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The Character Gap: How Good Are We?

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We like to think of ourselves, our friends, and our families as decent people. We may not be saints, but we are still honest, relatively kind, and mostly trustworthy. Miller argues here that we are badly mistaken in thinking this. Hundreds of recent studies in psychology tell a different story: that we all have serious character flaws that prevent us from being as good as w We like to think of ourselves, our friends, and our families as decent people. We may not be saints, but we are still honest, relatively kind, and mostly trustworthy. Miller argues here that we are badly mistaken in thinking this. Hundreds of recent studies in psychology tell a different story: that we all have serious character flaws that prevent us from being as good as we think we are - and that we do not even recognize that these flaws exist. But neither are most of us cruel or dishonest. Instead, Miller argues, we are a mixed bag. On the one hand, most of us in a group of bystanders will do nothing as someone cries out for help in an emergency. Yet it is also true that there will be many times when we will selflessly come to the aid of a complete stranger - and resist the urge to lie, cheat, or steal even if we could get away with it. Much depends on cues in our social environment. Miller uses this recent psychological literature to explain what the notion of character really means today, and how we can use this new understanding to develop a character better in sync with the kind of people we want to be.


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We like to think of ourselves, our friends, and our families as decent people. We may not be saints, but we are still honest, relatively kind, and mostly trustworthy. Miller argues here that we are badly mistaken in thinking this. Hundreds of recent studies in psychology tell a different story: that we all have serious character flaws that prevent us from being as good as w We like to think of ourselves, our friends, and our families as decent people. We may not be saints, but we are still honest, relatively kind, and mostly trustworthy. Miller argues here that we are badly mistaken in thinking this. Hundreds of recent studies in psychology tell a different story: that we all have serious character flaws that prevent us from being as good as we think we are - and that we do not even recognize that these flaws exist. But neither are most of us cruel or dishonest. Instead, Miller argues, we are a mixed bag. On the one hand, most of us in a group of bystanders will do nothing as someone cries out for help in an emergency. Yet it is also true that there will be many times when we will selflessly come to the aid of a complete stranger - and resist the urge to lie, cheat, or steal even if we could get away with it. Much depends on cues in our social environment. Miller uses this recent psychological literature to explain what the notion of character really means today, and how we can use this new understanding to develop a character better in sync with the kind of people we want to be.

30 review for The Character Gap: How Good Are We?

