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Ayn Rand Society

74 posts in this topic

The first in the series AYN RAND SOCIETY PHILOSOPHICAL STUDIES – Metaethics, Egoism, and Virtue – was issued on schedule, in time for display and sale at the APA Eastern Division Meeting in Boston last December.

The festschrift for Allan Gotthelf Nature, Being, and Life in Aristotle was issued in December.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The 2011 Pacific Division Meeting of the American Philosophical Association will be April 20th through 23rd in San Diego at the Hilton Bayfront Hotel.

The session of the Ayn Rand Society will be April 23rd (6:00–8:00 p.m.). The topic will be Rand and Punishment. The speakers will be David Boonin* and Irfan Khawaja. The session will be chaired by George Sher.*

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Note

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The APA general sessions will include a symposium on Uncommon Virtues: Creativity, Productivity, and Pride. The speakers will be Christine Swanton and Allan Gotthelf. The commentators will be Helen Cullyer and Gregory Salmieri. This session will be April 22nd (1:00–4:00 p.m.).

Pride as a Virtue: Learning from Aristotle and Ayn Rand – Allan Gotthelf

ABSTRACT

In this paper I discuss pride as a trait of character and a principle of action. I draw significantly on the analyses by Aristotle and Rand, and endorse and defend their shared thesis that pride is a central moral virtue. In the course of this defense I will explore the value of self-esteem to a human life, and the connection between the virtue of pride and this value of self-esteem. That will position us to examine the roots of the historically frequent attack on pride as a great vice. I will conclude with a brief account of the way in which pride is a precondition both of Aristotelian character-friendship and a genuine romantic love.

Virtues of Creativity and Productivity, Moral Theory, and Human Nature – Christine Swanton

ABSTRACT

In this paper I show the centrality of virtuous creativity and productivity in a life of virtue. Certain tendencies in moral theory have downplayed the distinction between action and production as ethically central, including Aristotle’s distinction between action and production, and his relegating the latter to secondary status. Drawing on insights of Nietzsche, Rand, and the philosopher-psychologist Otto Rank, who was greatly influenced by Nietzsche and for whom creativity is central to self-love and thereby healthy love of other, I show that the creative productive life is central to human nature and the healthy development of the self. However, not all creativity is virtuous: some forms of what Rank calls “creative will” are unproductive, destructive, and expressive of self-contempt. An account of creative and productive virtues is required for what might be called an “ethics of creativity.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Notes for first: a, b

Notes for second: c, d

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Two other general sessions have subjects intersecting Allan Gotthelf’s subject:

A colloquium on Friendship on April 23rd (4:00–6:00 p.m.) comprises the following two papers, with comments from Noell Birondo and John Anders.

Aristotle on the Conditional Final Value of Friends – Matthew Walker

ABSTRACT

Aristotle’s account of the value of friends generates what I call the instrumentality problem: Can Aristotle simultaneously (i) argue that friends possess sufficient final value as to be essential constituents of the happy life, yet (ii) appeal to the utility of friends for eliciting self-awareness as part of his case for (i)? In this paper, I argue that Aristotle’s account of friendship can respond to the instrumentality problem. By adopting a key distinction of Christine Korsgaard’s, I argue for a reading of Aristotle according to which the value of friends for their own sakes—the “final” or “end” value of friends—is (in part) conditional upon their usefulness in eliciting self-awareness. On this reading, Aristole’s account can reasonably appeal to the utility of friends, but in a way that does not reduce their value to that utility.

Friendship and Enlightenment in Kant – Brian Watkins

ABSTRACT

Kant claims, on the one hand, that friendship is a privileged site for self-disclosure while, on the other hand, he warns that friends should not become excessively familiar with each other. Some have argued that this tension is a result of the difference between the kind of friendship Kant thinks we can achieve and the ideal. By contrast, I argue that, for Kant we have achieved the best kind of friendship not when we find someone with whom to share everything, but, instead, when we find someone with whom we can discuss those things that are actually worth revealing, namely, what we think when we think for ourselves. In other words, the best kind of friends are those who feel free to use their reason and participate together in what Kant calls enlightenment.

