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Hermeneutics, Authenticity, and the Aims of Psychology1

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The contribution hermeneutic philosophy can make to reflection on issues in psychology is shown through a critique of the "positive psychology" movements inaugurated in the special issue of the American Psychologist edited by M. Seligman and M. Csikszentmihalyi in 2000. Drawing on the broad historical sense advocated by hermeneutics, it is shown that the conceptions of the good life defended by the contributors to the special issue might turn out to be limited to the rather narrow range of questionable and shallow ideals of contemporary Western consumerist economy. In particular, the attempt made by Shelley E. Taylor, et al. (2000) to show that "positive illusions" are conducive to a good life is shown to rest on dubious conceptions about what is genuinely worthwhile in life. As an alternative to the somewhat arid conception of human existence presupposed by the authors contributing to the special issue, Heidegger’s (1962) conception of authentic existence is put forward as a hermeneutically inspired basis for rethinking what constitutes the richest and most fulfilling life for humans.

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... ors who advocate for applying ontological hermeneutics to research and clinical practices. In doing so, I draw on the landmark work of Richardson, Fowers, and Guignon (1999) who affirmed that ontological hermeneutics is a reflective practice that aims " to clarify the being of the entities that interpret and understand, namely ourselves " (p. 200). Guignon (2002) noted hermeneutics is often " called the theory of interpretation " (p. 84). Stigliano described hermeneutics as " the practice of reflective interpretation " (1989, p. 47). Bernstein (1983) observed that hermeneutics helps to clarify and deepen our understanding of human existence. It is generally accepted in the literature that hermen ...
... Hermeneutics has been used to interpret psychological, social, cultural, and religious phenomena. Hermeneutics has also been used to attain deeper understanding of the nature of the self (Cushman, 1995), personal existence (Guignon, 2002Guignon, , 2004 Martin & Sugarman, 2001; Richardson & Fowers, 2010), and relationships (Sugarman & Martin, 2010). Hermeneutics is applied in order to uncover meaning. ...
... cover its meaning and poetic structure; a judicial code, to determine the application of law; a set of scientific data, to find explanatory regularities " (p. 10). Sugarman and Martin (2010) note that today, hermeneutics is concerned " particularly with the interpretation of what it is to be human and how human understanding is possible " (p. 164). Guignon (2002) writes: " Hermeneutic philosophers attempt to identify " traits that determine optimal human functioning " and a conception of " what it is to be a human " (pp. 94-95). Hermeneutics thus offers a means for interpreting, understanding, and finding meaning in the very fact of being. Indeed living is an interpretive endeavor. I interpret t ...
Thesis
Abstract Worlds of Connection: A Hermeneutic Formulation of the Interdisciplinary Relational Model of Care Susana Lauraine McCune Antioch University Seattle Seattle, WA Despite a general agreement across health care disciplines that Advanced Care Planning (ACP) and Advanced Directives (ADs) add important elements to a patient’s end-of-life care desires, and can inform their loved ones and advocates, help create ease of mind, and enhance quality of care, they continue to remain significantly underused. More than half of Americans transition to chronic and terminal illness without having completed them. The aim of this study was to increase the frequency and enhance the quality of communication about Advance Directives and Advance Care Planning within the clinical relationship. The resulting Interdisciplinary Relational Model of Care (IRMOC) can help clinicians engage in more frequent and effective communication about ADs and ACP. This ontological hermeneutic study considered scholarly and professional, practice-based health services literature, along with juridical, legislative, policy, and philosophical texts that have informed previous models of care. Tacit and explicit phenomena, conditions, and practices of communication about ADs and ACP in the patient-clinician relationship were identified. In response to the phenomena, conditions, and practices identified in this study the IRMOC was formulated and applied to communication about Advance Directives and Advance Care Planning in the patient-clinician relationship. The IRMOC was then expanded, made more nuanced, v and contextualized within the overall philosophical, theoretical, and practical frameworks that informed the model. The electronic version of this dissertation is at OhioLink ETD Center, www.ohiolink.edu/etd Keywords: Advance care planning, advance directives, end-of-life care, relational psychoanalysis, compassion, communication, hermeneutics, Interdisciplinary Relational Model of Care.
