Character and the Conduct of Life: Practical Psychology for Everyman

By William McDougall | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER X
Qualities of Conduct and of Personality

THE inadequacy of our thinking about personality and its qualities is revealed in the poverty and vagueness and confusion of the language we use in conversation about our friends and acquaintances. The man of average education too often contents himself with the use of some half-dozen vague highly general terms. When he likes a man, he describes him as "a good sort" or "not half a bad fellow" or "a regular guy"; the man he dislikes he calls "a poor stick" or "a bad egg" or "a regular rotter"; and those terms represent the limits of his moral discriminations. For it cannot be too clearly understood that in this matter we are dependent upon language. The moral qualities are abstractions; and we can think of them, can conceive them clearly, only by the aid of language; we need a name for each quality that we would distinguish, appreciate, or place in the scale of values.

The language of every civilized people contains a multitude of such names; but even men of letters, whose business it is to use these names with some precision and dis

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