A colloquium on Aristotle’s Ethics on April 20th (1:00–4:00 p.m.) includes the following paper, with comments from Corinne Gartner.

Self-Love in the Aristotelian Ethics – Jerry Green

ABSTRACT

The Nicomachean Ethics is nearly universally given pride of place in Aristotle’s ethical corpus. I argue there is at least one topic in Aristotle’s ethics where this is a mistake. In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle presents self-love as the paradigm form of friendship, using it to explain how love of others occurs and why it is an important component of eudaimonia. But self-love has some theoretical problems, one of which is that it cannot be reciprocated the way Aristotle argues friendship requires. In the Eudemian Ethics, Aristotle addresses this worry, and uses it to motivate a modified view from that of the Nicomachean Ethics this change is difficult to explain if the Nicomachean Ethics were Aristotle’s last word on the subject, but makes perfect sense if the Eudemian Ethics were the revised version. This suggests we should follow Aristotle in turning to the Eudemian Ethics for Aristotle’s considered view.

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Stephen: in your experience, do non-Objectivist/libertarian/Objectism-friendly philosophers ever attend these sessions, and if so, at what rate?

Edited by PDS
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David,

Naturally we can presume that, overwhelmingly, attendees are interested in an area of Rand’s thought included in the topic. There are frequent expressions (maybe a third) of opposition to Rand’s thought or opposition to a speaker’s representation of Rand’s thought. All voices are civil, and truth and reasons are the preoccupations.

I would imagine that in very high percentage, attendees opposed to something in Rand’s thought in some area agree with her in some other area, where the agreement-area is important to them. For a presenter at an ARS session, however, that is not necessarily so. At a each session, there will be a presenter who has been invited to read a paper contra Rand or contra another presentation defending or extending Rand.

A couple of months ago, I had a long conversation with a pastoral student, pursuing a Masters in theology, at Liberty University, here in my hometown. It was from me that he was first hearing of the philosophy of Ayn Rand, her novels, or even her name. That is not the situation of people attending APA meetings. No one would be coming into an ARS sessions knowing nothing at all about her philosophy and just wanting to get started with it.

It is possible a few people drop in just to see what intellectuals who unfortunately take Rand’s philosophy seriously are up to. I mean drop in to quietly survey the enemy (i.e., their enemy in political or moral philosophy). But that would be very rare, as there are always so many other sessions going on in parallel.

I do remember some years ago a definitely not quiet adversary coming into a session of the North American Kant Society. At the beginning of the discussion section, he tried to seize the floor to proclaim how Kant was erroneous (and an idiot) on various issues. Fortunately, the Chair stopped him and said he would have to wait until other questions and comments, ones directed to the topic of the session, were voiced. Fortunately, too, the kook left.

More recently the APA did something very smart. They stopped publishing in advance of the meeting where the various sessions will be held. They just tell their times. To learn where the various sessions are, one can no longer just crash them, rather, one has to do the right thing: go and pay the registration fee. Social kooks tend to be short of funds.

I should mention that display and sale of books collecting past papers of the Society, such as Metaethics, Egoism, and Virtue takes place at the book fair of the APA meeting, at the booth of the publisher.

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David,

Naturally we can presume that, overwhelmingly, attendees are interested in an area of Rand’s thought included in the topic. There are frequent expressions (maybe a third) of opposition to Rand’s thought or opposition to a speaker’s representation of Rand’s thought. All voices are civil, and truth and reasons are the preoccupations.

I would imagine that in very high percentage, attendees opposed to something in Rand’s thought in some area agree with her in some other area, where the agreement-area is important to them. For a presenter at an ARS session, however, that is not necessarily so. At a each session, there will be a presenter who has been invited to read a paper contra Rand or contra another presentation defending or extending Rand.

