While I've been guided by the premise of "humans are animals" for a long time, it's only within the last couple of years that I've come to hold this next tenet dear: people have different value structures.

Well, I take that back. I suppose I've believed in that in some incarnation or another since the idea of "personality types" came into fashion. But only recently did that concept get refined enough for me to find it truly useful—even central—to my beliefs.

Martin Seligman. He's a little crazy, and to be honest, I'm not fond of him, personally. He wrote a book exposing some ideas that resonated with me, however. Namely, that there's a set of "virtues" that human beings tend to agree on, cross-culturally. Of course, any given culture will value some over others... blah blah, I don't want to go into the full theory. Like I said, he's a little crazy. See for yourself.

What it boils down to—at least, what I took away from it—is that each individual has a set of virutes that are what he calls "signature strengths". Defining qualities. The traits that guide us. The name is hokey, and his exposition of the idea is perhaps poor. But the idea is a good one. The things I like about it are:

  • It shows that there are "opposing" virtues. Caution and adventure, for example

  • It suggests (to me) that people, as a society, are "made" to be different, to bring different strengths to the table.

  • It helps explain why trying to be "everything" is impossible... but desirable, since all the virtues are clearly good things—it's just that you can't be all this one and all that one.

  • It helps one focus on what brings a person the most personal satisfaction.

My main strengths, by the way, (since this is a site about myself, heh) are:

  • Appreciation (first and foremost... according to the site, I'm in the top 96%)

  • Love of Learning (geek, duh.)

  • Curiosity

  • Open-mindedness

  • Caution (which is why I'm such a boring person "in real life", heh.)

  • Fairness

My weaknesses are many... that particular set of strengths incurs a lot of costs. Intamacy springs to mind. Adventure. Courage and Preserverence are also weak points for me.

I've completely re-framed my view of life from the perspective of virtues and the interplay between them. Humans are animals, and we're social animals. Virtues are at the seat of how we interface with one another.

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