I was reading a book talking about who should qualify for military medals and came across these sentences:

  1. "To determine who deserves a military medal, we have to assess competing conceptions of character and sacrifice."

  2. "Post-traumatic stress reflects a weakness of character unworthy of honor"

  3. "At the heart of the disagreement are rival conceptions of moral character and military valor."

I was not so sure about the meaning of the word "character" in each of the sentences. Are all 1, 2, 3 sentences used it to mean "personal traits or personality"? Or does the word character has another meaning that I haven't thought of?

Especially in sentence3), it does not sound right (at least for me..) if I say "rival conceptions of moral personality and military valor."

Thanks in advance for your help! :)

  • 1
    In 3 "traits" would be a better paraphrase than "personality".
    – Peter
    Sep 5, 2020 at 3:48
  • ... or '[rival conceptions of] those aspects of character involving moral standing[, and military ...]. You can see why the author left a few words out. Sep 5, 2020 at 14:00

1 Answer 1

  1. We might be balancing the sacrifice that was made against the nature of the person. Were they a timid person who made a sacrifice to benefit comrades, we are looking at bravery and valor; were they an impetuous fool who put illusions of personal glory before the safety of comrades, we are looking at mere recklessness.

  2. "Character" often includes the quality of being determined and able to deal with difficult situations. From this viewpoint, some might argue that (regardless of the good reasons for it) post-traumatic stress detracts from this aspect of character.

  3. This is related to 1. Recklessness does not equate to military valor. Bravery does.

With these comments in mind, I see no need to change the word in any of the three statements. I suggest that 1. and 3. use character in the same way. 2. qualifies the word by adding a focus on the particular aspects of determination and dealing with difficulty, but this does not seem to merit a change of word.

Others may see this differently and I look forward to their alternatives.

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