What is your character?
I colleague at work once asked me if I'm an honest person.
I replied yes.
To which he replied a hypothetical.
What if I was held at gunpoint and a lie could could free.
I replied that I would lie.
He then replied, we are all as honest as we can be in the situation.
Writing this, I am reminded of another commentary you have probably heard.
Man: "Would you sleep with me for a million dollars?".
Woman: "Why, sure!"
Man: "Would you sleep with me for twenty bucks?"
Woman: "Hell, no, what kind of woman do you think I am!?"
Man: "We're already established you're a whore. We're just negotiating the price"
Philosophy ExtremeBoth of these situations approach character from an extreme point of view. It's common in philosophy to pose these kinds of questions that seem to have merit, but really don't. It attempts to plant the seed that there is no morality. If you're willing to compromise your morality at the extremes, then your morality in the norm isn't really there.
In truth, it is something to keep in mind. I'm not murderer, but were I placed in the middle of a civil war in the Congo, maybe I would become a killer? Who knows? Yet, the reality is that I am in relatively safe Western country where I have not crossed this moral line. Others have.
Who are you?I think as the image says, you are what you choose to do everyday. In my view, it is not very useful to talk about extreme situations you have never been in. Simply put, exposure to those situations will change you. They will define you. If you're not exposed to them, you cannot consider them.
There is such thing as the static persona or a static soul that encounters the world. Your persona and soul change as you encounter life.
In a way, your morality as differs from someone else lies in your choices in the cases you have been exposed to.
For example, if two people are both born into poverty.
One chooses to do hard manual labor.
Another chooses to steal.
Those are their choices that they have made and it is their character.
Now can you say that people who do not steal are 'better' than the poor person who chooses to steal? I don't think you can as they have not been exposed to that level of poverty. It really depends on who you are comparing.
Consider middle class people with good jobs who are not thieves.
If they suddenly fell into poverty, some would maintain their middle class non-thieving morality.
Others would steal. Their morality and who they are would change as they gain exposure to the life of poverty. It is what makes it very difficult to compare the morality of those in different situations. One can attempt it in the abstract. Perhaps a poor person stealing is the same as a middle class person scheming on their taxes. That's just an example of a possible comparison. I'm not equivocating the two.
Moral ComparisonI think the best way to analyze morality is to do in a relative situation. Consider the average person around you in your kind of situation and how your actions compare to them.
Now, this doesn't change the morality of the action. Stealing is still stealing. Lying is still lying. Murder is still murder. They are all still wrong and immoral. Yet, it would be wise to clam or enrage your reaction to a person's action based on comparable actions of those in similar situations.