Action Reveals Character


It is Schopenhauer’s assertion that we are manifestations of will. Spinoza said the same thing in different words – the essence of man is desire. The will-to-life that manifests in all living creatures is a force in the same way that gravity is a force. It is impersonal, unconscionable and unconscious. So the massive suffering it causes through the generation of billions of competing creatures is of no concern to it whatsoever.

Having said this Schopenhauer then goes on to say that the will manifests differently in every creature, and this is also true of man. The character of a person is primarily the character of the will that manifests through him or her. This is not something we choose, it is something that is determined through genetics and possibly other factors we are less aware of. And so it is very easy to determine the character of a person – we simply observe what they do. Of course, we like to embellish our self-image, but for someone who has understood that action reveals character, there is no hiding. Obviously it is easier to observe others than it is to observe oneself, and that very charming person who always seems to take from people is easily spotted. I say easily spotted, but most people are fooled by charm, and the flattery grabs their attention while the thief steals the goods. It reminds me of the tale of the fox and the crow (the bird that makes the most unpleasant sound of all birds). The fox saw a crow in a tree with a dead mouse in its beak. The fox said he had missed the lovely, sweet sound of the crow’s song. Flattered by this the crow began to squawk, dropped the mouse, and the fox ran off with lunch.

To return to the main point – action reveals character. Ignore words, gestures, promises and anything else that is used as a decoy. Only observe the action. Applying this to oneself requires unusual honesty, but it is a fountain of self-knowledge. The results can be surprising. So one who sees themself as selfish may find they spend a good deal of their time accommodating other people’s needs and desires (not a good thing, by the way). Equally, a person who believes they are industrious may be lazy, upon examination. So it is possible to know what you are – in great detail. Maybe too much detail.

Schopenhauer then goes on to give a brutal assessment of our value in life. We all live for a brief time and then die. Our destruction is life’s verdict on our worth. Again – action reveals character. Life destroys its creatures, so we must assume it does not place any value on individual lives. It does, however, ensure, through the sex drive, that the species continues. The individual is worthless – nature invests in numbers. As such one can only assume that biological weight and diversity is all that matters



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All is nothingness in the world, including my despair, which any man who is wise but also calmer, and I myself certainly at a quieter time, will see as vain, irrational, and imaginary. Wretched me! Even this pain of mine is vain, nothing. - Leopardi

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