Virtue in Positive Psychology

Liz Gulliford

Abstract: The methodological approach used by Browning and Cooper in Religious Thought and the Modern Psychologies (2004) is applied to positive psychology, with special reference to Martin Seligman, and is found to have affinities with both humanistic psychology and the cognitive therapies. The humanistic concept of self-actualisation resonates with Seligman’s understanding of signature strengths, while there are echoes of the Stoic self of the cognitive therapies in positive psychology. Both fields have left their different marks on the way character strengths and virtues have been understood in positive psychology. For one thing, understanding human excellences primarily as individual capacities occludes the fact that many virtues are profoundly relational; they are conceived, practised and sustained in relation to other agents and exercised in the service of our common human life. For another, there is much more to forgiveness, gratitude and hope than a means of effecting emotional repair.

Keywords: Virtue, Character strengths, Positive Psychology, Don Browning, Terry Cooper, Martin Seligman.