21 January 2024

Does personality change over time?

Does personality change over time?


Topic by James

Notes by Lawrence


We know that experience is a valuable educator. And experience happens over time.


We might qualify experience in two ways: personal experience and the experience of others. It is reasonable to argue that we learn more from the experiences of others for example though education, family or society. However, there is an important difference between these two types of experiences.


Personal experiences involve our situational circumstances that include our thinking process, our emotions, past experiences and our decision making processes. When we get to know about the experiences of others, we are usually presented with a narrative of what happened to that person.


Of course, authors of literature, especially fiction literature, use language to create that emotional awareness in the narrative. However, factual type of experiences, such as history, technology, science, you get the idea, is usually devoid of emotions. This is certainly because in our society at least, we value facts over emotional feelings. Having said that, some scientific papers can be quite entertaining if you know the language of that science.


An example of a scientific paper that is quite emotional and interesting is the paper by Francis Crick and James D. Watson “Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids: A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid” published in Nature (pdf file here: https://dosequis.colorado.edu/Courses/MethodsLogic/papers/WatsonCrick1953.pdf).


My argument is that knowledge and information are part of what makes our personality or character. It is worth pointing out that when we act as a rational conscious being, we recall these experiences, knowledge and information in our deliberation when inter acting with others. For example, we might read an authoritative article on dinning etiquette before our high society dinner with the royals or president.


We might also take the initiative to gain new experiences or to acquire new knowledge. But this involves a certain type of personality such as motivation and curiosity that might not be part of the stock of behaviours of some people. Some people might have a personality of an angler; they wait for the prey to reach them, whereas others are hunters they go out in search of their prey.


Depending on our social circumstances, we learn new experiences and new behaviours to fit within our circle in society. At this level of personal circumstances, we do change our personality. But our attitude towards other people might also change depending on our experience of other people.


Unfortunately, there is also another cause when our personality changes over time. Physical or medical changes to our body that might affect how we behave in general and with other people in particular. We are all familiar with all the various diseases that can change our character over time; and I am not just talking about having a bad cold over the weekend. This is an affliction that we have to endure as biological beings.


From a philosophical perspective, we might ask ourselves whether we have a moral duty to discover why some people change especially when we perceive the change to be abrupt and maybe uncharacteristic of that person. And what if a person changes so much that they become a danger to others or themselves: what ought we to do in this situation? At the social level, what if a person changes so much that they become intolerable and obnoxious?


There is no doubt that we do change over time, but what concerns us most is the kind of change that happens to people.


Best and take care





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