... Even alternative forms of therapy that do not focus on the pathological condition of the client fail to articulate the fundamental role that our socio-historical situation plays in determining emotional well-being. Charles Guignon's (2002) critique of the renewed interest in 'positive psychology' is a case in point. 11 Positive psychology is defined as 'a science of positive subjective experience, positive individual traits, and positive institutions [that] promises to improve the quality of life and prevent the pathologies that arise when life is barren and meaningless' (Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi, 2000: 6). ...
... What remains problematic is that the optimistic values promoted by positive psychology are not timeless; they are themselves products of a technological economy aimed at efficacy and quick-fixes. For instance, as Guignon (2002) points out, the client does not embrace the positive virtues of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics such as shame, wittiness, pride, and courage, nor does he/she focus on the Judeo-Christian virtues of humility, selflessness, and meekness. Rather, the psychologist asks the client to focus on uniquely modern values that accommodate the interpretation of the self that psychology inherits from Cartesian and empiricist epistemologies. ...
... As human beings, we 'stand outside' of ourselves because we are already woven to the particular worldly context -of equipment, institutions, habits, and prejudices -that we are involved in everyday. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Heidegger's project opens up the possibility for mainstream psychology to broaden its approach to treatment by incorporating a wide-ranging historical and cultural understanding of individual pathologies (Cushman, 1995;Dreyfus and Wakefield, 1988;Askay, 2001;Guignon, 2002). This understanding enables the psychologist to break free from, what Heidegger (2001) calls, 'scientism', where science is dogmatically accepted as 'the new religion' insofar as its method alone can provide us with the objective truth about human behavior (p. ...
Article
In his Contributions to Philosophy, Martin Heidegger (1999) introduces ‘acceleration’ as one of the three symptoms – along with ‘calculation’ and the ‘outbreak of massiveness’ – of our technological way of ‘being-in-the-world’. In this article, I unpack the relationship between these symptoms and draw a twofold conclusion. First, interpreting acceleration in terms of time pathologies, I suggest the self is becoming increasingly fragmented and emotionally overwhelmed from chronic sensory arousal and time pressure. This experience makes it difficult for us to qualitatively distinguish what matters to us in our everyday lives, resulting in a pervasive cultural mood of indifference, what Heidegger (1995) calls ‘profound boredom’. Second, by drawing on Heidegger's hermeneutic method, I argue that the practice of mainstream psychology, by adopting the reductive methodology of the empirical sciences, largely ignores our accelerated socio-historical situation, resulting in therapeutic models that have a tendency to construct and perpetuate the very pathologies the psychologist is seeking to treat.
... First, the negative side is construed as the negative side effects of the positive psychology movement, especially of its dominant, separatist message. These side effects have been enumerated before (e.g., Bohart & Greening, 2001;Guignon, 2002;Held, 2002a;Woolfolk, 2002), and so about these I will be brief. Second, the negative side is construed as the negativity that can be found within the positive psychology movement. ...
... (About the realism of the optimism, more later.) This, says the hermeneutic philosopher Charles Guignon (2002), is a good example of a particular strategy for justifying value claims: ...
... My point is that findings such as these tend not to become part of the dominant Message, which seems to me and others to eschew the dialogical impulse found in the movement's more nuanced/dialectical secondwave message and in the response of some humanistic psychologists to the dominant Message. Moreover, if longevity is, as Guignon (2002) suggests, positive psychologists' criterion for cultivating certain tendencies, then these new data should be taken seriously 22 Negative Side of Positive Psychology by positive psychologists. But given Seligman's negativity about negativity, I would be surprised if Hybels et al. (2002) or Friedman et al. (1993) were to be considered for a Templeton Positive Psychology Prize for finding that some forms of negativity, or at least the absence of positivity, may be conducive to longevity. ...