  1. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    I'm going to start this review with a generalized statement that perhaps many can agree is the case: upon reflection you can see that there is a disparity between the person you are and the person you know or feel you could be. It is this disparity to which the gap in the title of this book is referring. Character also includes many value neutral components (curiosity, introversion, talkativeness) but the specific focus of this book is moral character. The book is divided into three sections. The I'm going to start this review with a generalized statement that perhaps many can agree is the case: upon reflection you can see that there is a disparity between the person you are and the person you know or feel you could be. It is this disparity to which the gap in the title of this book is referring. Character also includes many value neutral components (curiosity, introversion, talkativeness) but the specific focus of this book is moral character. The book is divided into three sections. The first section suggests reasons why developing a good moral character is important, the second suggests that most of us do not have characters that are particularly good or bad, and the third examines the pros and cons of various strategies for developing a good character. This is very much a cross-disciplinary approach to the topic, looking at it from the fields of psychology and philosophy with a foray into theology in the final section of the book. The suggested reasons why a person might want to develop a good character are as follows: 1) Virtuous lives are admirable and inspiring 2) Good character typically makes the world a better place 3) God wants us to become good people 4) A good character can be rewarding The author spends a considerable amount of time elaborating on each of these points, considering the arguments for and against them and also considering some of the findings from social psychology. The second section presents evidence and arguments that the human race when considered en masse is neither particularly virtuous nor particularly vicious. The reason for this line of thinking has to do with the intimate connection between character and consistency. Your character is the general impression people have of you based on your everyday behaviour. If I showed up late for work one day out of the entire year, you might not consider me lazy. If I showed up late for work once a week, then unless there were additional factors at play that you are aware of, you would be well within your rights in considering me lazy. What makes the difference between the first assessment and the second? Repeated, habitual behaviour. As Annie Dillard wrote: 'How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.' The cultivation of virtue or vice are not consistent aspects of the average person – we don't try particularly hard to be good or bad people - and thus the average person is neither virtuous nor vicious. To use the cover graphic of the thermometer, we are neither hot nor cold but merely mediocre. He writes: '....we are left with a deep tension, if not the appearance of an outright contradiction. On the one hand, we have powerful capacities for doing good in the world, and for praiseworthy motives. On the other hand, we have powerful capacities for failing to do good in the world, and for suspect motives. Both of these aspects of our character are present in our hearts and they are both robust. We should not downplay or ignore them.' This seems to ring true to me, both in terms of my own conduct and also in interacting with and observing how other people behave. I could, of course, simply not have run into the hordes of virtuous and (thankfully!) vicious people that perhaps are milling through the streets spreading their own personal brands of order and chaos everywhere they go. The author, however, is not content to merely express personal opinion or rely on subjective experience but brings to bear relevant empirical studies in an attempt to bolster his point. Another important point the book makes is that virtue and vice are not only matters of external behaviour but also interior motivation. He considers three levels of motivation: 1) egoistic motivations (motivated by what is good for you) 2) dutiful motivations (motivated by what is right) 3) altruistic motivations (motivated by what is good for others) Egoistic motivations would transform virtuous acts into vices. An example would be the person who makes an ostentatious show of charitable giving so that people can congratulate him on what a wonderfully compassionate fellow he is. Dutiful motivations are virtuous acts that are carried out because one subscribes to a moral code or spiritual belief that directs your behaviour. While this is a better motivation than the purely egoistic one, there are situations where it is inappropriate. No one would be comforted if you told them you had come to visit them while they were in the hospital because 'it is the right thing to do.' They want to know you are visiting them because you genuinely care about them. That is the altruistic motivation: one that is not concerned with doing the thing that you feel you ought out of obligation but because you are genuinely concerned about the well being of the other person(s). Tangled up in all of this is the role that emotions play in motivating behaviour. For example, if I do something because I desire to alleviate an unpleasant feeling of guilt that is weighing down on me, am I acting selfishly or selflessly? To use the example of charitable giving again, if I am acting to alleviate a sense of guilt over my abundant material blessings then I am acting on my own behalf; as was the case with the ostentatious charity giver, the person I am helping is merely the effective means to my own desired end. On the other hand, if I have a sense of gratitude for my material blessings and that sense of gratitude overflows to the extent that it moves me to help others who are less fortunate, I am genuinely acting out of compassion for others rather than using them as a way to expunge uncomfortable emotions. Love would seem to be the best motivator of all and the perfect manifestation of a virtue would be a marriage of the appropriate behaviour with the appropriate motivation. The final section sets forth some possibilities as to how we might go about becoming better individuals. The strategies are: 1) Do nothing 2) Virtue labeling 3) Nudging toward virtue 4) Emulating moral role models 5) Selecting our situations 6) Getting the word out 7) Seeking divine assistance The merits and potential drawbacks of each of these strategies are examined and the following questions are applied to each: Is the strategy supported by empirical studies? Would the strategy, if used successfully, actually improve our behaviour? Would it do more than that, such as improve motivation as well, which is also necessary to becoming virtuous? Would the effects of the strategy be long lasting or quickly fade away? Is the strategy realistic for most of us to adopt given our busy lives? Does the strategy seem morally questionable in certain ways – say, by requiring that people be deceived? One area the book did not investigate but which it did get me thinking about was if there are ever situations (as opposed to motivations) where engaging in behaviours that are usually classed as virtues would effectively render them vices or engaging in behaviours that are usually classed as vices would effectively render them virtues. For example, someone might take an absolutist stance on lying. It is never virtuous to conceal the truth or to intentionally deceive another human being. If that is the case, then if German soldiers knocked on the door of your house in 1939 Germany, the virtuous thing to do would be to confess that there is indeed a Jewish family concealed beneath the floorboards. Since lying is a vice, you shouldn't deceive them. But of course, that can't be correct. Lying is the virtuous thing to do here and it has additional virtues clustered along with it (courage would be one). A situation where something that is usually considered a vice is effectively rendered a virtue is a little harder to come up with. Here is a possibility: Imagine you were walking along the street and you glanced down an alley way as you passed it by and noticed three people beating up a fourth. Pretending you didn't see anything and continuing on your way would make you morally culpable. Here is a different real life situation for comparison: Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer was imprisoned and eventually executed for taking part in a conspiracy to kill Adolf Hitler. Murder is usually considered a vice but is it in this case? If you came to the conclusion that one is morally culpable for looking the other way when one person is being assaulted in an alleyway, then how much more is a person morally culpable if thousands of people are being slaughtered daily when it is within their power to put a stop to it. Was murder the virtuous thing to do in this situation? This might be a somewhat longish review but I've really only skimmed over the breadth of material this book covers (it has as much to say about vice as virtue). An all around excellent, easy to understand, and practical introduction to the topic of character. Companion website: http://www.thecharacterproject.com/

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kendall Davis

    Simplistic philosophical and ethical analysis. Seems that if you're not a sociopath, then you can't really be a truly unvirtuous person to the author, which seems like a bit of a low bar. His takes on Christianity at the end felt out of place and were mildly offensive only because of how oversimplistic his descriptions of Christian belief and practice are. Simplistic philosophical and ethical analysis. Seems that if you're not a sociopath, then you can't really be a truly unvirtuous person to the author, which seems like a bit of a low bar. His takes on Christianity at the end felt out of place and were mildly offensive only because of how oversimplistic his descriptions of Christian belief and practice are.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Nikki

    We suck. Anyone who doesn't yet know this should read this book. No, I'm not being pessimistic--the data backs me up! We suck. Anyone who doesn't yet know this should read this book. No, I'm not being pessimistic--the data backs me up!

  4. 5 out of 5

    George P.

