Character Strengths and Virtues
Author: Christopher Peterson and
Martin E P Seligman
THE CO-AUTHOR of this book, Martin Seligman is the psychologist who wrote Learned Optimism, The Optimistic Child and Authentic Happiness. He is also the co-founder of the positive psychology movement.
For the last century psychology has been almost purely focused on problem states of mind, recorded in the Diagnostic and Statisical Manual, now in its 4th edition, and containing nearly 1000 pages of classifications of psychological disorders.
With this book, Seligman et al strive to introduce some balance into the field by studying what goes right with people, rather than what goes wrong.
24 character strengths are organised into 6 groups - Wisdom and knowledge, courage, humanity, justice, temperance and transcendance. The research methodology is described, and reasons given for the choices and grouping of strengths. The aim of the book is to provide a standard nomenclature that can be adopted by the new science.
Seligman's team have been careful not to create a purely 21st-century, western classification by drawing on a variety of texts from religion, philosophy and psychology.
By turning our thoughts to what makes people work well, Seligman has provided a powerful new resource for all types of solution-focused psychotherapy and will hopefully encourage new researchers and more funding into the field.
Being a professional text (and perhaps the core reading material for many degree classes to come) this is far from a light read, yet it is nonetheless refreshing to read a serious psychology book full of words such as “courage”, “leadership” and “fairness” rather than “depression”, “anxiety” and “anger”.
I for one hope that this monumental work becomes the foundation stone upon which a new, more hopeful and potentially more useful wing of psychological study can be built.
Review by Roger Elliott
Also by Martin Seligman: Authentic Happiness