Article
This article explores three ways in which the positive psychology movement’s construction and presentation of itself are negative. First, the negative side is construed as the negative side effects of positive psychology’s dominant, separatist message. Second, the negative side is construed as the negativity that can be found within the positive psychology movement. Here the author elaborates on the negative or dismissive reactions of some spokespersons for the movement to ideas or views that run counter to the movement’s dominant message: (a) negativity about negativity itself, which is explored by way of research in health psychology and coping styles; and (b) negativity about the wrong kind of positivity, namely, allegedly unscientific positivity, especially that which Seligman purports to find within humanistic psychology. This constitutes an epistemological position that contributes to “reality problems” for positive psychologists. The author concludes with the implications of positive psychology’s “Declaration of Independence” for psychology’s much discussed fragmentation woes. She appeals to the wisdom of William James for guidance in finding a third, more positive meaning of positive psychology’s negative side. This third meaning can be gleaned from a not-yet-dominant but more integrative message emerging within the movement, one compatible with the reactions of some humanistic psychologists to positive psychology.
... Attempts to define optimal human functioning are based on assumptions of what it means to be human and thus draw heavily on philosophical understandings of the 'good life' (Guignon, 2002). For example, Aristotle suggested that the good life includes both happiness and engagement (Hestir, 2008), where happiness is defined as an activity of authentically expressing one's excellences or virtues. ...
... An essentialist approach views authenticity as a process of self-discovery, involving discovering and acting in line with the essential self or essence; whereas the existentialist approach emphasises self-creation, choosing how to live or exist and taking responsibility for that choice (Pugh, Maslen, & Savulescu, 2017). Heidegger, for example, describes the authentic person as committed to making their life their own, being focused, coherent and fully engaged (Guignon, 2002), while for Sartre, living authentically involves making deliberate choices to be true to oneself and taking responsibility for one's actions (Hestir, 2008). ...
Article
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The ‘good life’ is described by philosophers and psychologists as consisting of authentic expression of self, a sense of well-being, and active engagement in life and work. Well-being and employee engagement are outcomes of value in themselves to work organisations, but also improve performance and reduce turnover. This meta-analysis tests the relationships between authenticity and well-being, and authenticity and engagement, investigating the impact of several moderators: age, gender, sample type, conceptual measure and individualism-collectivism. Systematic searches identified 75 studies (well-being = 65, engagement = 10) with a total N == 36,533. Analysis revealed a positive relationship between authenticity and well-being (r == 0.40) and between authenticity and engagement (r == 0.37). Individualism and type of measure were significant moderators, but age, gender and sample type were not. Specific recommendations are made for researchers choosing measures of authenticity, well-being and engagement. The study also highlights the need for further research on the interaction of culture and authenticity, as the majority of studies rely on Western / individualist conceptualisations and measures. Overall, the meta-analysis demonstrates that authenticity has positive implications for individual well-being and work engagement and could provide an important path to building healthy work organisations.
... Williams and Gantt zero in on two issues with positive psychology. First, a tendency to focus on the pursuit of happiness, which has come under sustained critique from several quarters (e.g., Guignon, 2002;Held, 2004). We, the authors, are also critical of those who focus solely on shallow indicators of the quality of life such as life satisfaction or positive affect. ...
... Yet many others see flourishing as the fulfillment of what it is to be a human being, with the benefits being secondary (e.g., Guignon, 2002;Huta & Ryan, 2010). It seems that these scholars would provide more fitting conversation partners, if that is of interest to Williams and Gantt. ...
Article
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In their recent article, Williams and Gantt (2013) make the provocative claim that the only way to account for human aspiration is to recognize the existence of an eternal soul. Although it is possible to argue for such a position, their exposition is plagued by unsubstantiated assertions, false dichotomies, straw-person arguments, appeals to authority, and disregard for large psychological literatures related to their claims. These problematic forms of argumentation are inadequate to the task that these authors set for themselves and show insufficient respect for many potential interlocutors. In their apparent eagerness to discuss their eternal soul thesis, Williams and Gantt dismiss the work of scholars in positive psychology, virtue ethics, and “mainstream psychology” with whom they share extensive common ground, thereby neglecting the richness and fruitfulness of these scholars’ contributions to the topic of human aspiration.