    The cover of Christian B. Miller’s book, The Character Gap, has a picture of Gandhi at the top and Hitler at the bottom with a graded spectrum between them. The picture is fitting, for one of Miller’s central theses is that most people are neither as bad as we could be nor as good as we should be. We are, instead, a muddle. The question that arises, then, is how we can become better than we are. Miller is A. C. Reid Professor of Philosophy at Wake Forest University and Director of the Character P The cover of Christian B. Miller’s book, The Character Gap, has a picture of Gandhi at the top and Hitler at the bottom with a graded spectrum between them. The picture is fitting, for one of Miller’s central theses is that most people are neither as bad as we could be nor as good as we should be. We are, instead, a muddle. The question that arises, then, is how we can become better than we are. Miller is A. C. Reid Professor of Philosophy at Wake Forest University and Director of the Character Project. Funded by the John Templeton Foundation, the project examines character from the perspectives of psychology, philosophy and theology. It maintains a website for scholars (thestudyofcharacter.com) and for a general audience (thecharacterportal.com). What Character Is The Character Gap is divided into three parts. Part I examines what moral character is and why it’s important. In general, as Miller defines it, character is the “unique collection of characteristics or traits that are centrally important to who you are and how you act.” Your unique collection includes moral elements (virtue and vice) and nonmoral elements (personality, aptitude, style). But what are virtue and vice? Miller argues that virtue has four features: It leads to good behaviors that are “appropriate to a particular situation,” “performed in a variety of situations relevant to the particular virtue,” and “done for the appropriate reasons or motives.” Thus performed, these actions result in “a pattern of motivation and action that is stable and reliable over time.” A virtuous person, we might say, does the right thing at the right time for the right reason and does it repeatedly and reliably. Surprisingly, vice shares “the very same features virtues that virtues do. The main difference is that they are oriented in the opposite way.” One further twist on vice is that it occasionally mimics virtue. “Like virtuous people,” Miller writes, “the vicious often do good things for others.” Why? Because they believe that other people are watching them. The recognition that vicious people mimic right action for the wrong reason (to be seen by others) helps refine our understanding of character. “The real difference in behavior between the virtuous and the vicious emerges when they think they are not being observed.” As H. Jackson Brown put it, “character is what we do when we think no one is looking.” Miller closes Part I by offering four reasons for being virtuous. First, “virtuous lives are admirable and inspiring.” Second, “good character typically makes the world a better place.” Third, and this is surprising, comes as it does from a philosopher: “God wants us to become good people.” More on this God-factor later. And fourth, “a good character can be rewarding.” In Between Virtue and Vice Now that we understand virtue and vice better, can we make any generalizations about the character of most people? We tend to rate our friends as virtuous and our enemies as vicious, but Miller thinks this is a mistake. Part II explains why. Over the course of successive chapters, Miller summarizes empirical evidence derived from empirical studies pertaining to four topics: helping, harming, lying and cheating. As he reports the findings of those studies, a pattern quickly emerges: “most people have characters which are neither virtuous nor vicious. They instead fall in a middle space between virtue and vice.” Their character, in other words, is imperfect and unresolved. They have the capacity to act a lot better, but also a lot worse. Instead of repeating all the evidence Miller cites for this conclusion, I’ll simply ask you to examine yourself. My guess is that you’re a decent person, a good neighbor. But if you’re anything like me, you’ll also admit that you don’t always do the right thing. Even when you perform the right behavior, you might do so at the wrong time or for the wrong reason. You are not as good as you should be. By the same token, you’re not as bad as you could be, however. You might fail to help a motorist in need, or harm your spouse with a cutting remark, for example. You might lie to get yourself out of a jam, or cheat your way through your driver’s test at the DMV. These things are bad, of course, but the people who do them rarely do them to the nth degree. In other words, we’re neither Gandhi nor Hitler. We’re somewhere in between. But we can become better, morally speaking. How to do so is the focus of Part III. Miller considers a variety of strategies for becoming more virtuous people. Strategies for Improvement He begins with what he calls “some less promising strategies.” These including doing nothing, virtue labeling, and nudging toward virtue. Doing nothing is a counterintuitive strategy, until you realize that some virtues come with age and experience. (If you don’t believe me, trying teaching a newborn baby patience when feeding time comes around.) Virtue labeling means naming and honoring those behaviors and traits that you want to see more in others. Nudging means structuring choices in such a way that good choices are the default option, while bad choices must be consciously chosen. The basic problem with these strategies is that they promote a desired behavior, but not necessarily the right motivation for it or an enduring character that alone can sustain it. Miller thus turns to “some strategies with more promise”: moral role models, selecting our situations, and getting the word out. Moral role models are self-explanatory. Selecting our situations means that “we should actively seek out those situations which are going to inspire us to act well, while actively avoiding those situations that are fraught with temptation and other pitfalls.” Getting the word out means understanding the “tendencies” or “desires” that shape our behavior. If we understand what motivates us to do either the right thing or the wrong thing, we can identify our worse motives and choose better ones, thereby changing our behavior. The Character Gap ends by considering strategies for “improving our characters with divine assistance.” To this point, Miller’s advice has been secular in orientation. Most religions offer advice to people for changing their character, however, advice that philosophy and psychology typically ignore. But Miller suggests that Christian faith offers unique resources for what theologians call “sanctification,” the transformation of our character to conform it to Christ’s. He specifically mentions Christian rituals and practices (such as prayer and fasting), participation in a community of faith, and the direct work of the Holy Spirit as three such resources. About the Holy Spirit, Miller writes: “This idea turns character improvement upside down. Rather than people being left to their own devices in improving themselves, the thought is that God himself can intervene in an important way and actively contribute to the process.” As a Pentecostal Christian and a minister, I appreciate and agree with Miller on this point, offering a hearty “Amen!” And yet, I cannot also help but think that while the Holy Spirit does not leave us only to our own devices, He does in fact expect us to use those devices in cooperation with Him. As Paul wrote, “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12–13). In this passage, God works, but so do we. Recognizing this truth helps me appreciate Miller’s philosophical and psychological insights. Though psychology and philosophy on the one hand often are pitted against religious faith on the other hand, Miller shows that they need not be in this instance. Becoming the people we ought to be is our moral responsibility, to be sure, but it is also a gift of grace. In the end, sanctification is not an either God or us, but both/and. The Character Gap is helpful precisely because it shows us what we can do to improve our character, even as it recognizes that divine assistance is needed. Book Reviewed Christian B. Miller, The Character Gap: How Good Are We? (New York: Oxford, 2017). P.S. I wrote this review for InfluenceMagazine.com. It appears here by permission. P.P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote "Yes" on my Amazon.com review page.  

