Monday, April 27, 2009

Positive Character Traits

The ongoing degradation of American culture is frequently characterized as a beneficial assault on Christian dogma and its perceived chokehold on both government and culture. Those who struggle against that consistently champion opposite characteristics, pursuits and dogmas in a seemingly knee-jerk negative reaction, as if they are magnetically polarized so as to be vigorously repelled.

But if one examines the character traits that are undeniably positive without any reference to any religion however remote, one finds that the culturally radicalized consistently champion negative traits in pursuit of goals which they imbue with relativist moral overtones.

There has been actual psychological study of those characteristics that are positive, without regard to religious or relativist dogmas or stigmas. The study cited here was done as a counterbalance to the usual studies of “what’s wrong” types of characteristics, i.e. mental disturbances or aberrations.

The list of positive traits, preceded by the list of criteria, in full:

The Criteria What qualifies as a personal character strength, and how do you know if one is really yours? The researchers discuss many aspects of their methods and those of scientific psychology in the past. In A Primer in Positive Psychology (2007), Peterson explains:

I believe that people possess signature strengths akin to what Allport (1961) identified decades ago as personal traits. These are strengths of character that a person owns, celebrates, and frequently exercises. In our interviews with adults, we find that almost everyone can readily identify a handful of strengths as very much their own, typically between two and five.

Peterson goes on to present a list they used in 2004 summarizing their "possible criteria for signature strengths":

*a sense of ownership and authenticity ("this is the real me") vis-a-vis the strength

*a feeling of excitement while displaying it, particularly at first

*a rapid learning curve as themes are attached to the strength and practiced continuous learning of new ways to enact the strength

*a sense of yearning to act in accordance with the strength

*a feeling of inevitability in using the strength, as if one cannot be stopped or dissuaded from its display

*the discovery of the strength as owned in an epiphany

*invigoration rather than exhaustion when using the strength

*the creation and pursuit of fundamental projects that revolve around the strength intrinsic motivation to use the strength
The list of personal character strengths is not set in stone. Like other scientific theories it is subject to change as evidence is evaluated over time. Here are the 24 strengths of character at present, grouped in 6 categories of virtues:

The List

Strengths of Wisdom and Knowledge: Cognitive strengths that entail the acquisition and use of knowledge

1. Creativity [originality, ingenuity]: Thinking of novel and productive ways to conceptualize and do things.

2. Curiosity [interest, novelty-seeking, openness to experience]: Taking an interest in ongoing experience for its own sake; exploring and discovering.

3. Open-mindedness [judgment, critical thinking]: Thinking things through and examining them from all sides; weighing all evidence fairly.
[ed. note: I think this should have been labelled "rationality"].

4. Love of learning: Mastering new skills, topics, and bodies of knowledge, whether on one's own or formally.

5. Perspective [wisdom]: Being able to provide wise counsel to others; having ways of looking at the world that make sense to oneself and to other people.

Strengths of Courage: Emotional strengths that involve the exercise of will to accomplish goals in the face of opposition, external and internal

6. Bravery [valor]: Not shrinking from threat, challenge, difficulty, or pain; acting on convictions even if unpopular
7. Persistence [perseverance, industriousness]: Finishing what one starts; persisting in a course of action in spite of obstacles
8. Integrity [authenticity, honesty]: Presenting oneself in a genuine way; taking responsibility for one's feeling and actions.

9. Vitality [zest, enthusiasm, vigor, energy]: Approaching life with excitement and energy; feeling alive and activated.

Strengths of Humanity: interpersonal strengths that involve tending and befriending others

10. Love: Valuing close relations with others, in particular those in which sharing and caring are reciprocated.

11. Kindness [generosity, nurturance, care, compassion, altruistic love, "niceness"]: Doing favors and good deeds for others.

12. Social intelligence [emotional intelligence, personal intelligence]: Being aware of the motives and feelings of other people and oneself.
Strengths of Justice: civic strengths that underlie healthy community life

13. Citizenship [social responsibility, loyalty, teamwork]: Working well as a member of a group or team; being loyal to the group.

14. Fairness: Treating all people the same according to notions of fairness and justice; not letting personal feelings bias decisions about others.

15. Leadership: Encouraging a group of which one is a member to get things done and at the same maintain time good relations within the group.

Strengths of Temperance: strengths that protect against excess

16. Forgiveness and mercy: Forgiving those who have done wrong; accepting the shortcomings of others; giving people a second chance; not being vengeful.

17. Humility / Modesty: Letting one's accomplishments speak for themselves; not regarding oneself as more special than one is.

18. Prudence: Being careful about one's choices; not taking undue risks; not saying or doing things that might later be regretted.

