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Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification Hardcover – April 8, 2004

ISBN-13: 978-0195167016 ISBN-10: 0195167015 Edition: 1st

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Editorial Reviews


"Essential. Upper-division undergraduates and above, especially those interested in positive psychology." --Choice

"Peterson and Seligman's Character Strengths and Virtues adds a needed balance to the psychological literature. Topics such as character and virtue have too long been only in the domains of moral philosophy and politics. This work provides a needed psychological foundation for studying some of the attributes that are most important to a world that is foundering on the shoals of wars, terrorism, and atrocities. I recommend the book very highly."-Robert J. Sternberg, IBM Professor of Psychology and Education, Yale University; Director, Center for the Psychology of Abilities, Competencies, and Expertise (PACE Center), Yale University; Past President, American Psychological Association

"Peterson and Seligman's endeavor to focus on human strengths and virtues is one of the most important initiatives in psychology of the past half century. I am pleased to have had the opportunity to make a small contribution to this paradigm-changing effort."-Howard Gardner, Hobbs Professor of Education and Cognition, Harvard Graduate School of Education

"The book helps, in other words, with a coherent conversation about human qualities or character. Perhaps it can ultimately help people to remain 'attached to their values' as well."--Family Medicine

About the Author

Christopher Peterson is at University of Michigan. Martin E. P. Seligman is at University of Pennsylvania.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 800 pages
  • Publisher: American Psychological Association / Oxford University Press; 1 edition (April 8, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195167015
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195167016
  • Product Dimensions: 10.2 x 1.6 x 7.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #96,468 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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See all 26 customer reviews
It was VERY useful and provided me with more information than I imagined.
D. Schutt
The author makes a good effort in organizing and classifying virtues and character strengths.
Jack L. Courtney
I am certain that they are still tired from writing the book, so get busy!
John Renner

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

220 of 231 people found the following review helpful By John Renner on September 18, 2004
Format: Hardcover
It sounds like a reference book, but the first 89 pages alone is worth the purchase. Who would have guessed that Confucianists, Taoists, Hindus, Buddhists, Christans, Jews, Greeks, Charlemange, Ben Franklin and The Boy Scouts of America could reach a consensus on the definition of "good character"? Well, no one of course. However, now that all the key characters are history (OK--but it many not be long for the Scouts if they aren't careful), these authors have rather brilliantly assessed the central writings of each source and created a credible structure of 6 key virtues that are made up of a total of 24 subcomponents they call "strengths" that have been recognized across a span of 2500 years and many cultures. They tie this into youth development research, the history of philosophy, evolutionary psychology and a fascinating analysis of the rise and fall and rise again of the concept of "character" in psychology. Then--did you ever want to learn more about the virtue of "Wisdom"--such as its history, the measurement techniques, the research--this is the place to read about it. How about "Justice"? Wow, this is fascinating reading because these psychologists carry everything from history through various disciplines down to measurement. If you dont' think this is new, consider the fact that psychologists have studied "insanity" for years. We can tell you if you are very insane, somewhat insane or have no symptoms. What is the positive half of that dimension? You want yourself and your children and those around you to be far far away from merely lacking symptoms--you want positive mental health. Fascinating topic. You want to read original sources? This book has 117 pages of references. That is about 2000 books and articles.Read more ›
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62 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Brad4d VINE VOICE on September 18, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
-The authors helped found the Positive Psychology movement, which hopes to supplement psychology's current medical model ("find what's wrong, then fix it") with a model for positive health ("find what's right, then encourage it"). Psychological health, which is not just an absence of disease, includes such things as character preparation, improved baseline happiness, realistic optimism, wisdom, and cognitive sophistication. The authors consider character and virtue indispensible for cultivating a good and positive life, and this book pioneers a method for classifying and evaluating them both.

-The authors provide, and then develop, definitions and assumptions to support their scheme. Next, they develop a classification scheme for character and virtue similar to the successful multi-axis Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), which allows psychologists and psychiatrists to diagnose mental conditions in a reasonably productive and consistent manner. Classification helps recognize basic elements, helps understand past performance, and helps standardize and partially quantify a protocol for evaluating data (this may possibly allow character to be evaluated and developed more objectively than we can today, although wise subjective evaluation will still definitely be necessary). Providing a framework for character and virtue is often better than saying "S/he seemed like such a good person," or "well, I just think that candidate's character is better."

-The authors use examples of virtue and character from several different times and cultures for their scheme, and conclude that virtue and character based on an internal quality of mind (rather than external events like popularity or a promotion) can be developed and can lead to a better life.
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49 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on January 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This manual of character strengths and virtues attempts to place the study and improvement of 'Character' at the center of psychological study. Its aim is to focus on positive improvements in ourselves so as to make us happier in our daily lives. Seligman and Peterson are major figures in the whole area of 'Happiness Studies' and shifting the focus of psychological work from negative to positive, from the previous aim of making us somehow tolerably unhappy to one of making us truly happy in our lives.

Their analysis involves a historical cross- cultural study of the various character traits. The central part of the book however is their presenting six major Virtues and the respenctive strengths that are apart of them.

For instance the strengths of the Virtue Courage are Bravery, Persistence, Integrity, Vitality,- The strengfths of the Virtue Humanity are Love, Kindness, Social Intelligence- the strengths of Justice are Citizenship,Fairness, Leadership, - the strengths of Temperance are Forgiveness, Humility, Prudence, Self- Regulation, The Strengths of Transcendence are Appreciation of Beauty, Gratitude, Hope for the Future , Humor , Spirituality, the strengths of Wisdom and Knowledge are Creativity, Curiosity, Open- Mindedness.

Seligman and Peterson aim at providing a guide to professionals in psychology by which they can evaluate their clients and provide them means for improvement. I do not have the professional credentials to evalute the work on this basis.

I can say however that this is a rich and thoughtful work for anyone interested in the whole subject of human character and happiness.
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