The politics of virtue: An Aristotelian-Thomistic engagement with the VIA classification of character strengths
© 2016 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. The VIA Classification of Character Strengths is often presented as cross-culturally valid, but this is methodologically and philosophically ungrounded: the VIA Classification rather reflects the particular political and moral commitments of the workgroups from which it emerged. Attention to virtue theory reveals, in fact, that all virtue classifications privilege particular political communities and their normative commitments. For Aristotle, for example, as for Augustine and Thomas Aquinas after him, virtues are habits which enable the flourishing of political community (polis), and any classification of virtue reflects the needs and aspirations of the polis it serves. Seen in this way, the virtues of the VIA Classification privilege and promote modern liberal democracy; as such, they are useful and sometimes cross-cultural, but not universal. Future positive psychology research must be transparent about its prescriptive moral commitments and attentive to methods that privilege close attention to the cultural and moral contexts of virtue formation.
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