An anthropological examination of virtues and character strengths and wellbeing: Imagining a good life in professional training

Christian R. Bellehumeur, Cynthia Bilodeau, Winnie Yeung

Abstract


Since its inception, there has been a rapid growth in the number of studies on Peterson and Seligman’s (2004) classification of Positive Psychology’s (PP) strengths and virtues, linking them to wellbeing (Brdar & Kashdan, 2010). However, some authors have criticized this approach (Schwartz & Sharpe, 2006), arguing that this classification does not integrate a complete understanding of the Aristotelian virtue of practical wisdom. Building on this critique, the article aims to apply the theoretical framework of Gilbert Durand’s Anthropological Structures of the Imaginary (ASI) in order to provide a nuanced approach to understanding Positive Psychology’s concepts of strengths and virtues. We suggest that this approach will contribute to enhancing the implications of these concepts for the practice of supervision and psychotherapy. In the first section, we explore the notion of virtue from the Positive Psychology perspective and contrast it with the Aristotelian perspective. The comparison of these two perspectives lead to a rationale for proposing Durand’s ASI theory for greater understanding of the complexities inherent to the notion of virtues and their associated character strengths and their role in fostering a good life. In the second section, we briefly present an overview of Durand’s ASI theory. In the third section, we further demonstrate the links between the two theoretical frameworks (i.e., Durand’s ASI and PP’s strengths and virtues), by providing applications of the relevance of ASI to both Peterson and Seligman’s (2004) six virtues and 24 character strengths. Lastly, a case conceptualization is presented to articulate the clinical implications of this proposed approach.


Keywords


Virtues, character strengths, wellbeing, practical wisdom, Aristotle, anthropological structures of imaginary

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5502/ijw.v7i3.642

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