... 8). Perhaps all of us are in favor of such positive traits and ideals, but, as Guignon (2002) has shown, positive psychology prompts some troubling problems: Where do these goods and ideals come from? How are they justified? ...
... Moreover, hermeneutics suggests that finding a meaning in one's experience cannot be thought of simply as a 'coping strategy' or a 'technique for managing life' because meanings provide our shared understanding of the ends of living; they are not merely means to certain ends (Guignon, 2002). One of the basic claims of Heidegerrian hermeneutics is that we exist as 'being-in-the-world'. ...
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Little of the work in critical and hermeneutical psychology has been linked to instructional technology (IT). This article provides a discussion in order to fill the gap in this direction. The article presents a brief genealogy of American IT in relation to the influence of psychology. It also provides a critical and hermeneutical framework for psychology. It then discusses some problems of psychologism focusing on positivism, metaphysics, cultural ecology, and power. The narrow psychologism in IT produces a kind of systematic blindness regarding cultural, political, and other issues. IT professionals are encouraged to engage reflectively with the power-relations and ethical issues in which they are involved. The article points out a need for looking at psychology more comprehensively (e.g. critical and hermeneutical psychology).
... Soren Kierkegaard posited that to be authentic meant to be true to oneself in a holistic sense, consistent across all facets of one's life (Golomb, 1995; Guignon, 2002). Similarly, Lionel Trilling (1974) used existentialist ideas to examine authenticity in an academic context, referencing Kierkegaard's holistic approach. ...
... Modern psychology, particularly positive psychology takes a Kierkegaardian approach, and incorporates the work of Martin Heidegger (Guignon, 2002). For Heidegger authenticity is fleeting and experienced through moments where the individual connects with a network of people/objects in a unique, conscious and deliberate way based on the particular background and circumstances (Steiner & Reisinger, 2006). ...
... What remains problematic is that the optimistic values promoted by positive psychology are not timeless; they are themselves products of a technological economy aimed at efficacy and quick-fixes. For instance, as Guignon (2002) points out, the client does not embrace the positive virtues of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics such as shame, wittiness, pride, and courage, nor does he/she focus on the Judeo-Christian virtues of humility, selflessness, and meekness . Rather, the psychologist asks the client to focus on uniquely modern values that accommodate the interpretation of the self that psychology inherits from Cartesian and empiricist epistemologies. ...
... As human beings, we 'stand outside' of ourselves because we are already woven to the particular worldly context – of equipment, institutions, habits, and prejudices – that we are involved in everyday. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Heidegger's project opens up the possibility for mainstream psychology to broaden its approach to treatment by incorporating a wide-ranging historical and cultural understanding of individual pathologies (Cushman, 1995; Dreyfus and Wakefield, 1988; Askay, 2001; Guignon, 2002). This understanding enables the psychologist to break free from, what Heidegger (2001) calls, 'scientism', where science is dogmatically accepted as 'the new religion' insofar as its method alone can provide us with the objective truth about human behavior (p. ...
Article
In his Contributions to Philosophy, Martin Heidegger (1999) introduces ‘acceleration’ as one of the three symptoms – along with ‘calculation’ and the ‘outbreak of massiveness’ – of our technological way of ‘being-in-the-world’. In this article, I unpack the relationship between these symptoms and draw a twofold conclusion. First, interpreting acceleration in terms of time pathologies, I suggest the self is becoming increasingly fragmented and emotionally overwhelmed from chronic sensory arousal and time pressure. This experience makes it difficult for us to qualitatively distinguish what matters to us in our everyday lives, resulting in a pervasive cultural mood of indifference, what Heidegger (1995) calls ‘profound boredom’. Second, by drawing on Heidegger's hermeneutic method, I argue that the practice of mainstream psychology, by adopting the reductive methodology of the empirical sciences, largely ignores our accelerated socio-historical situation, resulting in therapeutic models that have a tendency to construct and perpetuate the very pathologies the psychologist is seeking to treat.
