Abstract: Character is central to positive psychology’s efforts to understand and promote human flourishing. Despite the importance of character and ubiquitous references to Aristotle, virtue theory remains underdeveloped in positive psychology. This article elaborates three key aspects of virtue ethics for understanding flourishing: goodness, the unity of character, and character types. Positive psychologists have not developed a substantial concept of what is good, which is essential because virtues are defined as the enduring personal qualities necessary for pursuing particular goods. Positive psychologists present virtue in a fragmented manner, focusing on a few `signature strengths,’ whereas virtue ethicists generally emphasize the unity of character and the development of a full range of virtues. Because positive psychologists have not recognized the four character types in addition to virtuous character, they often misconstrue the continent character as virtuous, and many of their descriptors of the good life do not differentiate well between the virtuous and the vicious character types.
Citation: Fowers, B. J. (2008). From continence to virtue: Recovering goodness, character unity, and character types for positive psychology. Theory & Psychology, 18, 629-653. doi:10.1177/0959354308093399