Tag Archives: positive psychology

A virtuous life

How does one lead a life of virtue, or what Seligman calls the “good life”?

Positive psychologists distinguish between six virtues. These are wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence. The virtuous person, then, must be wise; courageous; humane; just; temperate; and/or transcendent.

What does each of the six virtues consist of? Each virtue is further divided into 24 character strengths. Being virtuous thus means having a strong character.

Building strength of character–while requisite for cultivating virtue–may be more diverse and nuanced!

Good and pleasant lives

Seligman equated the good life with the life of virtue. The pleasant life is happy in the normal, “Hollywood” sense.

How do the good, pleasant, and meaningful lives lead to ultimate well-being?

Positive psychology recognizes the PERMA model of well-being. PERMA is broken down into positive emotion (P), engagement (E), relationships (R), meaning (M), and achievement (A).

The pleasant life consists in a lot of positive emotion, P. Where does this leave the good life of virtue?

Curiosity vs. Adam’s apple

In positive psychology, curiosity is one of 24 “character strengths”. Curiosity is here considered a strength within the higher virtue of wisdom. Being curious, a data scientist might argue, leads one to knowledge: and knowledge is the penultimate step leading to wisdom.

In the Biblical story of Adam and Eve, Adam bites the forbidden apple. This leads to his estrangement by God from the Garden of Eden. The apple contains knowledge, but was Adam wise to bite into it?

It seems difficult to argue that Adam was wise in biting the apple. One may say that he was curious–hungry for knowledge–but that failing to heed God’s warning against eating the fruit was patently foolish. Thus, while wisdom (“Sophia” in Latin) is an admirable goal of human striving, one must be mindful of the means employed to attain it.