Discovering Human Happiness: Choice Theory Psychology, Aristotelian Contemplation, and Traherne’s Felicity


Humans are created in the image of God.  This paper uses the work of three individuals to piece together a portrait of humankind that is informative and practical.  These individuals are William Glasser, Aristotle, and Thomas Traherne.  The concepts that are put together are Choice Theory, contemplation, and felicity.  Choice Theory psychology posits that humans are internally motivated by five genetic impulses or needs.  Happiness depends on meeting these needs in a responsible and balanced manner.  The five basic needs are love-belonging, power, freedom, fun, and survival.  Although Choice Theory is helpful to our understanding of human functioning, it is an incomplete view of human nature.  And consequently, its advice concerning happiness is flawed.  To be a more complete theory of human nature, Choice Theory psychology needs to expand its metaphysical view of human nature.  The Aristotelian view of human nature, which holds a high view of contemplation, and Traherne’s view of felicity can inform this modern psychological theory to make it a more comprehensive and accurate description of human nature and human well-being.  This author proposes that a sixth need be added to the five Choice Theory needs so that a more comprehensive view of human nature can emerge.  This author also proposes the ‘mean’ way to encourage self-examination of our need-generated behaviors.


“And God said, ‘Let us make people in our image, to be like ourselves.  They will be masters over all life—the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the livestock, wild animals, and small animals.’  So God created people in his own image; God patterned them after himself; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:26-27).”  What does it mean to be created in God’s image?  Whatever it means specifically, it implies that humans have a certain general structure, an internal pattern that is distinctively human. It is the premise of this paper that discovering what we are is key to living a life that is characterized by true human happiness.  This paper will focus on the observations and contributions made to our understanding of humans by three different individuals—William Glasser, Aristotle, and Thomas Traherne.  Putting together their observations and teachings will give us a fuller, more complete view of human nature than if each were studied separately.


Choice Theory Psychology

     Choice Theory is an internal control psychology.  Internal control psychologies view human behavior as ultimately explainable by reference to innate, inborn, desires or “needs.”  No matter what the external stimuli happens to be, humans behave subsequently because they are attempting to satisfy at least one of these needs.  Choice Theory, as formalized by William Glasser (1998), summarizes all behavior into five main categories: survival, love-belonging, power, freedom, and fun.  These innate desires, or impulses, push us to action.  The objects that eventually become important to us, because they satisfy our “needs”, vary from person to person.  Sometimes it seems that some theorists make the mistake of viewing the five impulses much as a continually emptying glass needing to be filled.  I think it is more accurate to view the impulses like static pressure pushing and waiting for release.  And when release is withheld or denied, frustration and negative emotion are felt.  Frustration and negative emotion are often allowed behavioral expression.  This behavioral expression is inevitably harmful to self and others.

     Successful living, therefore, requires both knowledge of what this structure is and an understanding of how to best manage the expression of this structure.  The knowledge of what this structure is represents human need for theoretical and scientific contribution.  An understanding of how to best manage the expression of this structure represents human need for ethical and political contribution.  Because humans need to express these impulses in order to live and feel "good" Glasser calls them needs.  We are essentially then, natural substances whose essential nature it is to think, act, and feel in order that these impulses, or "needs," find expression.

     Choice Theory posits that humans are intrinsically self-referencing.  We act out of desire and choice.  Behavior that is purposeful can be influenced by incentives that are intrinsically satisfying or constraints that are intrinsically threatening.  Something that is intrinsically satisfying or intrinsically threatening is related to the five basic needs of Choice Theory.  Self-interest is different than self-referencing.  We cannot help being self-referencing because we are supposed to pursue that which is most valuable and beneficial.  We can be self-referencing and still be others-regarding (Bond, 1996).  Caring about others is possible.  Mere self-interest, ultimately, does not consider or care about others’ welfare before it acts.