A couple of months ago, I had a long conversation with a pastoral student, pursuing a Masters in theology, at Liberty University, here in my hometown. It was from me that he was first hearing of the philosophy of Ayn Rand, her novels, or even her name. That is not the situation of people attending APA meetings. No one would be coming into an ARS sessions knowing nothing at all about her philosophy and just wanting to get started with it.

It is possible a few people drop in just to see what intellectuals who unfortunately take Rand’s philosophy seriously are up to. I mean drop in to quietly survey the enemy (i.e., their enemy in political or moral philosophy). But that would be very rare, as there are always so many other sessions going on in parallel.

I do remember some years ago a definitely not quiet adversary coming into a session of the North American Kant Society. At the beginning of the discussion section, he tried to seize the floor to proclaim how Kant was erroneous (and an idiot) on various issues. Fortunately, the Chair stopped him and said he would have to wait until other questions and comments, ones directed to the topic of the session, were voiced. Fortunately, too, the kook left.

More recently the APA did something very smart. They stopped publishing in advance of the meeting where the various sessions will be held. They just tell their times. To learn where the various sessions are, one can no longer just crash them, rather, one has to do the right thing: go and pay the registration fee. Social kooks tend to be short of funds.

I should mention that display and sale of books collecting past papers of the Society, such as Metaethics, Egoism, and Virtue takes place at the book fair of the APA meeting, at the booth of the publisher.

Thank you for this response. Much obliged.

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I've been reading the book. I'm currently in "Metaethics: Objectivist and Analytic", Irfan Khawaja's article, "The Foundations of Ethics: Objectivism and Analytic Philosophy".

What lured me to the book was the name Ayn Rand. I had already read Tara Smith's book on Rand's Normative Ethics, so this looked like something worthwhile, too. The Editors said that they aimed the book at academic philosophers. That is NOT me, but it is fun to read something with a new intellectual flavor and I'm actually finding some further clarification of Rand's thinking just by coming at it from another point of view. Of course I keep my philosophy dictionary handy. For some reason, though I understood the fact that you can, if needed, trace your abstractions back to "the evidence of the senses", I had been sloughing off a little on the importance of accurate concept definitions to understand reality objectively. I don't think I will ever lose track of that again because it gets a good treatment in this article and I was just looking for that uderstanding again.

I'm not qualified to write a review of a book like this, so I will leave that to you higher level Objectivists. Suffice it to say, I love this stuff and I'm eagerly looking forward to what you all have to say about it.

Boydstun comments on:

Irfan Khawaja’s Foundations of Ethics: Objectivism and Analytic Philosophy

Paul Bloomfield’s Egoism and Eudaimonism: Reply to Khawaja

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.

The second book in the series AYN RAND SOCIETY PHILOSOPHICAL STUDIES will be issued in 2012.

Here are its Contents, with some connections and notes from me:

Concepts and Their Role in Knowledge

Reflections on Objectivist Epistemology

Allan Gotthelf, Editor

James G. Lennox, Associate Editor

ESSAYS

I. Ayn Rand’s Theory of Concepts: Rethinking Abstraction and Essence

Allan Gotthelf (*)

II. Conceptualization and Justification

Gregory Salmieri (cf.)

III. Perceptual Awareness as Presentational

Onkar Ghate (see Note)

IV. Concepts, Context, and the Advance of Science

James G. Lennox (ARS 2003, which also included “Ayn Rand on Concepts, Definitions, and Essences” by Allan Gotthelf)

DISCUSSIONS

A. Concepts, Definitions, and the Growth of Knowledge

Rand on Concepts, Definitions, and the Advance of Science

Comments on Gotthelf and Lennox

Paul E. Griffiths (ARS 2003)

Natural Kinds and Rand’s Theory of Concepts

Reflections on Griffiths

Onkar Ghate

Rand on Definitions—“One Size Fits All?”

