Character and the Conduct of Life: Practical Psychology for Everyman

By William McDougall | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
Other Factors of Human Nature

TEMPERAMENT AND TEMPER

TEMPERAMENT, like disposition, with which in common speech it is hopelessly confused, is in the main inborn. It also is subject to modification in the course of life; in respect of it also individuals differ widely, and there are inborn temperaments that are wholly happy or fortunate and others which, if it were possible, we would like to modify. As with disposition, it is the extremer forms of temperament that are apt to give trouble and which would be improved by being brought nearer to the happy mean.

What, then, is temperament? We may broadly define it as the resultant of all the chemical influences of the body upon our mental life. That definition implies, of course, a theory of temperament; but one which is pretty well founded. The theory is as old as science, for it comes down to us from the ancient Greeks; but it is only in very recent years that vague speculation on the problem has begun to give way to knowledge. We are only at the beginning of such knowledge; yet a few points are well

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