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Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification

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"Character" has become a front-and-center topic in contemporary discourse, but this term does not have a fixed meaning. Character may be simply defined by what someone does not do, but a more active and thorough definition is necessary, one that addresses certain vital questions. Is character a singular characteristic of an individual, or is it composed of different aspects? Does character--however we define it--exist in degrees, or is it simply something one happens to have? How can character be developed? Can it be learned? Relatedly, can it be taught, and who might be the most effective teacher? What roles are played by family, schools, the media, religion, and the larger culture? This groundbreaking handbook of character strengths and virtues is the first progress report from a prestigious group of researchers who have undertaken the systematic classification and measurement of widely valued positive traits. They approach good character in terms of separate
strengths-authenticity, persistence, kindness, gratitude, hope, humor, and so on-each of which exists in degrees.

Character Strengths and Virtues classifies twenty-four specific strengths under six broad virtues that consistently emerge across history and wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence. Each strength is thoroughly examined in its own chapter, with special attention to its meaning, explanation, measurement, causes, correlates, consequences, and development across the life span, as well as to strategies for its deliberate cultivation. This book demands the attention of anyone interested in psychology and what it can teach about the good life.

800 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2004

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About the author

Christopher Peterson

65 books21 followers
Christopher Peterson is visiting assistant professor of literature at Claremont McKenna College.

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5 stars
163 (46%)
4 stars
120 (34%)
3 stars
49 (14%)
2 stars
14 (4%)
1 star
1 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 21 of 21 reviews
Profile Image for Billie Pritchett.
1,087 reviews87 followers
June 29, 2016
Christopher Peterson's and Martin Seligman's Character Strengths and Virtues (CSV) is supposed to be the "positive" antidote to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, more popularly known as the DSM, now in its fifth incarnation DSM-5. Whereas the DSM-5 is a catalog of all the mental problems a person could be said to have, the CSV is supposed to be a catalog of all the mental strengths a person could be said to have. The CSV is part of a larger effort to get people not only to overcome their disorders but to understand and better realize their strengths and therefore their potential as human beings.

To give you an example for how this would work, Readers are asked to go to AuthenticHappiness.org, sign up (it's free), take this very long survey called the "VIA Survey of Character Strengths," and then read what their top five strengths are. After that, they can read about those strengths in this book, the CSV and find better ways to make use of those strengths in their daily lives. My top strengths, for instance, are "love of learning," "curiosity," "creativity," "humor," and "open-mindedness." I am also a teacher. Here is a simple way I can integrate these strengths into my teaching. I can learn about the subject I teach as much as possible through study ("love of learning"), I can discover new things about my students through asking questions and allowing exercises where students open up ("curiosity"), I can research news methods for teaching more effectively ("creativity"), I can make fun of myself and my blunders, and general incongruities in life and work and so on, as they come up in the classroom ("humor"), and I can be receptive and understanding to my students and their expression, giving them first the benefit of the doubt ("open-mindedness"). It is also, of course, possible for me to integrate these strengths into my relationships and into my play.

Readers of this book are also encouraged, after they have better incorporated their natural strengths into their lives, to cultivate another strength. For example, I could do more to increase "Kindness/Generosity" as a strength, by displaying kindness in various situations to students and colleagues. And of course in other areas of life.

I highly recommend the book.
Profile Image for Surya Vamshi.
32 reviews
September 22, 2018
This book is all about the classification of the human character strengths and how they got evolved from different regions and cultures. There is lot of emphasis on the classification and less on deliberate cultivation.
Profile Image for Kate Coleman.
16 reviews
February 21, 2017
Martin Seligman's work on Positive Psychology inspired a whole new way of thinking about mental health and recovery. There's still a lot of work to do to bring this new approach to everyday mental health practice, but the tools we need are right there. I'll keep fighting the fight until professionals focus on strengths instead of deficits and we move to an empowering, compassionate understanding of mental health challenges that supports people to flourish, no matter what 'diagnosis' they may have been given.
2,141 reviews
March 22, 2013
Christopher Peterson AND Martin Seligman not able to check out from Wili

Table of Contents

Contributors xiii


Introduction to a ``Manual of the Sanities''
3 (30)

Universal Virtues?---Lessons From History
33 (20)

Previous Classifications of Character Strengths
53 (56)



93 (16)

Creativity [Originality, Ingenuity]
109 (16)

Curiosity [Interest, Novelty-Seeking, Openness to Experience]
125 (18)

Open-Mindedness [Judgment, Critical Thinking]
143 (18)

Love of Learning
161 (20)

Perspective [Wisdom]
181 (32)

Strengths of COURAGE

197 (16)

Bravery [Valor]
213 (16)

Persistence [Perseverance, Industriousness]
229 (20)

Integrity [Authenticity, Honesty]
249 (24)

Vitality [Zest, Enthusiasm, Vigor, Energy]
273 (30)

Strengths of HUMANITY

291 (12)

303 (22)

Kindness [Generosity, Nurturance, Care, Compassion, Altruistic Love, ``Niceness'']
325 (12)

Social Intelligence [Emotional Intelligence, Personal Intelligence]
337 (32)