Comments on Gotthelf

Jim Bogen (ARS 2003)

Taking a Measure of Definitions

Response to Bogen

Allan Gotthelf

On Concepts that Change with the Advance of Science

Comments on Lennox

Richard M. Burian (ARS 2003)

Conceptual Development versus Conceptual Change:

Response to Burian

James G. Lennox

B. Perceptual Awareness

In Defense of the Theory of Appearing:

Comments on Ghate and Salmieri

Pierre Le Morvan

Forms of Awareness and “Three Factor” Theories

Gregory Salmieri

Direct Realism and Salmieri’s “Forms of Awareness”

Bill Brewer*

Keeping Up Appearances: Reflections on the Exchange about Perceptual Infallibilism

Benjamin Bayer*

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Note

The title of Onkar Ghate’s PhD dissertation was “The Argument from Conflicting Appearances.”

Chapter 7: Perceptual Awareness without the Revelatory Standard of Direct Perception

(1) Perceptual Awareness as a Joint Product of Object and Subject

(2) The Nature of Appearing

(3) Sensory Qualities as Relational Qualities

It will be interesting, I’m sure, to compare Dr. Ghate’s essay “Perceptual Awareness as Presentational” with Dr. Kelley’s The Evidence of the Senses (see Index entries for APPEARANCES and FORM) and, of course, with A. D. Smith’s landmark work (a, b, c).

Edited by Stephen Boydstun
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Addendum to Note of preceding post:

See also the Index entry APPEARANCE PROPERTIES in Christopher Hill's Consciousness.

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ARS – 2011 Eastern

The APA Eastern Division Meeting will be Dec 27–30 in Washington DC at the Marriott Wardman Park. Onkar Ghate of the Ayn Rand Institute will speak on “The Philosophic Basis of the The Separation of Church and State: Theory and Practice.” Mark McGarvie of the Department of History at the University of Richmond will respond to Dr. Ghate’s paper. Prof. McGarvie is the author of One Nation under Law: America’s Early National Struggles to Separate Church and State (2005, scroll down). He is presently working on a book for Cambridge Press on the history of the relationship between law and religion from 1607 to the present.

ARS – 2012 Pacific

The Pacific Division Meeting will be April 4–7 in Seattle at the Westin Seattle. Travis Norsen will speak on “Concepts and the Growth of Scientific Knowledge: The Case of Temperature.” James Lennox and Hasok Chang will comment on Dr. Norsen’s paper. Prof. Chang is in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at Cambridge University. He is the author of Inventing Temperature: Measurement and Scientific Progress (2004).

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Chang's book looks very interesting. Fortunately I can borrow it from a library. I wish I could hear the session.

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The ARS session “The Philosophic Basis of the Separation of Church and State: Theory and Practice” at the 2011 Eastern Division Meeting will be December 28, 2:00–5:00 p.m.

A better link for Prof. McGarvie’s book is here.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Related to this topic, this work.

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For the course of a modern disaster in which there was not separation of church and state in law, no deep freedom of religion from enlistment in state purposes, and no powerful independent church to counter the state propaganda and to fight the inception of a vicious police state, I would like to mention a study by my learned childhood pastor:

The Church Struggle in Nazi Germany, 1933–34

Resistance, Opposition or Compromise

Arthur A. Preisinger (1991)

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ARS at APA Eastern in D.C. on Dec. 28, 2011

Mark McGarvie gave a splendid tour of the emergence of the idea of separation between public and private realms and emergence of the political value liberty of conscience. The tour continued through the winning of that idea and that value in the U.S. Constitution. Prof. McGarvie is working on a book on the intellectual and legal arguments that arose in the twentieth century to challenge the founders’ ideal of an individualistic and secular society.