  5. 5 out of 5

    Gailey

    "What matters is what his heart is really like and what it leads him to do when he thinks no one is looking or he cannot get caught. And that may not be quite so easy for you to figure out." Simple mistakes or moments of poor judgment are often followed by the admission that "nobody's perfect." We ain't all bad people, right? At least the very least we aren't as bad as Hitler. Stalin. Or that creepy uncle. Upon further examination of our characters, however, we may be forced to come to a different "What matters is what his heart is really like and what it leads him to do when he thinks no one is looking or he cannot get caught. And that may not be quite so easy for you to figure out." Simple mistakes or moments of poor judgment are often followed by the admission that "nobody's perfect." We ain't all bad people, right? At least the very least we aren't as bad as Hitler. Stalin. Or that creepy uncle. Upon further examination of our characters, however, we may be forced to come to a different conclusion. In 'The Character Gap', Christian B. Miller, through the use of psychological studies, highlights that while most of us are not calculated villains, we very often fail to meet our moral obligations in a variety of situations. There is a sizable gap between the people we are and the virtuous people we know we should become. Miller presents a nuanced view of what it actually means to demonstrate virtues, or in other words, to be a good person. In order to be virtuous, one must not simply do good deeds, or attempt to outweigh the bad. Rather, you must: 1) Be reliably virtuous, demonstrating goodness in a variety of different contexts. 2) Do good with the right motivations (i.e. doing something to serve another in spite of any personal gain. One may regularly carry out acts of charity in the community but may only be doing so for its benefits. Supported by a wealth of psychological studies, the book unpacks four moral arenas: helping, harming, Lying, and cheating. The findings that are presented are fascinating, eye-opening, and even depressing. If any of you are remotely familiar with Milgrim's study of obedience, you will have an idea of the honest picture of human nature that is depicted here. Millar comes to the conclusion that we are a mixed bag, with the potential of both deplorable and commendable behaviour in various contexts. The situations we find ourselves in are quite revealing about our characters. That said, with further insight into how we generally respond in certain situations, we can begin to consider methods of fostering charity and virtue in society, whilst making vices less appealing. While not explicitly stated, it is clear that the author is particularly sympathetic towards organised religion (Christianity in particular). With this consideration in mind, three things came to my attention when reading the book: 1) Psychology and Christianity not totally incompatible - Both psychologists and conservative Christians have historically proven to distance themselves from each other, considering they are both working from distinct worldviews. This book, however, presents a refreshing case for the importance of religiosity in understanding the mind, and the value of psychological studies in showcasing human nature (a common theme in Christian literature). 2) The last 3 chapters present genuinely helpful methods of directing oneself towards virtue - Miller evaluates several different methods that can be used collectively to close the character gap (i.e. establishing moral role models and familiarising ourselves with our desires and tendencies). The most interesting aspect, however, is the value he places on divine assistance. Breaking down the very nature and practical benefits of the Christian community and rituals helps us to realize how faith cultivates virtue. While Miller is reluctant to alienate his atheist readers, he does make a compelling case for selecting religion for its inherent benefits over irreligion. 3) The book is somewhat limited by its reluctance to discuss the foundation of morality - Miller initially outlines that he will be referring to a generally agreed list of virtues and vices that are agreed across cultures. I'd imagine this is to keep a secular audience on board, but still, it is difficult to discuss good or bad actions and desires without understanding why they are good or bad in the first place. Granted this conversation would expand the book greatly and would undoubtedly complicate the more united front the author is going for. Although, it is a shame that while Christianity is valued greatly, it is viewed as simply interchangeable with other religious traditions, and doesn't discuss its claims for objective morality. It is disappointing to see some dismiss this book as it really does have some powerful things to say. It is great to see an academic unashamedly examine the religious alongside the psychological perspectives of morality and behaviour. Give it a read and examine your own character gap.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Maria