     For those unfamiliar with Choice Theory the following chart shows the five need categories and several sub behaviors that contribute to feelings of inner well-being (Walker):

    --Air    --Food    --Water
    --Body Functions     --Shelter      --Health
    --Exercise     --Sex

    *Friendship      *Cooperation      *Involvement
    *Caring     *Relationships     *Connected
    *Companionship    *Intimacy     *Collaboration

    *Importance    *Competition    *Recognition
    *Achievement       *Competence     *Attention
    *Respect    *Skills    *Being Heard
    *Impact    *Pride    *Significance

    *Choices    *Independence    *Options
    *Liberty     *Autonomy    *Moving Around
    *Physical        *Psychological

    *Enjoyment    *Pleasure    *Learning
    *Relaxation    *Laughter

These behaviors can be related to more than one need category at a time but are identified by the dominant need satisfied in most cases.  Glasser teaches that the five basic needs are a summarization of all observed human behavior.

     My short summary of Glasser's Choice Theory requires attention to one more area of thought.  Glasser stated in his book Choice Theory (p. 22) that the entire book was ultimately about happiness.  Happiness is his epistemic first principle.  His intellectual starting point for further thought.  For Glasser, human happiness is found in human relationships.  Human relationships that are characterized by cooperatively responsible, cooperatively balanced, and cooperatively effective management of the survival, love-belonging, power, freedom, and fun impulses.  And when this type of impulse management exists individuals feel satisfied, they feel good, pleasant--they feel happy.  Happiness for Glasser appears to be a breed of psychological contentment.  It is not a crass, low-minded want-satisfaction schema, where saint and criminal can be equally satisfied, but a schema in which one's individual wants are judged by a responsible, balanced, and effective impulse-management standard.  This standard functions both as a limiter on irresponsible, unbalanced, and ineffective behaviors as well as an objective target for the formation of responsible, balanced, and effective impulse managing desires.

Aristotelian Contemplation

     Robinson (1989) says this about Aristotle's psychology:  "Aristotle's psychology is in the main voluntaristic, which is compatible with his ethical and political theories.  It is a self-actualizing psychology, though more rigorous and reasoned than the latter day  'humanistic' versions (p. 109)."  It is this rigorousness and reasoning that I want to bring to Choice Theory.  Aristotle's language is about fulfilling human potentialities and capacities.  Glasser's language is about need fulfillment.  Glasser's language tends to limit human thinking to calculating ways of satisfying the basic animalistic (needs that are shared in kind with other animals) impulses, how-be-it in responsible ways.  It seems to be quite confining.  Aristotle's language, in my opinion, is more liberating and enlightening.  To Aristotle, happiness is much more about fulfilling human potentialities in an excellent way than it is about psychological want or need satisfaction.

     When Aristotle talks about happiness he is not talking about the mere psychological satisfaction that comes when we get what we want.  He is talking about human flourishing, a thriving that is based on moral and intellectual excellence.  This flourishing is first an objective target based on understanding.  As our desires are trained and habituated toward the excellent by voluntary action, they tend to generate happy lives.  Lives that involve "activity that is intelligent, fair, sober, enterprising action in and upon a material and social environment (Brodie, 1991, p. 51)."  Aristotle teaches that we need four things to be truly and fully happy:  1) the moral virtues related to social relations, 2) the intellectual-spiritual virtue of contemplation, 3) sufficient wealth that allows us to meet the needs related to food, clothing, and housing, and 4) good fortune that frees us from disease and debilitating accidents (Reeve, 1995).  Choice Theory acknowledges the need for #1, #3, and #4, but not #2.  For Aristotle, to leave #2 out of one's reasoning is to make a grave mistake (NE X. 7-8).  "A life untouched by contemplation is defective in a way that matters, however good in other ways (Brodie, 1991, p. 377)."