In arguing for unregulated laissez-faire capitalism, Rand explained that she was advocating “a complete separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church” (OE 37). In his paper, Onkar Ghate set out what he takes to be the philosophical reasons, according with Rand’s philosophy, for the separation of church and state. This Dr. Ghate did by recounting the Locke-Madison-Jefferson account and by gleaning the essential aspects he thinks concordant with Rand. Metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and politics were all brought to bear. Nice work. He concluded by indicating the main vein to mine for understanding what Rand meant by saying that the same reasons support the separation of economics and state. That Randian vein is: production comes from thought.

ARS – 2012 Pacific

The session of the Ayn Rand Society will be from 7:00 to 10:00 pm on April 5. The location, topic, and participants will be as announced in #8 above. The session will be chaired by Allan Gotthelf.

ARS – 2012 Eastern

The APA Eastern Division Meeting will be Dec 27–30 in Atlanta at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis. The topic of the ARS session will be “The Moral Basis of Capitalism: Adam Smith and Ayn Rand.” Speakers will be James Otteson* and Yaron Brook. The session will be chaired by Tara Smith.

ARS – 2013 Pacific

The APA Pacific Division Meeting will be Mar 24–27 in San Francisco. The hotel has not been announced; in recent years it has been at the Westin St. Francis. The topic of the ARS session will be (title provisional) “Capitalism, Limited Government, and Morality.” The speaker will be Michael Huemer, and the commentator will be Harry Binswanger.

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ARS – 2013 Pacific

The APA Pacific Division Meeting will be Mar 24–27 in San Francisco. The hotel has not been announced; in recent years it has been at the Westin St. Francis. The topic of the ARS session will be (title provisional) “Capitalism, Limited Government, and Morality.” The speaker will be Michael Huemer, and the commentator will be Harry Binswanger.

That sounds very interesting. I wonder "how limited" each will say.

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I am studying Allan Gotthelf’s Teleology, First Principles, and Scientific Method in Aristotle’s Biology (Oxford 2012). It is magnificent. It can get one into trouble, for now three more books are on their way to me: Aristotle’s Philosophy of Biology by James Lennox (Cambridge 2000); Definition in Greek Philosophy edited by David Charles (Oxford 2010); and Explanation and Teleology in Aristotle’s Science of Nature by Marsiska Leunissen (Cambridge 2010).

I have also been studying the collection brought together as a festschrift for Allan Gotthelf: Being, Nature, and Life in Aristotle edited by James Lennox and Robert Bolton (Cambridge 2010). It, too, is marvelous.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The 2012 Eastern session for Ayn Rand Society this coming December, noted in #12, had to be cancelled last March because Prof. Otteson “reluctantly had to withdraw, because of unexpected personal/family reasons,” as reported by Prof. Gotthelf. There will be no ARS session at the Eastern Division Meeting of the APA in 2012. The 2013 Pacific session for ARS is still on as scheduled. If a session is pulled together for 2013 Central, I’ll try to let you know here.

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2013 Eastern Division session of ARS

December 27–30, Baltimore

Topic: Rand and Nozick: Moral, Social, and Political Thought

Speakers: Lester Hunt / Eric Mack

2014 Pacific Division session of ARS

April 14–19, San Diego

Topic: Ayn Rand’s Theory of Rights

Speakers: Fred Miller / Adam Mossoff

Commentator: Eric Mack

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I notice that only one of the listed speakers (Mossoff) is an ARI stalwart. This does not sit well with claims that the ARI circle controls ARS or that only the ARI partisans could take the organization seriously.

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Peter,

I'm not knocking Allan Gotthelf for putting Fred Miller, Eric Mack, and Lester Hunt on the program.

But you may want to ask yourself when the last time was that any of these folks publicly criticized Leonard Peikoff or the Ayn Rand Institute.

Robert Campbell

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The second volume of the Ayn Rand Philosophical Studies series is expected to issue in May. That one is on Rand’s theory of concepts. The volume after it will be on Aristotle and Rand.

Allan Gotthelf* has suffered a couple of minor strokes recently and has been dogged by other physical dilapidations as well. I hope the strokes stay away now and his mind keeps chugging years more.