    Miller argues that we are not as decent and moral as we like to think. Hundreds of recent studies in psychology tell a different story, that we are influenced to an unnoticed degree. Everything from other people in the room, to smell, temperature, etc. will affect how we respond to someone crying out for help in an emergency. Other studies show many resist the urge to lie, cheat, or steal even if we could get away with it. Miller uses this recent psychological literature to explain what the noti Miller argues that we are not as decent and moral as we like to think. Hundreds of recent studies in psychology tell a different story, that we are influenced to an unnoticed degree. Everything from other people in the room, to smell, temperature, etc. will affect how we respond to someone crying out for help in an emergency. Other studies show many resist the urge to lie, cheat, or steal even if we could get away with it. Miller uses this recent psychological literature to explain what the notion of "character" really means today, and how we can use this new understanding to develop a character better in sync with the kind of people we want to be. Why I started this book: New to the CNO Professional Reading program of 2021 and look at that cover! Why I finished it: Miller covers several well known psychology studies about character, compassion, obedience to authority and drew the usual conclusions. He also mentioned other studies that I had not heard of before. Off to a good start, and reassuring while most people are not good, most are also not bad. The majority of us float in the sea of small good deeds and small petty bad deeds. It is disconcerting to learn how susceptible we are to outside influence, and I did appreciate Miller's critics of Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness. But the end of this book was a tangent in author bias. I will follow you from the secular studies to the theoretical argument that religion can help one be better. (However, after critiquing other theories and methods of human improvement for their lack of evidence that they help all participants, jumping to religion without evidence that religion helps people be better is ham-fisted.) I think that this book would have been better served with 4 religious practices from 4 different religions, instead of just using 4 from Christianity. As I am writing this, I realized that would have entailed more explanation for selection choice and evidential results... which as noted were missing.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Maher Razouk

    في حين أن الشخص السيء قد يرغب ، على سبيل المثال ، في الإساءة إلى الحيوانات ، فمن الواضح أنه إذا كان لديه القليل من الفطرة السليمة ، فلن يؤذي كلبًا أمام عيون الجيران . وهكذا يمكن للشخص الشرير في كثير من الأحيان أن يتصرف بشكل مثير للإعجاب عندما يعتقد أن الآخرين يراقبون. يظهر الاختلاف الحقيقي في السلوك بين الفاضل والشرير عندما يعتقدون أنه لا تتم ملاحظتهم. هنا تظهر شخصيتنا الحقيقية. كما قال الكاتب الملهم إتش. جاكسون براون في اقتباس مشهور الآن : "الشخصية هي ما نفعله عندما نعتقد أنه لا أحد ينظر." أثار أ في حين أن الشخص السيء قد يرغب ، على سبيل المثال ، في الإساءة إلى الحيوانات ، فمن الواضح أنه إذا كان لديه القليل من الفطرة السليمة ، فلن يؤذي كلبًا أمام عيون الجيران . وهكذا يمكن للشخص الشرير في كثير من الأحيان أن يتصرف بشكل مثير للإعجاب عندما يعتقد أن الآخرين يراقبون. يظهر الاختلاف الحقيقي في السلوك بين الفاضل والشرير عندما يعتقدون أنه لا تتم ملاحظتهم. هنا تظهر شخصيتنا الحقيقية. كما قال الكاتب الملهم إتش. جاكسون براون في اقتباس مشهور الآن : "الشخصية هي ما نفعله عندما نعتقد أنه لا أحد ينظر." أثار أفلاطون هذه القضية بالذات منذ أكثر من ألفي عام. في الكتاب الثاني من كتاب الجمهورية ، يستمع سقراط إلى شقيقه جلوكون وهو يتساءل عما إذا كان من الجيد حقًا أن تكون شخصًا فاضلاً. في سياق حجته ، يروي جلوكون الأسطورة الشهيرة حول Ring of Gyges: «كان الراعي يكدح في خدمة الرجل الذي كان يحكم ليديا حينها. جاءت عاصفة رعدية عظيمة وزلزال. تشققت الأرض وفتحت هوة في المكان الذي كان يرعى فيه. رآها وتعجب منها ونزل. رأى حصان برونزي مجوف. نظر إلى الداخل ، ورأى أن هناك جثة في الداخل تبدو أكبر من حجم الإنسان. لم يكن في يدها شيء سوى خاتم ذهب. انزلق أخذ الخاتم وخرج ... بينما كان جالسًا مع الآخرين ، جرب أن يضع الخاتم في اصبعه ؛ عندما فعل ذلك ، أصبح غير مرئي لأولئك الجالسين بجانبه ، وتحدثوا معه وكأنه بعيد مثل هذا الخاتم سمح للراعي بالاختفاء عن أعين العالم. كما ساعد في الكشف عن شخصيته الحقيقية.» إذن كيف تبدو تلك الشخصية؟ هل كانت فاضلة أم شريرة؟ إليكم نهاية القصة: "اتجه مباشر إلى قلعة الملك. ولما وصل زنى مع زوجة الملك ، وبحث عن الملك وقتله. وهكذا تولى الحكم." ... ليست شخصية جيدة على الإطلاق. . Christian Miller The Character Gap Translated By #Maher_Razouk

