What Kind of a Character Do You Think You Are?

Who among us hasn’t sometimes wondered how we “measure up” to others?

Philosopher Christian B. Miller has been asking variations on that question for a while, so it’s fitting that the cover of his new book, The Character Gap: How Good Are We? (Oxford University Press), would include a graphic that looks a little like a measuring stick for gauging character.

At the top of the stick, Gandhi, a man of almost impeccable character. At the bottom, Hitler, a man almost completely devoid of it. Assuming we all fall somewhere between those extremes, what can we learn about our own character from Miller, the A. C. Reid Professor of Philosophy at Wake Forest University and former director of The Character Project?

In the book, Miller addresses the idea that most of us think we’re basically good, honest, trustworthy people. But we’re kidding ourselves. We all have serious character flaws that most of us don’t even recognize in ourselves. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you or I are bad people, but just indicates that there’s a “character gap” between how good we think we are, and how good we really are.

“The pressing question thus emerges—how can we become better people?” Miller writes. “What can we do so that gradually over time our children, our friends, and we ourselves are close to being virtuous than we are now?

“How, in other words, can we bridge the character gap?”

Miller attempts to answer that question—not just theoretically but with practical advice and strategies—in the final third of the book. He suggests both secular and religious strategies for character-building.

“I do not have all the answers,” Miller writes. “I just have some ideas that I hope will be interesting an important to discuss.”

The Wall Street Journal reviews Miller’s book, and a former student gives it a hearty thumbs-up.

Meanwhile, Miller has been busy writing companion pieces to coincide with the release of his book:

Read how Miller got interested in this field of study in the first place, and listen to him discuss his book and research in these two recent radio interviews.

Managing Editor, ORBITER magazine