     To the modern student of psychology, the high value that Aristotle places on contemplation must seem shocking.  Isn't Aristotle the one who insisted against his teacher, Plato, that human reasoning about human happiness (flourishing) must be grounded in concrete human experience (Tracy, 1969)?  If he was, then what is he doing with this contemplation stuff?  As I said before, Aristotle believed that human flourishing or happiness is accomplished as one develops human potentialities or capacities into their excellent expressions.  And through his studies and observations he saw something in humans that defied natural explanation, something "divine" (NE X. 7).  By Aristotle's reasoning, true and complete happiness comes as humans honor and live as much as possible according to what is highest and best in them.  This is the capacity to know higher and greater things than themselves (NE 1141a 21-23).  "We. . .must, so far as we can, make ourselves immortal, and strain every nerve to live in accordance with the best thing in us; for even if it be small in bulk, much more does it in power and worth surpass everything (NE 1177b 31-1178a 2)."

     Aristotle says some pretty incredible things, things that might just be called religious in nature.  Brodie (1991) concludes this after studying Aristotle:  "Aristotle, however, has emerged as surprisingly unhumanistic. . . .his ethics has, unquestionably, a religious dimension, though it lacks the characteristics which humanism most likely finds objectionable (p. 408)."  Space does not allow me to quote and explain all the passages that relate to this "divine" metaphysical element in human makeup, but one particular passage is really quite incredible, if not inspiring.  The passage is in Eudemian Ethics, Book 8, 1249 b6-b25:  "So it is needful, as in other cases, to live by reference to the governing thing, and by reference to the state and activity of what governs, as a slave to the rule of the master and each thing to its appropriate governing principle.  But since a human being, also, is by nature composed of a thing that governs and a thing that is governed, each too should live by reference to its own governing principle in one way, and health in another; for the first is for the sake of the second.  Thus it is with the speculative {part}.  For the god is a governor not in a prescriptive fashion, but it is that for which practical wisdom prescribes (but that for which is or two sorts--they have been distinguished elsewhere--since the god is in need of nothing).  So if some choice and possession of natural goods--either goods of the body or money or of friends or the other goods--will most produce the speculation of the god, that is the best, and that is the finest limit; but whatever, whether through deficiency or excess, hinders the service and speculation of the god, is bad.  Thus it is for the soul, and this is the best limit for the soul--to be aware as little as possible of the non-rational part of the soul as such.  But let what has been said be enough on the limit of nobility, and what the goal is of things good without qualification."

     Humans have the intellectual and spiritual capacity to think about things beyond themselves.  While these contemplative subjects include god, they also include "the eternal patterns of the universe, abstract mathematics, and nonmathematicable forms of order and beauty found in plants and animals (Brodie, 1991, p. 400)."  And maybe, even political matters which are designed to increase the ability and opportunities for contemplation by the people within a decision-makers sphere of influence (Tuozzo, 1995).  Aristotle said this in Parts of Animals 645a15-25 (Yack, 1993, p 108):  "Every realm of nature is marvelous. . . .we should venture on the study of every kind of animal without distaste; for each and all will reveal to us something natural and something beautiful."  Aristotle clearly thinks that a life that focuses only on social interaction is devoid of true blessedness, and can be happy only in a secondary sense (NE 1177a 12-18, 1178 a 9-10).  Aristide Tessitore (1996) points out that much of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics is designed to show that even the social, moral virtues at their best are deficient in their ability to give us a pure and lasting happiness.  We need to exercise our intellectual-spiritual capacities toward god and the universe around us that our happiness might be perfected.  True happiness requires the dominating presence of this capacity in our lives.

      Unlike other philosophers, Plato included (Tessitore, 1996), Aristotle does not look down on the social, moral virtues, but raises them to a place of importance in the overall picture of human well-being.  Without the moral virtues, the capacity for full contemplation is diminished.  Without the calming and quieting effect that the virtues have on our passions and actions, there can be no real, soul inspiring, soul purifying contemplation (Tuozzo, 1995).  For true contemplation has a reciprocal relationship with the social virtues.  "Our love of [contemplation] is not a species of practical wisdom [as for the moral virtues], rather it is an evaluative attitude colouring deliberation and helping us hit the mean. . . .It is, therefore, a virtue of character, and resembles the other virtues of character in that they, too, are aspects of a general willingness to let reason rule.  The difference is that the love of [contemplation] refers to a rational activity which 'rules' only by being loved and sought, whereas the other virtues of character refer to practical wisdom, which most noticeably rules by prescription (Brodie, 1991, p. 415)."