... The shift from religious dwelling to spiritual seeking comes with a strong focus on inwardness, subjectivity, and authentic personal experience as the focal point of religious and spiritual energy (Roof, 1999). This is exemplary of the modern turn toward an ethics of authenticity described by several authors (Taylor, 1991;Ferrara, 1998;Guignon, 2002;Laceulle, 2017). Taylor (1989) has provided an eloquent historical-philosophical analysis of this shift toward an ethics of authenticity. ...
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Meaning in life has also been seen as crucial to well-being, and especially, in later life. This study focused on the social complexity of meaning making processes and the role of religion and spirituality in them, by finding out the following: (1) How are meaning-making practices connected with religion and spirituality for Finnish retirement migrants of the boomer generation? (2) What does the role of religion and spirituality in meaning-making practices teach us about the relationship between individual and social aspects of meaning making? This was done by examining a particular group of older persons: Finnish retirement migrants aged 60 or over in Costa del Sol, Spain. The material for this study consists of 58 texts (written correspondence, dataset 1, year 2009), 10 semi-structured interviews (dataset 2, year 2011), and 30 completed online surveys with open-ended questions (dataset 3, year 2019). Key findings include that religion and spirituality are present in the lives of our informants in a variety of ways, playing a significant role in their meaning making, and that they appear as intertwined and not so easy to separate. A variety of religious and non-religious forms of spirituality exist in this population, and all of these forms can be relevant factors in meaning making. Also, the engagement in meaning making, contrary to what has been suggested in some of the literature about meaning in later life, not only occurs in response to confrontations with health issues, death, or other major life events. Instead, we found that meaning making occurs as a process that is often inherent to daily activities which may seem “trivial,” but in fact turn out to be important sources of purpose, values, and connectedness. Contrary to the dominant modern ideal of the authentic, self-sufficient human agent, which is based on a problematically atomistic and individualistic anthropology, for our respondents, their authentic subject position is embedded in the social practices of their daily lives, which nourish their individual spirituality and are vital to making meaning.
... Numerous critical appraisals over the last fifteen years have done so in considerable detail. (See, for example, Becker & Marecek, 2008a, 2008bChristopher, 1999;Christopher & Hickinbottom, 2008;Guignon, 2002;Held, 2002;Sugarman, 2007;Woolfolk & Wasserman, 2005). Thus far, however, the leading intellectual figures in the positive psychology movement seem to have taken little interest in examining the cultural, historical, and societal foundations of positive psychology. ...
... Modern scientific roots of authenticity can be traced to studies in philosophy (Heidegger, 1962;Sartre, 1956) and psychology (Maslow, 1962;Rogers, 1961;Winnicott, 1965). While a detailed discussion of these philosophical and psychological treatments of authenticity is beyond the scope of this paper, these have been explored extensively in literature reviews by Erickson (1995) and Harter (2002), as well as Guignon (2000Guignon ( , 2002 and Chessick (1996). ...
... The freedom to choose a path towards authenticity and responsibility is, within humanistic talking therapies, the individual's (e.g. Strasser and Clarke, 2013), and indeed, this choice and subsequent behaviours are in themselves meaningful (Guignon, 2002). ...
... Therefore, the 472 contemporary Western interpretation of romantic relationships is under investigation 473 in their studies, not some set of universal laws of interdependence. Guignon 474 and others have supported and guided a number of similar critiques of these 475 unacknowledged assumptions in a wide range of psychological sub-disciplines, 476 such as cognitive aggression theory, cognitive development, marital research and 477 therapy, and positive psychology (Fowers 2008;Guignon 1998Guignon , 2002Richardson 478 et al. 1999;Richardson and Guignon 2008). ...
