Character Strengths and Virtues

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
The authors identify who they think are role models for each virtue, including Martin Luther King, Jr. for "hope".

The Character Strengths and Virtues (CSV) handbook of human strengths and virtues, by Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman, represents the first attempt on the part of the research community to identify and classify the positive psychological traits of human beings.[1] In the same way that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is used to assess and facilitate research on mental disorders, the CSV - first published in 2004 - is intended to provide a theoretical framework to assist in developing practical applications for positive psychology.[1] The CSV identifies six classes of virtue (i.e., "core virtues"), made up of twenty-four measurable character strengths.

The strengths and virtues[edit]

CSV defined character strengths as satisfying most of the ten following criteria. Character strengths are

  1. fulfilling;
  2. intrinsically valuable, in an ethical sense (gifts, skills, aptitudes, and expertise can be squandered, but character strengths and virtues cannot);
  3. non-rivalrous;
  4. not the opposite of a desirable trait (a counterexample is steadfast and flexible, which are opposites but are both commonly seen as desirable);
  5. trait-like (habitual patterns that are relatively stable over time);
  6. not a combination of the other character strengths in the CSV;
  7. personified (at least in the popular imagination) by people made famous through story, song, etc.;
  8. observable in child prodigies (though this criterion is not applicable to all character strengths);
  9. absent in some individuals;
  10. and nurtured by societal norms and institutions.

The introduction of CSV suggests that these six virtues are considered good by the vast majority of cultures and throughout history and that these traits lead to increased happiness when practiced. Notwithstanding numerous cautions and caveats, this suggestion of universality hints that in addition to trying to broaden the scope of psychological research to include mental wellness, the leaders of the positive psychology movement are challenging moral relativism and suggesting that virtue has a biological basis.[1] These arguments are in line with the Science of morality.

Each of the twenty-four character traits is defined behaviorally, with psychometric evidence demonstrating that it can be reliably measured. The book shows that "empirically minded humanists can measure character strengths and virtues in a rigorous scientific manner."[2]

The authors draw from the writings of various thinkers. For example, Socrates' developing the notion of "bravery" from a virtue during warfare, towards general matters of social conscience.

Practical applications of positive psychology include helping individuals and organizations correctly identify their strengths and use them to increase and sustain their respective levels of well-being. Each trait "provides one of many alternative paths to virtue and well-being."[2] Therapists, counselors, coaches, and various other psychological professionals can use the new methods and techniques to build and broaden the lives of individuals who are not necessarily suffering from mental illness or disorder.

Finally, other researchers have advocated grouping the 24 identified character traits into just four classes of strength (Intellectual, Social, Temperance, Transcendent) or even just three classes (without Transcendence). This, not just because it is easier to remember, but rather because there is evidence that these do an adequate job of capturing the components of the 24 original traits.[3]

List from the book[edit]

The organization of these virtues and strengths in the book is as follows.[1]

Relation to virtue ethics[edit]

The virtues presented to some extent mirror the cardinal virtues and theological virtues of Aristotle and Aquinas: hope, faith, charity, prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance, and their respective parts.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Peterson, Christopher; Seligman, Martin E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-516701-5. 
  2. ^ a b Cloninger, C. Robert (2005). "Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification". American Journal of Psychiatry (American Psychiatric Association) 162 (162): 820–821. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.162.4.820-a. Retrieved 2007-04-05. 
  3. ^ Jessica Shryack, Michael F. Steger, Robert F. Krueger, Christopher S. Kallie. 2010. The structure of virtue: An empirical investigation of the dimensionality of the virtues in action inventory of strengths. Elsevier.
  4. ^ Peterson, Christopher; Seligman, Martin E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 106. ISBN 0-19-516701-5. 
  5. ^ a b Peterson, Christopher; Seligman, Martin E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 185. ISBN 0-19-516701-5. 

External links[edit]