Can Technology Undermine Character?

by Fabio Tollon

What is “character”? In general, we might say that the character of something is what distinguishes it from other things. Sedimentary rocks have a certain “character” that distinguishes them from igneous rocks, for example. Rocks, however, do not have personality (so far as I can tell). Human beings have personality, and it is thought that there is some connection between personality and character, but my interest does not lie in how exactly this relation works, as here I will be concerned with character specifically. To that end, we might specify that character is a collection of properties that distinguishes one individual person from another. When we say “she is wise” we are saying something about her personality, but we are also judging her character: we are, in effect, claiming that we admire her, due to some feature of her character. There could be myriad reasons for this. Perhaps she takes a keen interest in the world around her, has well-formed beliefs, reads many books, etc. In the case where she indeed displays the virtues associated with being wise, we would say that our assessment of her character is fitting, that is, such an assessment correctly identifies the kinds of things she stands for and values. The question I want to consider is whether the value laden nature of technology undermines our ability to make such character assessments. Read more »