Outside the ARS series, another book to issue in May is Ayn Rand: A Companion to Her Works and Thought, edited by Gotthelf and Prof. Salmieri. I look forward especially to the contribution* from Harry Binswanger on esthetics in this volume.

Philosophy professors T. Smith, G. Salmieri, B. Bayer, and R. Mayhew will be teaching this summer at OCON 2013.*

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This is an excerpt from a letter I received a couple of days ago from a friend, David Potts, who is a philosopher:


Do you remember about three years ago, at the APA in New York, they were talking about a philosophical belief survey of philosophers that PhilPapers had done? This is the write up [link below]. Although the survey was open to anyone, this report only presents results from a target group of all faculty from about 100 top departments. This target group is about 2000 people, of which a little under 1000 filled out the survey.

The results are interesting, both for confirming what one probably figured (most philosophers are atheists, most philosophers are compatibilists), and also for providing data in cases where it's hard to guess (what percentage of philosophers believe zombies are metaphysically possible, what percentage are externalists about mental content) or where the results are unexpected (more philosophers believe aesthetic value is objective than believe it is subjective [!], the vast majority of philosophers accept scientific realism, a large majority still accept the analytic-synthetic distinction, only 3% accept epistemic relativism, only 50% would describe themselves as philosophical naturalists, 10% are politically libertarian [!], over a quarter are non-physicalists about the mind, nearly 70% would throw the switch in the trolley problem, etc.).

The authors also correlate the results between questions and do a principal components analysis that suggests some main dimensions on which philosophers vary (naturalism/anti-naturalism, objectivism/subjectivism, rationalism/empiricism, realism/anti-realism, internalism/externalism).

They also do a metasurvey, asking what people expect the majority answers to be. Here the thing that struck me as most interesting was how often people underestimated the size of a majority. For instance, people expected to find that most philosophers accept scientific realism, but they did not realize just how large the majority really is. Ditto for acceptance of a priori knowledge, throwing the switch in the trolley problem, and a bunch of others. Also -- and this isn't really too surprising -- people tend to underestimate the number of people who agree with them and overestimate the number who disagree with them.

Anyway, this little snapshot of the state of the field may be imperfect, but I was nevertheless fascinated, and think you might be also. If nothing else, it was thought-provoking. I found it a good exercise to go through the questions and ask myself where I stand on each. A lot were easy, but some were not so easy!

View the survey and the report here.

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Reading about "the trolley problem" I have to say that a problem for philosophers is not the problem for the trolley operator who is going to do what he is going to do uninstructed by any others' higher-learning. In choosing between disasters say one person goes "splat" instead of five you are going to be a victim too assuming your prior innocence. You are simply four less victims a victim. Let's say the trolley is operated by a programmed robot that "chooses" to hit five instead of one. Then the programmer is wrong. If one instead of five he can sleep at night for his right programming. The real problem is the psychological damage of actually being there and being at the controls seeing someone die because you aren't God.

--Brant

philosophers should study psychology and psychologists should study philosophy and mix up their two professions bringing reason and morality to psychology and real gravitas to philosophy, assuming any philosophy of reason not using reason as a "stolen concept" the way most philosophies do

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Brant,

Positive psychology integrates philosophy, especially ethics.

Michael

A school of thought or just a statement of generic fact?

--Brant

positive philosophy?

edit: sort of a school of thought

Edited by Brant Gaede
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Brant,

Positive Psychology (Wikipedia).

I've read books (and articles and parts of books and heard audios and seen videos) by several of the people mentioned (not all yet), but also by several others whose names I did not see on skimming that article just now.

I first became aware of this school of psychology reading a book by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (I think you pronounce that Mee'-high Cheek'-sent-mee-high) called The Evolving Self: A Psychology for the Third Millennium that I picked up at a garage sale.

i have been a fan of Positive Psychology ever since.

Michael

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