Chapter
The question I explore in this chapter is whether the reigning self-understanding of psychological science, the investigation of mind-independent causes of human behavior, is sufficient. Specifically, I explore the possibility that the existential and phenomenological traditions, particularly Charles Guignon’s work, can provide the resources for a reinterpretation that enhances scientific psychology and its societal contributions. Although psychology offers a pathway to understanding human motivations and actions, the discipline’s research tradition explores human nature primarily by abstracting individuals from their historical, social, interpersonal, and life contexts and seeking causal explanations for atomistically defined “behaviors.” The concept of behavior is itself a highly abstract notion that portrays human action in terms of discrete units of activity that can be isolated and studied in highly contrived contexts. I explore this question with an in-depth examination of a single neuropsychological study of honesty and dishonesty. Although I will refer primarily to this one study, the important features of this investigation are quite typical in psychological research. By focusing on one study, I can provide an in-depth analysis of how experimental research tacitly relies on broader contexts of meaning that are obscured by its methods. I chose this study because of its strengths in using very sophisticated methods to investigate an intriguing problem. If anything, this particular study is closer to understanding its subjects as full-bodied agents in a meaningful world than most psychological investigations are. Even so, it is clear that it woefully underestimates the humanity of its research subjects.
... Eagly 2005;Kiersch & Byrne 2015). Notwithstanding, authenticity is also a well-represented phenomena in other disciplines including education and psychology (Erickson 1995;Guignon 2002;Kreber et al. 2007). Part of this growing attention in authenticity is based on the 'loss' of authenticity in lifestyles (Erickson 1995). ...
Thesis
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Evidence from business and government demonstrates an increased reduction in the presence of ethical and moral leaders. In order to deal with these contemporary leadership issues, many ethical leadership theories have emerged. Authentic leadership is one example of positive leadership theory, which is adopted as a leadership framework in this dissertation. This increase in malfeasance extends beyond business and organisations, and includes university students and student leaders. Despite the similarities in complex contemporary problems, few researchers have sought to operationalise leadership theory within a cross-section of organisational and educational leadership theory. The purpose of this research is to therefore evaluate organisational leadership theory in the context of Australian undergraduate students. This research seeks to answer the following research questions: 1) Do student leaders score higher in authentic leadership and its dimensions compared with non-student leaders? 2) Do students who participate in extracurricular activities have a higher authentic leadership score? If so, which extracurricular activities are most related? 3) Do students’ personal attributes affect their authentic leadership score? If so, which attributes have the greatest affect? Through a self-administered questionnaire, student leaders and students (n = 415) were surveyed on their own authentic leadership characteristics and the extracurricular activities which they currently undertake. Further, personal attributes of these students were also collected for an exploratory analysis. Literature suggests that student leaders should score higher in leadership, and that certain extracurricular activities and personal attributes would result in higher scores. After statistical analysis, this research provided evidence demonstrating a relationship between student leadership and higher authentic leadership. A similar relationship was similarly found between students who participated in particular extracurricular activities such as volunteering and society membership.
... There is, however, another critique that can be aimed at the mainstream more generally. In particular, many scholars (e.g., Guignon, 2002;Woolfolk, 1998) have argued that the value-neutrality presumed by the mainstream buffers psychologists from having to reflect deeply on the ways in which their values, ideals, and broader purposes shape their research questions and interpretations of findings. The practice of psychotherapy presents a compelling example. ...
Article
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This paper draws attention to the ways mainstream psychology discourages critical thinking among students. A narrative of the author’s own education reveals a discipline concerned more with upholding dominant paradigms than nurturing curiosity and under- standing. The hermeneutic philosophy that grounds the author’s views is discussed and, in line with this perspective, it is argued that critical psychology should focus on: 1) disclosing assumptions underlying main- stream psychology, as well as the political, economic, and sociocultural transformations that have shaped these assumptions, and: 2) evaluating the legitimacy of psychological interpretations. In conclusion, the paper offers a proposal for educational reform that can aid in the cultivation of students who are both willing and able to investigate the kinds of issues that concern critical psychologists.