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kristen

    For me, this book was an interesting way to take a step back and try to be more mindful both of how I act and how I think about the virtue (or lack thereof) of my own actions and those of others. The world these days can often seem like a writhing mass of shouts screams that are merely reacting to each other, so it feels like a restful exercise to pause and consider the motivations of common behaviors, good and bad, and account for our own lapses of compassion, honesty, etc. Miller walks the rea For me, this book was an interesting way to take a step back and try to be more mindful both of how I act and how I think about the virtue (or lack thereof) of my own actions and those of others. The world these days can often seem like a writhing mass of shouts screams that are merely reacting to each other, so it feels like a restful exercise to pause and consider the motivations of common behaviors, good and bad, and account for our own lapses of compassion, honesty, etc. Miller walks the reader through a forest of examples from history, psychology, and philosophy to provide evidence about the nature and malleability of virtue--some of these will surprise you and may inspire or disturb you. He then suggests ways we might approach closing the character gap, neatly avoiding any kind of irritating lectures or self help nonsense. I would both praise and fault the book for its accessibility. One the one hand, it's an excellent gateway to moral psychology and practical ethics from a leader in the field. On the other, the quick pace and conversational tone can leave you wanting to go deeper or thinking of arguments that aren't addressed; fortunately, there are meticulous notes provided for further reading!

  9. 5 out of 5

    William Bahr

    Character is Key for Liberty! By way of introduction, I “read” this book to update my own book “George Washington’s Liberty Key,” which covers not only Mount Vernon's Bastille Key (which Lafayette gave to Washington) but what Washington believed to be one of the prime keys to liberty: character. I believe Miller did a great job of looking at character from a number of different angles. I was particularly intrigued with the significant amount of time he spent in the final chapter commenting upon Ch Character is Key for Liberty! By way of introduction, I “read” this book to update my own book “George Washington’s Liberty Key,” which covers not only Mount Vernon's Bastille Key (which Lafayette gave to Washington) but what Washington believed to be one of the prime keys to liberty: character. I believe Miller did a great job of looking at character from a number of different angles. I was particularly intrigued with the significant amount of time he spent in the final chapter commenting upon Christianity. Indeed, as Washington himself once wrote, “Religion and morality are the essential pillars of civil society.” And Miller does nicely weave into that chapter how ideas developed in his earlier chapters come to play in a religious environment. I would like to say, however, that rather than actually reading the book, I listened to it in audio-book form. As a result, I came away, after almost six hours of listening, with a pleasant experience. Nevertheless, given all the interesting concepts Miller presents, I’d advise a person such as myself, who likes to mark-up books and go back to ponder complex comments, to opt instead for a written version. Thanks to earlier reviewer George P. Woods for taking great notes for me! So bottom-line and all-in-all, a very worthwhile “read”!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Greg Soden

    I enjoyed this exploration of how good we think we are vs how good we actually are. We all have work to do.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Edward Allen

    A good book with a great message. Very simple read but also very thought provoking. Recommend to anyone in a leadership position.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Raymond Chan

    An easy read. It serves as a reminder to everyone that we are not that good and not that bad. We can always improve our virtue by knowing thyself. Knowing the intention of your action. Outcome of an action doesn't determine our virtue, but intention. An easy read. It serves as a reminder to everyone that we are not that good and not that bad. We can always improve our virtue by knowing thyself. Knowing the intention of your action. Outcome of an action doesn't determine our virtue, but intention.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Robert Williams

    Thus far I have found this book a little disappointing, rather light on its analysis of what constitutes the good and why (at least as far as I have gotten with it).

  14. 5 out of 5

    Tiago Faleiro

    We are all falling short of our potential, and this includes our character - how good and moral you are. This disparity is what the book tries to explore. It was surprisingly wide in its approach. With an even mix of psychology and philosophy, and even trying to recover some theology at the end. Two important points are highlighted throughout the book. The first that it's important to develop moral character, and second that our moral character is likely a mix of good and bad. The first I did no We are all falling short of our potential, and this includes our character - how good and moral you are. This disparity is what the book tries to explore. It was surprisingly wide in its approach. With an even mix of psychology and philosophy, and even trying to recover some theology at the end. Two important points are highlighted throughout the book. The first that it's important to develop moral character, and second that our moral character is likely a mix of good and bad. The first I did not like very much as it is rather obvious, and the writing wasn't as enjoyable as I hoped. Nevertheless, I did enjoy some parts of how he approached the topic, and I particularly liked the examples he gave. He heavily focused on people who have led virtuous lives and are admired by many. I initially thought this was going to be mostly a philosophy book, but there is a fair bit of psychology too. I think this the right approach and I was glad to see the topic covered from several disciplines, as it should be but very often isn't. I liked that it had a great emphasis on what being moral is. A large portion was dedicated to the nuances of what truly makes an action morally praiseworthy. We can do the right thing, but for the wrong reasons. He gives 3 main categories: egoistic motivations, dutiful motivations and altruistic motivations. The most memorable part of the book was the emphasis on what a morally good person would do. There are times that we should do a particular action but we are inclined not to. We may end up doing it, but purely for our duty of doing it. He reminds us, however, that if you think about any role model you may have, that person is unlikely to do it for that reason. Their act comes naturally, and they wouldn't have to win an internal struggle. The end of the book deals with actual practices of becoming a better person. I found this well done, particularly the part of role models, as my previous example illustrates. It also deals with moral development in a religious context, and to a degree that I wasn't expecting. Some of it I didn't like, and I predict that it will alienate secular readers. It was too much for the type of book it is and ends up being too superficial in many areas. Nevertheless, I did appreciate some of his insights into religious practice with the lens of moral progress, which emphasizes personal transformation towards virtue, and not so focus on propositional beliefs. If you want to read about character, both from a philosophical and psychological perspective, this is a good read and I'm sure that it will make you think about the topic in novel ways. But the book as a whole doesn't go very deep, and the emphasis that is given to particular topics seems misplaced.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Nick Quenga

