#54 – Test the character (Ηθος δοκιμαζε)

This Maxim is more than just about someone’s ‘character’; it is about their entire ethos. We are to look at a person’s ethical behavior to make judgments about whether we wish to associate with them. An ethic is defined as: “a complex of moral precepts held or rules of conduct followed by an individual or society”. In some ways the Delphic Maxims are a good example of the ethic of the Classical Greek world and can also form a basis for individual conduct in the modern world.

What we are to do when dealing with each other is to test (or discover) if the ethic each of us has is mutually compatible. It would be at this point that we would determine if we can overlook the points of difference or not. Usually it is easier to do this if people are from the same cultural background as the basis for the personal ethic is usually the same. Of course, there are some ethical principles that transcend culture, such as: do not steal, do not lie, work hard and be kind to others. These principles are found in all cultures around the world and can be said to be part of a global ethic, but how they are expressed can be the cause of differences between people.

We must do more, however, than merely test other people’s characters. We must also continually test our own ethos to ensure that WE are also ethical in a positive way. This I feel is truly the heart of this Maxim as applied to ourselves first and then to others in the way that all the Maxims seem to be.

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