... Authentic Dasein engages with public life (everydayness), while critically reflecting on it. This critique forms part of the basis from which the authentic-self is created, so that it becomes a task or vocation that one pursues (Condrau, 1988, p. 106; Guignon, 2002 By taking a self-reflexive stance the individual places themselves in a position to locate an " existential power " that mobilises the self's ability to change and become (Tyman, 1999, p. 375). This is not a self-originating power, as Dasein is always in relationship with its world; power is always a relational phenomenon. ...
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Abstract Since the early 1970s humanistic psychology has struggled to remain a relevant force in the social and psychological sciences, we attribute this in part to a conceptualisation of the self rooted in theoretically outmoded thinking. In response to the issue of relevancy a sociocultural turn has been called for within humanistic psychology, which draws directly and indirectly on the conceptual insights of Michel Foucault. However, this growing body of research lacks a unifying conceptual base that is able to encompass its new perspectives (its call for a sociocultural turn) and the movement’s theoretical antecedents (the actualising tendency). This analysis suggests a way forward by offering a potential reconceptualisation of the self in humanistic psychology through the existential-phenomenology of Martin Heidegger. We argue that Heidegger’s conception of the self takes account of subjectivities produced in discourse and institutional practice, while acknowledging the human capacity for actualisation in his concept of the authentic-self.
... For a well-intended and thoughtful defense of positive psychology against this criticism one may consultKristjansson (2010).5 Instrumentalism of this kind is connected with a specifically modern strategy of justifying moral values by trying to show that they contribute to some nonmoral goods such as subjective happiness, physical health, or longer life(Guignon, 2002). Exactly this kind of strategy has been employed in studies connecting volunteering to with subjective wellbeing (seeHaidt, 2006;Piliavin, 2003). ...
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The Values in Action (VIA) classification of character strengths and virtues has been recently proposed by two leading positive psychologists, Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman as “the social science equivalent of virtue ethics.” The very possibility of developing this kind of an “equivalent,” however, is very doubtful in the light of the cogent criticism that has been leveled at modern moral theory by Alasdair MacIntyre as well as the well argued accusations that positive psychology, despite its official normative neutrality, is pervaded by specifically Western individualism and instrumentalism. In order to evaluate whether the VIA project can be considered as substantially rooted in virtue ethical tradition, the classification was assessed against two fundamental features of the classical version of the latter: (1) the substantial interconnectedness of individual virtues, as expressed by the thesis of the unity of virtue, and (2) the constitutive character of the relationship between virtue and happiness. It turned out, in result, that the two above features are not only absent from but also contradicted by the VIA framework with the latter's: (1′) construal of individual virtues and character strengths as independent variables and (2′) official endorsement of the fact/value distinction. As soon as the arguments for the superiority of the classical virtue ethical perspective are provided, the potential responses available to the VIA's proponents are discussed.
... It also, whether it admits it or not, makes assumptions about good persons and a good society and considers how far these conceptions are embodied in our actual society. (Bellah, Madsen, Sullivan, Swidler, & Tipton, 1985, p. 301) As a number of papers in this issue have suggested, along with a variety of other recent critiques (Christopher, 1999; Fowers, 2005; Guignon, 2002; Held, 2005; Sundararajan, 2005; Woolfolk & Wasserman, 2005), positive psychology is no more immune to this condition than is any other branch or specialty of the social sciences. Indeed, most positive psychologists prescribe so widely and overtly as to pull the credibility out from under any protestations of value-neutrality, though some of their implied cultural assumptions might still escape a casual observer. ...
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Drawing on Bickhard's interactivism along with philosophical hermeneutics, we outline a plausible ontology of human action and devel- opment that might serve as a metatheory for positive psychology. Our non- dualistic metatheory rests on a distributed notion of agency. The kinds of morally imbued social practices that are identified by hermeneutic theorists constitute one level of agency. At the first level of agency, persons are already committed, at least by implication, to folk psychologies that cover positive emotion, positive traits, and positive institutions. Higher levels of agency and knowing emerge through the process of development. The higher knowing levels incorporate the capacity for conscious self-reflexive awareness, which permits the person to consciously deliberate and form the- ories of the good person and the good life. These more consciously formed positive folk psychologies are always in a dialectical relationship with the more implicit and embodied understandings of the good life as manifested in social practices, emotional experiences, and habitual thoughts. We sug- gest that this framework helps to account for the 'diversity of goods' that underlie our lives and to clarify the relationship that the professional posi- tive psychologist will have with his or her native folk psychology.