    Very blatant virtue ethics from a Judeo-Christian mindset. Used many studies to point out that most people are neither virtuous nor vicious, but somewhere in between with situational factors having a large influence. The studies are little more than anecdotal evidence trying to support the author's narrative, so more studies looking to prove the points further would be useless (see Fooled by Randomness by Taleb). The initial part of the books was a good insight into virtue ethics. It offered a lo Very blatant virtue ethics from a Judeo-Christian mindset. Used many studies to point out that most people are neither virtuous nor vicious, but somewhere in between with situational factors having a large influence. The studies are little more than anecdotal evidence trying to support the author's narrative, so more studies looking to prove the points further would be useless (see Fooled by Randomness by Taleb). The initial part of the books was a good insight into virtue ethics. It offered a long list of commonly held virtues among other cultures. A few of these were delved into for illustrative purposes, those virtues being both consistent in time and situation and for the "right" motivation. It is one good way to look at how to describe good character. The author was overly dismissive of both utilitarianism and rules-based ethics. The conclusion was that divine intervention is the most reliable way to become virtuous. While denigrating nudges toward virtue, the author drew no link between nudges (and their numerous problems) to religious rituals and practices such as tithing (which the author viewed as always good). This is just one example among several. Overall a decent book, if fairly one-dimensional. I would not use it as a foundational book for ethics or character analysis.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Drew

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Christian Miller's The Character Gap deeply dives into the sociology and behavioral science of how humans make moral decisions and ultimately seeks to ask the question: How good are we? His answer, though genuine and supported by science, leaves the audience wanting, saying that most people are not vicious but most people are also not virtuous, thus existing somewhere in the "Character Gap" between how we do behave and how we ought to behave. Miller does, however, describe at length the conditio Christian Miller's The Character Gap deeply dives into the sociology and behavioral science of how humans make moral decisions and ultimately seeks to ask the question: How good are we? His answer, though genuine and supported by science, leaves the audience wanting, saying that most people are not vicious but most people are also not virtuous, thus existing somewhere in the "Character Gap" between how we do behave and how we ought to behave. Miller does, however, describe at length the conditions that tend to make people behave in virtuous and vicious ways, focusing at length on a handful of virtues. Miller concludes by first advocating for more research into the field of research development and also describing ways that we can work to develop virtues. Ultimately, he argues that the religious way (specifically the Christian way) provides the best opportunity for character development, though he also provides plenty of other secular examples. I would love to see Miller describe the ideas of character development in greater detail than he does.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Giorgio

    It is a good book. Lots of studies about "character" are in this book but... (always a but) ... at least, to me, there is nothing new: - There are people with "moral fiber"/Character by default; - There are people without it, by default; - Most of us are simply "normal", acting in a good or bad manner depending of the moment; - We, as beings, tend to "obey" authorities; - We are inclined to follow the rules and the crowd... unless we can do it otherwise, get some profit, and not been caught; - It is po It is a good book. Lots of studies about "character" are in this book but... (always a but) ... at least, to me, there is nothing new: - There are people with "moral fiber"/Character by default; - There are people without it, by default; - Most of us are simply "normal", acting in a good or bad manner depending of the moment; - We, as beings, tend to "obey" authorities; - We are inclined to follow the rules and the crowd... unless we can do it otherwise, get some profit, and not been caught; - It is possible to improve our "character" by following examples, as children learn to behave with their parents, family, etcoetera... In summary: we are who we are until we can be other thing :P Another BIG PROBLEM, at the end, the book transforms itself into christian propaganda... so, I will take another star from my review :D

  18. 4 out of 5

    Melanie Springer Mock

    I was compelled to read this book to work, and was dreading it, worried that the book would be filled with academic mumbo-jumbo. But it was actually accessible and interesting, and I feel challenged to strive toward virtue in my own life, closing the character gap. I do think the author could have extended more compassion to those who are haunted by vices that control their lives, esp. as the development of vices is often because of early life experiences, trauma, etc. And also, his take on the I was compelled to read this book to work, and was dreading it, worried that the book would be filled with academic mumbo-jumbo. But it was actually accessible and interesting, and I feel challenged to strive toward virtue in my own life, closing the character gap. I do think the author could have extended more compassion to those who are haunted by vices that control their lives, esp. as the development of vices is often because of early life experiences, trauma, etc. And also, his take on the Christian understanding of virtue and vice is problematic to me, as a person of faith, since I don't believe in the fall, especially as an explanation for humanity's propensity to sin. At any rate, I'll look forward to discussing this book with colleagues!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Megan Holstein

