Integral philosopher Steve McIntosh helps us usher in the new year (and decade) with a fresh look at an ancient formula for living a happy, productive and meaningful life. In this episode he explains “the virtues”, a philosophical concept with living roots reaching back to antiquity, including Plato and Confucius, as well as modern validity in the findings of positive psychology and social science.
Virtues practice is a powerful means of personal growth, and Steve gets us started by introducing The Character Exercise, an eight-minute internet quiz that helps us clarify our highest ideals and create a personalized “portrait of the good”. You are invited to do the quiz midway through the podcast … your answers generate a printable chart that serves as a practice tool for cultivating happiness and fulfillment. I took the quiz a few months ago and I can honestly say that it has significantly changed my life for the better. I am surprised at its power and trust it will be helpful to you too (let me know!). (let me know!).
Later in the podcast, Steve imagines the virtues as illuminating the path through our hyper-polarized political culture, a prospect he explores more fully in his upcoming book, Developmental Politics: How America Can Grow Into a Better Version of Itself.
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As Plato understood more than two thousand years ago: “The states are as the men are; they grow out of human characters.” Therefore, in order to overcome the fractious and frozen condition of contemporary American politics, we need to improve and evolve the electorate itself.
From Developmental Politics: “In order to reform the ‘politics industry’ in general, and the influence of money in politics in particular, we must first overcome the cultural barriers to political agreement that currently stymie any attempts at structural reform.”
We are the agents of evolution in the noosphere, and its further progress depends on us. As we awaken to our role as agents of evolution’s progress, this reveals humanity’s transcendent higher purpose: We are the bearers of the universe’s teleology—our purposes are its purposes.
From Developmental Politics: “Taking an evolutionary perspective on our political problems helps reframe our hyper-polarized political condition as a golden opportunity to bring about the next emergent level of our civilization’s development.”
From Developmental Politics: “The higher purposes which we recognize as *transcendent* have a kind of magnetic power that draws us forward. As Oxford philosopher Iris Murdoch wrote, ‘we are spiritual creatures, attracted by excellence and made for the Good.’”