... There is a strong case to be made that positive psychology does not escape many of the problems and shortcomings that afflict the sort of conventional psychology it seeks to transform. For example, preliminary critiques suggest that it tends to neglect the cultural embeddedness of all human activities (Christopher, 1999;Guignon, 2002;Held, 2002;Woolfolk, 2002) and that it reflects the sort of one-sided individualism that many critics have argued significantly distorted much of psychology in the 20th century (e.g., Cushman, 1995;Richardson, Fowers, & Guignon, 1999;Sampson, 1977Sampson, , 1988Spence, 1985, Taylor, 1985. Surely, it is important to examine more closely the philosophical foundations and ethical thrust of this influential new movement. ...
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Positive psychology offers a needed corrective to deficiencies in mainstream psychology. However, there have been relatively few attempts to systematically analyze and assess this movement. This special issue examines the conceptual underpinnings and guiding ideals of positive psychology. Generally, these articles conclude that positive psychologists have not dealt adequately with the challenge of rendering credible and illuminating accounts of human flourishing in a post-positivist era and in a pluralistic society. The authors suggest ways we might better meet this challenge, allowing us to discuss questions of human agency, character, and the good life despite quite different views of them across historical eras and cultures. We hope this will help fulfill some of the aims of positive psychology.
... As Barbara Held (2002) observed, this cultural outlook has resulted in a kind of tyranny of happiness. Such a one-sided emphasis on emotional satisfaction and happiness, even found within much of the new positive psychology literature, tends to neglect other more traditional, worthwhile values or virtues such as "the redemptive power of suffering, acceptance of one's lot in life, adherence to tradition, self-restraint and moderation" (Frank, 1973, p. 7; see also Guignon, 2002;Woolfolk, 2002). For instance, "Yoko," a graduate student from Japan in our counseling program, described being socialized as a child to tolerate difficult situations. ...
... Differences in goals, in turn, are rooted in differences in practices. For example, it is one thing to set out to help people to more efficiently manage their lives and quite another to help people come to terms with their limitations and mortality (e.g., see Guignon, 2000;Messer & Winokur, 1984). These two objectives are based on different clusters of practices that are both part of our culture. ...
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What are the implications for theory and research in psychology of a hermeneutic perspective that takes practices as its starting point notion? The author addresses this wide-ranging issue by considering a number of specific questions in turn, including, among others, whether the hermeneutic perspective leads to rejecting systematic, quantitative research methods; whether it leads to the conclusion that efforts at theory and research provide us with an understanding of human behavior that is arbitrary; and whether a practices-based perspective points to a way of pursuing inquiry in psychology that is better than proceeding along the lines of mainstream psychology. The answers to these questions include a number of surprises, especially regarding how the hermeneutic perspective contrasts with mainstream psychology and how it differs from social constructionism. The author also identifies challenging issues for adherents of the hermeneutic perspective, including, in particular, issues concerning the limits of what we can know about psychological phenomena. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
... (adapted from Liu & Lo, 1975, p. 508) b. A moral vision beyond weak evaluation: Science needs not be doomed to weak evaluations such as the wishy-washy utilitarianism (Guignon, 2002). A clear and well articulated moral stance can be adopted by science if it is coupled with an equally well developed capacity to evaluate its moral vision in more sophisticated terms than empirical evidence. ...
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... (e.g., Lazarus, 2003) have pointed out the difficulty of considering positive features of human experience apart from those negative features that necessarily complete any adequate conceptualization of human functioning, and of inappropriately equating only the positive in human experience with all that is worthwhile (Guignon, 2002). Although I agree strongly with these lines of criticism, my purpose in this article is somewhat different. ...
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