19. Self-regulation [self-control]: Regulating what one feels and does; being disciplined; controlling one's appetites and emotions.
Strengths of Transcendence: strengths that forge connections to the larger universe and provide meaning

20. Appreciation of beauty and excellence [awe, wonder, elevation]: Appreciating beauty, excellence, and/or skilled performance in various domains of life.

21. Gratitude: Being aware of and thankful of the good things that happen; taking time to express thanks.

22. Hope [optimism, future-mindedness, future orientation]: Expecting the best in the future and working to achieve it.

23. Humor [playfulness]: Liking to laugh and tease; bringing smiles to other people; seeing the light side.

24. Spirituality [religiousness, faith, purpose]: Having coherent beliefs about the higher purpose, the meaning of life, and the meaning of the universe.
Many of the above characteristics are also accepted as positive by the polarized Left; those uncontroversial characteristics are not considered threats. Certain categories would have to be eliminated if one considers Alinski's ethics to supersede all others. And Philosophical Materialists would not accept a "transcendence" category.

And some of the characteristics above are acceptable to the polarized Left for their own use, but not for use by others. An example of this is “humor”, if one considers ridicule to be humor. Ridicule is a staple of the Left. However, the Left considers the counter-ridicule of an Ann Coulter to be an outrage and immoral, worthy of being silenced. In fact, moral outrage is a Leftist character trait.

Another example of polarized viewpoints on the characteristics is that of “hope”. For the Left, hope means the desire for a socialist, egalitarian future where they are the elite and are not subject to socialism or egalitarianism. For others, hope might mean the liberty to pursue whatever they wish, without the moral and political intercession of the Left.

So it is necessary to take care in the application of the principles.

Some of these are difficult, no matter the viewpoint. Case in point, number 12, “Social Intelligence”. In order to be aware of another’s motivations, it is necessary to compare his words to his actions and then to attempt to divine his motivations based on the congruence or lack of congruence of actions to words. This requires the use of other characteristics, such as integrity and open-mindedness (rationality). Further, it requires the prior education in the roots and characteristics of rationality and how congruence works to prevent false conclusions.

This list is, by the authors claim, not the last word. But it is a very good start.

However I must question, is it not possible to declare certain of these to be absolute? Is not integrity absolutely a positive characteristic? And what about the unmentioned characteristics of trustworthiness, reliability, and honesty? It seems that even though the list is fairly robust, it is still relativist in some regards; there are truly some character traits that are incorrigibly positive, regardless of dogma launched against them.

I forgot to mention Intellectual humility. It is the opposite of the onerous intellectual smugness that accompanies dogmatic intellectualism. Perhaps it is a subcategory of "integrity"; I think it deserves its own category.


Martin said...

I take issue with this:

"And some of the characteristics above are acceptable to the polarized Left for their own use, but not for use by others. An example of this is 'humor', if one considers ridicule to be humor. Ridicule is a staple of the Left. However, the Left considers the counter-ridicule of an Ann Coulter to be an outrage and immoral, worthy of being silenced. In fact, moral outrage is a Leftist character trait."

This is absolutely true for both sides.

Right now, there is probably a Leftie blogger. Perhaps his name is Nats. He writes: "Ridicule is a staple of the Right. However, the Right considers the counter-ridicule of a Bill Maher to be an outrage and immoral, worthy of being silenced. In fact, moral outrage is a Rightist character trait."

I see very little difference between the two sides.

Come up here, with us, in the Center. It's better! You can watch the two sides fight like ants! You can still lean one way or the other, but you can see the flaws of your own political spectrum more clearly!

Stan said...

Martin, thanks for your comments, I do appreciate them; please don't take any criticism that I have as not being appreciative.

Last year I managed to shut down the comments section of a CBS blog article. The article was about Ann Coulter and a comment she had made concerning homosexuality - I don't recall her comment, but it was mildly derisive. The responders were universally name-callers who struggled to find a worse epithet to apply to Coulter than the last guy. I came in a day late, read the comments, and then made my own. I repeated Ann's statement, then I listed the many dozens of obscenities that she had been called in return, including the number of repetitions of each obscenity. The comments stopped immediately. Where there had been dozens per hour before, there were now none. Before long, my comment was removed from the blog, and the comments were closed permanently.

I don't believe that there is a real center. There is a failure to take the hard choice of making a decision of whether there is a "right" and a "wrong", and then deciding which side is which. In fact there might be - and is - a third side which could be more correct.

But that third side is not the middle. The middle is the "undecided" category, the one that can't determine right from wrong.

