Virtues and Vices in Positive Psychology: A philosophical critique

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In this first book-length philosophical study of positive psychology, Professor Kristjánsson subjects to sustained conceptual and moral scrutiny positive psychology’s recent inroads into virtue theory, harking back to Peterson and Seligman’s 2004 book, Character Strengths and Virtues.
As well as exploring in detail that particular theory and its philosophical assumptions, underpinnings and implications, this book offers an extended critique of positive psychology in general and its most recent incarnation as school-based ‘positive education’ in particular. It analyses the concepts of happiness and moral character in so far as they relate to the virtues; it asks what the notion of moral character has to offer that the concept of personality does it; it gauges the ontological and motivational repercussions of positive psychology’s virtue theory; and inquires if the situation-dependency of behaviour undermines any such theory. Other topics include the relationship between positive experiences/emotions and the virtues in positive psychology, how a virtuous life is compatible with the facticity of moral conflicts and emotional ambivalences, and how the virtues can best be developed and educated.
Throughout, the author employs an interdisciplinary perspective that constructively integrates insights, evidence and considerations from social science and philosophy, in a way that is easily accessible to the general reader. This is a provocative book that should excite anyone interested in cutting-edge research on positive psychology and the virtues that lie at the intersection of psychology, philosophy of mind, moral philosophy, education and, indeed, daily life.


Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages254
ISBN (Print)9781107025202
Publication statusPublished - 2013