    The first 2/3 of the book (part 1, developing a philosophical framework for assessing character, and part 2, examining clinical psychology to see if we have good or bad character based on that framework) were very illuminating. As someone trying to develop good character, these sections were excellent. The third section, about how to develop good character, was not so great. I don’t get the impression the author has studied much behavioral intervention techniques. There was also a little too much The first 2/3 of the book (part 1, developing a philosophical framework for assessing character, and part 2, examining clinical psychology to see if we have good or bad character based on that framework) were very illuminating. As someone trying to develop good character, these sections were excellent. The third section, about how to develop good character, was not so great. I don’t get the impression the author has studied much behavioral intervention techniques. There was also a little too much Christian exploration for my taste. I could tell the author himself was Christian, and that took away from my experience of this last section.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    Mr. Miller uses recent psychological literature and research to explain what the notion of character really means in our world today. Additionally, he addresses how we can use this new understanding of character to develop our individual character to be more in sync with the kind of people we want to be. As a student of leadership, I found this book to be interesting and well researched, worth the time investment to read.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    Backed up his opinion with psychological studies. Though the interpretation of the studies is suspect at times. He gives some normative advice backed with rare psychological studies. The best aspect of this book is your change in viewing others' moral failures and successes. No longer do you need to label someone as saint or sinner, we are all a mixed bag that hope to grow towards a saint. This book really could have been 10 pages with footnotes added for the studies. Backed up his opinion with psychological studies. Though the interpretation of the studies is suspect at times. He gives some normative advice backed with rare psychological studies. The best aspect of this book is your change in viewing others' moral failures and successes. No longer do you need to label someone as saint or sinner, we are all a mixed bag that hope to grow towards a saint. This book really could have been 10 pages with footnotes added for the studies.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Pete Zilla

    The answer is - it depends. This wasn't a bad book, I just didn't find it particularly useful. The book gives the reader interesting questions and frameworks by which to assess character and 'goodness' and evidence for the argument that good character makes for better organizations and happier lives. I didn't disagree with anything, but it didn't really dig deep into any questions or propose any interesting solutions. The answer is - it depends. This wasn't a bad book, I just didn't find it particularly useful. The book gives the reader interesting questions and frameworks by which to assess character and 'goodness' and evidence for the argument that good character makes for better organizations and happier lives. I didn't disagree with anything, but it didn't really dig deep into any questions or propose any interesting solutions.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    Maybe I've read too many books that are similar, it was a bad book, but I don't feel like I learned anything new. He makes a case that religious people and atheists should get together to condemn bad behavior. The author spends the last chapter talking about Christianity. He is obviously a Christian and tries to say that what he is saying isn't about one religion but he quotes the bible and lot and turned me off a bit. Maybe I've read too many books that are similar, it was a bad book, but I don't feel like I learned anything new. He makes a case that religious people and atheists should get together to condemn bad behavior. The author spends the last chapter talking about Christianity. He is obviously a Christian and tries to say that what he is saying isn't about one religion but he quotes the bible and lot and turned me off a bit.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Brian Thorson

    This was an interesting way to approach character and morality. The blending of philosophy, scientific research, and common sense with real-world vignettes provided multiple perspectives to each topic. Worthwhile.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Cal Davie

    This book examines what character is and why we should long to develop ours. However, it also shows us that it isn't so easy for one to live by ones values, and suggests ideas for development. Very well written and genuinely motivated me to reflect more on becoming a better person. This book examines what character is and why we should long to develop ours. However, it also shows us that it isn't so easy for one to live by ones values, and suggests ideas for development. Very well written and genuinely motivated me to reflect more on becoming a better person.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Barbie Ferrari

    It's a slog. I can't. It's too not... something. Maybe just the voice reading the audio book. Lots of data, though. Maybe some other time. Thanks, Public Library !! It's a slog. I can't. It's too not... something. Maybe just the voice reading the audio book. Lots of data, though. Maybe some other time. Thanks, Public Library !!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Yondalla

    Using empirical data to argue regarding character. Intended for a general audience.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ársæll Arnarsson

    Nothing new and it has all been said better somewhere else

  29. 5 out of 5

    Chris Boutté

    After finishing Grandstanding: The Use and Abuse of Moral Talk by Justin Tosi and Brandon Warmke, I loved it so much that I asked Justin for some recommendations on similar books, and he recommended this one. I’m so glad he recommended it because it’s now one of my favorite books that covers both moral philosophy and moral psychology. This was actually my second time reading it because Christian Miller is an upcoming guest on my podcast, and it was just as good (if not better) than my first time After finishing Grandstanding: The Use and Abuse of Moral Talk by Justin Tosi and Brandon Warmke, I loved it so much that I asked Justin for some recommendations on similar books, and he recommended this one. I’m so glad he recommended it because it’s now one of my favorite books that covers both moral philosophy and moral psychology. This was actually my second time reading it because Christian Miller is an upcoming guest on my podcast, and it was just as good (if not better) than my first time reading it. Miller has been researching this topic for years, and he has us ask important questions such as, “What does it mean to be good?”, “Do situations influence our morality?”, “How do we live a life with proper values so we can develop a good character?”, and so much more. In this book, you discover the nuances around these questions, and I can’t recommend it enough. Not only does it help the reader cut themselves some slack and discover how we can all become better people, but I think that more importantly, it helps us judge others less harshly. Many of us have a terrible habit of labeling people as “good” or “bad”, but it’s much more complex than that, and I think we’d be a lot better off if people read this book to better understand the topic.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sabrina Little

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