As for your Tu Quoque rebuttal, of course there is ridicule from the likes of Ann Coulter. I don't follow her and she is not nearly as influential with folks like yourself, as are the MSM idols like Maher and Stewart and Moore and .... But surely you know that Tu Quoque is not an argument, it is a fallacy, an attempt to discredit and derail the conversation without addressing the issue.

Leftist Moral Outrage is codified by the likes of Alinski. It is both a purposeful tactic for moralizing the immoral, and a weapon for Radical control of the conversation. The moral outrage from the Right comes as a reaction to the Alindian/Hegelian attacks from the Left. The right would mind their business if the Left would leave them alone. Not so, vice-versa.

If you are in the middle, you are in no way a libertarian; the middle is between strong social control and stronger social control, both of which are egalitarian and anti-libertarian. So your seemingly contradictory claims certainly confuse the issue, at least from my perspective.

However, it is consistent with relativism to slide from one position to another.

Stan said...

Oops, Alinskian/Hegelian.
I kin tu spel.

Martin said...

No offense taken. You've been nothing but polite. :)

I'm sure there is plenty of room for criticism of the Nolan Chart, but that's what I mean by "Center." Equidistant from Right and Left, but not undecided.

Regardless of definitions of "Center", I agree with much of the Libertarian position, so that's where I still place myself. Or as a Classical Liberal. Libertarians that allow for SOME government programs. SOME. :)

As for your experience at CBS, I can only say: don't confuse Internet crazies with THE Left. The Internet tends to be a wild place, with anonymity giving people more boldness than they may otherwise have.

I can stumble over to a multitude of Right sites, make one small comment defending gays, and be reamed in much the same way, with much the same ad hominem.

Trust me.

And re: tu quoque. It is a fallacy that can have legitimate uses.

You seemed to be taking the moral high ground, saying the Left is wrong because they do xyz and the Right is better. Then I pointed out that the Right also does xyz, and so I see no difference between the two.

Stan said...

In no sense have I argued that the Right is better. I am arguing against the Left at the moment because the uber-Left is in control of virtually everything. What the mini-Left (aka "Right") does is inconsequential. To argue against them only derails the original argument. It's like claiming that Stalin killed many millions and counter-arguing that, well, so did Lenin.

I disagree with the Nolan Chart. In fact I disagree with the terms Left and Right, and I should stop using them - except I can think of no better generalizations. The origins of the terms (left bank of the Seine, French Revolution) are not much help. And the boundaries are not just not clear, they are easily adjusted within an argument to muddy up the issue.

I personally think Hegel's thesis, antithesis, synthesis more accurately describes the political realm, and that the spectrum is more circular, with Liberty at the top, and equality at the bottom. This is similar to Nolan's, but is more closed, and less dependent upon definitions for Left and Right.

The sub-definitions of fascism and communism should be left out, because at the base it is totalitarianism vs. liberty that matters. Communism and fascism are basically two cylinders in the same engine.

However it is the egalitarians that are the Alinski radicals, using Alinski ethics, that are in control. The political "Right" has followed close on the heels of the egalitarians, being dragged along in a Hegelian compromise capitulation. The "Right" is not libertarian (small 'L'); it is closer to "Left" than it is to libertarian.

As I have stated before, G.W.Bush supported and signed the bill authorizing cheap mortgages to the irresponsible; he failed to seal the borders, and remove the illegals; he authorized the orignal bailouts. None of this is libertarian.

Martin said...

A joke relating to my above point about Internet crazies:

Internet punks

Stan said...

Sorta like becoming aggressive when behind the wheel of a car, I guess. Personal integrity is doing the right thing when no one is watching... or when anonymous.

The problem with being fully identified is that the internet crazies start to e-stalk you, and cause all sorts of personal problems for you. (personal experience).

So I have taken the steps to prevent full ID.

Holly said...

This is a great list of athiest traits. I personally have known that I am an atheist for a long time and having this list is helpful and lets me see why most people don't have the mental capacity to be athiests.

Stan said...

You obviously missed numbers 2, 12, 14, 17, 24; and you have definitely missed the concept of disciplined Aristotelian logical deduction, which is necessary for the creation of a rational worldview.

Atheism is arrogant as you demonstrate, and it is irrational as is proven on this blog in detail. Atheism makes claims which cannot be proved using either physical evidence, nor disciplined logic. Yet that is exactly what Atheists claim, resulting in highlighting their irrationality.

And your claim regarding mental capacity is in no way derivable from the list of positive traits - not Atheist traits - which you apparently misread. That renders you outside the list, and somewhat befuddled mentally, even though definitely arrogant.

Atheism is an emotional construct, not a rational one.