obvious." [tr. Bywater (1909)]
  • "Psychology in the sense of "an index to the quality of the purpose" has for its sphere places where the ulterior purposes of an immediate resolve (positive or negative) is naturally obscure." [tr. Margoliouth (1911)]
  • "Character is that which reveals choice, shows what sort of thing a man chooses or avoids in circumstances where the choice is not obvious." [tr. Fyfe (1932)]
  • "Character is that which reveals decision, of whatever sort." [tr. Janko (1987), sec. 3.1.3]
  • "Moral character is what reveals the nature of people's fundamental options." [tr. Kenny (2013)]

Added on 14-May-21 | Last updated 26-Jul-22
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