Ayn Rand on Character

“Character” means a man’s nature or identity insofar as this is shaped by the moral values he accepts and automatizes. By “moral values” I mean values which are volitionally chosen, and which are fundamental, i.e., shape the whole course of a man’s action, not merely a specialized, delimited area of his life . . . . So a man’s character is, in effect, his moral essence—his self-made identity as expressed in the principles he lives by.

Just as man’s physical survival depends on his own effort, so does his psychological survival. Man faces two corollary, interdependent fields of action in which a constant exercise of choice and a constant creative process are demanded of him: the world around him and his own soul (by “soul,” I mean his consciousness). Just as he has to produce the material values he needs to sustain his life, so he has to acquire the values of character that enable him to sustain it and that make his life worth living. He is born without the knowledge of either. He has to discover both—and translate them into reality—and survive by shaping the world and himself in the image of his values.

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