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Apeiron Society for the Practice of Philosophy

Tuesday January 27th, 2015 at 7:30 pm
in the Valhalla Room of the Scandinavian Centre,

739 – 20th Ave N.W. Calgary.
Topic: “Happiness and the Positive Psychology Movement”
Speaker: Hank Stam - (Department of Psychology, University of Calgary)

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The Talk:

With the claim that psychology has focused for too long on the pathological, unsavory or darker features of human life, Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi announced in the year 2000 the creation of a “positive psychology” to focus on people’s strengths, virtues and “positive subjective experiences”.  This movement has grown to include a wide range of phenomena and studies, although it is often unclear where the dividing line between positive psychology and plain old psychology exists.  I will focus on two characteristics of this movement.  First, I would like to locate it historically as the recent manifestation of a current that has long been present in American culture.  It has expressed itself in the New Thought movement of the 19th century through such mid-20th century authors as Dale Carnegie and Norman Vincent Peale all the way to Humanistic Psychology, the popularity of which peaked in the 1960s and 70s.  Second, I note that various critics have argued that positive psychology suffers from an inherent individualism and cultural myopia as well as a naïve view of “virtue”.  Positive psychologists have astutely ignored their critics.

Biographical Notes:

Hank Stam is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Calgary and teaches in the Theory Program as well as the Clinical Psychology Program. He has published widely in numerous areas of psychology but his most recent work has focused on contemporary theoretical problems in psychology and the historical foundations of 20th century psychology. He is founder and current Editor of Theory & Psychology, published by Sage, and the current President of the Society for the History of Psychology..