What’s Positive about Positive Psychology?
Reducing Value-Bias and Enhancing Integration within the Field
This chapter considers four possible meanings of the “positive” in positive psychology: that positive psychology involves doing “positive science” (basic and applied research aimed at improving human life); that it involves assuming that human nature is inherently “good” as a theoretical tenet; that it involves merely appreciating formerly unappreciated but admirable aspects of human nature; and that it involves studying the positive rather than the negative extreme of particular topics (i.e. forgiveness, not revenge; elation, not depression). It suggests that positive psychology focus on “personality on up”; only there does the term “positive” make sense, because positive has meaning with reference to human experience. In contrast, positive physics, positive chemistry, or positive neuroscience make less sense as fields of study, except insofar as they benefit human experience and life. The chapter defends positive psychology against the individualistic bias critique by pointing out that truly positive individuality is also connected individuality, and that only the less admirable forms of Western individualism (materialism, narcissism, egocentrism) work against positive functioning at the relational and cultural levels.
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