Strengths of JUSTICE

355 (14)

Citizenship [Social Responsibility, Loyalty, Teamwork]
369 (22)

391 (22)

413 (32)

Strengths of TEMPERANCE

429 (16)

Forgiveness and Mercy
445 (16)

Humility and Modesty
461 (16)

477 (22)

Self-Regulation [Self-Control]
499 (38)


517 (20)

Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence [Awe, Wonder, Elevation]
537 (16)

553 (16)

Hope [Optimism, Future-Mindedness, Future Orientation]
569 (14)

Humor [Playfulness]
583 (16)

Spirituality [Religiousness, Faith, Purpose]
599 (26)


Assessment and Applications
625 (20)
References 645 (118)
Index of Names 763 (26)
Subject Index 789

Profile Image for Diogenes.
477 reviews
January 26, 2014
This heavy (I'm guessing 3 pounds) and comprehensive tome is a beautiful encyclopedia of human strengths and virtues across all cultures and major philosophic/ religious tenets, and an excellent reference for those in counseling, education, and maybe many more professional fields.
Profile Image for Tim.
179 reviews10 followers
February 3, 2015
Extremely thorough and well researched. Though it does discuss how to cultivate the various strengths and virtues, it barely does so. That was my primary purpose for reading the book. Still, it can serve as a nice reference guide.
March 26, 2023
Aunque extenso, es una guía genial sobre psicología positiva. Un gran paso en el desarrollo de la disciplina reconociendo científicamente los planteamientos que datan de más de 60 años de Norman Vincent Peale sobre el pensamiento positivo. Igualmente da muchísimas ideas para áreas de investigación en cada una de las fortalezas positivas.
Profile Image for Bigjingjing.
3 reviews11 followers
May 22, 2018
Very useful in assisting me to identify my strengths and weaknesses as well. Also, it is a good reading within a framework to consider self-improvement and sustain children's psychological developments in different ages slot.
Profile Image for Daniel Seifert.
189 reviews14 followers
January 7, 2015
Finally, a handbook and classification of positive attributes (strengths, virtues) from years of work and research in "positive" psychology that capture the human being in a living, dynamic tension between inherent brokenness and a capacity to flourish. Practitioners have had to work too long with just the DSM-IV (now V) as a primary set of "labels" to describe our clients while having to advocate for their strengths among the naysayers surrounding client cases. Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification is founded on ancient roots of virtue ethics, an array of universal virtues that cross religious traditions, and growing research and evidence-based practices which have evolved from positive psychology; e.g., developmental schemas, resilience factors, strengths-based perspective.

This text will now be a primary source at my disposal to support engagement with clients, exploration among clients and to help clients identify their signature strengths by which to grow, work at change, and to flourish when many around them are stuck in the mud, wagging their heads in apathy.
Profile Image for Tim Gannon.
211 reviews
August 26, 2012
It is from the American Psychological Association - from positive psychology researchers - whose aim is for all to evolve to their highest potential - it is all about character - it posits that there are 24 universal virtues - it looks at numerous fields of study all the way back to Plato to discuss these virtues, it talks about what assessment tools are available for each of them - gender and cultural differences - historical changes in how they are viewed - etc - I thought it was very inclusive of what is known on the subject and I thought the authors did a superior job in conveying it to the reader - I found it quite wonderful - hoping to go back now and see how to work on each of them so I can continue to evolve - also am hoping, it will be useful information that I can use with my patients
22 reviews
June 21, 2020
This is a great first attempt at acknowledging the pervasiveness of various virtues across the predominant cultures of thought in the world, while not necessarily equating them all in terms of quality and importance. It's clear that it's a work in progress though, as the virtues towards the beginning of the book are very well-described in terms of examples and qualifications, and virtues towards the end, especially the ones interesting to me relating to transcendence, are given a much more curt treatment. I look forward to the future when those ideas are fleshed out a bit more.
Profile Image for Liz Busby.
834 reviews21 followers
February 24, 2013
Read several of the introductions and then skimmed the rest. I wish I had the time to read the whole thing--in spite of all the scholarly language, the subject matter and the clearly thorough and fair thought put into it makes it totally worth it. Very interesting. I will have to get back to this.
Profile Image for Jesse D.
9 reviews5 followers
July 4, 2016
A science-based catalogue of virtues, what humanity has learned about them, and what the virtues look like in action. The closest thing I have to a bible.

If you're into science and ethics, this is a must skim.
Profile Image for Jeff Lampson.
77 reviews4 followers
January 22, 2016
I am impassioned with the individual, team and societal implications for living a strength based and virtuous life. This work has begun building the foundation for helping us move from knowing of virtue to living our character strengths and virtues.

An exceptional practioners guide.
Profile Image for Teri Temme.
Author 1 book54 followers
February 21, 2016
I LOVED this book! I love studying about personal strengths and this volume gives all you could ever want and more. So happy they took the time to compile it. Very interesting. Entertaining and illuminating.
61 reviews
November 26, 2015
A dictionary of good traits. Now you have broadened your vocabulary of good traits, you see it in others and also wish to develop some yourself.
Displaying 1 - 21 of 21 reviews

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