     We need something beyond human relationships.  We need to exercise our intellectual-spiritual capacities toward God and the universe around us that our happiness might be perfected.  Eat, drink, and be merry may satisfy animals but it should not satisfy humans!  We were made for more than that. 

     Aristotle’s central vision was on target but because his knowledge of God was limited and incomplete, he can only take us so far in our understanding of what “holy” contemplation is all about.  Aristotle lived in 4th century B.C. Greece.  Much has happened since his time.  We can only speculate about what Aristotle would have done with the Christian message.  Would he have received the Christ message as a completion of his own longing for contact with his god?  I am sure he would have been astonished at the personal love and involvement God showed in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.  Would that revelation have broken his heart, or would it have seemed foolish to him?  Who knows?  It must be pointed out, however, that some students (Thomas Aquinas) of Aristotle have embraced the Christ message as a fulfillment of the Aristotelian quest for contemplative truth.  Regardless, Aristotle can only help us so much.

     Aristotle’s keen observations of human behavior led him to conclude that humans were unique in the animal world.  They possessed a special capacity to view meaning and purpose in life, to view God.  We should be sympathetic and grateful for Aristotle’s efforts and observations.  But he can only help us understand this capacity up to a point.  He had no access to special revelation or knowledge of the ultimate revelation of God, Jesus Christ Himself.  To further our understanding of this capacity I turn to Thomas Traherne.

Traherne’s Felicity

     Traherne lived in England in the seventeenth century.  He was a pastor in the Anglican Church.  His view of the Christian life was unique during his day.  Knowing that he grew up experiencing war, violence, and bloodshed, makes his optimistic, peaceful philosophy all the more remarkable.  And gives witness to the effects that his contemplative philosophy had on his life.  What he had to say can be of great help to the people of our time.  This writer will seek to explain Traherne’s Christian views in a way that will make them understandable and applicable.  Traherne’s Centuries will be the main focus of this paper.  With Centuries this writer hopes to convey Traherne as the happy man of God he was, as well as whet the appetite of the reader to read Centuries.  In Traherne’s quest to expose the nature and benefits of felicity he has recorded some of the greatest prose writings in the English language.  C.S. Lewis said of Traherne’s Centuries:  “[it is] almost the most beautiful book. . .in English (C.S. Lewis, Centuries cover).”

     Felicity by definition means bliss.  To Traherne, however, it is more than just a state of blissful happiness:  “…it is simply the wellspring from which all that is good and natural flows (Balakier, 1989, p. 241).”  It is that holy happiness that results in godly and virtuous living.  It is not mere psychological contentment that follows satisfied desire or want.  Lines 13-18 of Traherne’s poem “Nature” speaks to these results as God intended it in creation: 

          I was by Nature (created nature of mankind) prone and apt to love
          All light and beauty, both in Heaven above,
          And earth beneath, prone even to Admire,
          Adore and Praise as well as to Desire.
          My inclinations raised me up on high,
          And guided me to all Infinite (Balakier, p. 241).

     Humans can experience felicity because God has created them in His own image (2.23).  It is their gift from God.  “To enjoy the treasures of God in the similitude of God, is the most perfect blessedness God could devise” (3.59).  By giving humans this capacity (1.99), God has honored them above all creatures:  “It is no blasphemy to say that God cannot make a God:  the greatest thing that He can make is His Image:  a most perfect creature, to enjoy the most perfect treasures, in the most perfect manner: (3.61).  Traherne also points out that its full potential will not be realized until heaven:  “Here upon Earth perhaps where our estate is imperfect this is impossible (full experience of felicity in the image of God):  but in Heaven where the soul is all Act it is necessary. . . .Here it is to rejoice in what it may be” (2.73).

     Although the journey’s end is found in heaven’s eternity, it starts in this life by discovering the powers, inclinations, and principles of the soul (1.19).  The soul has the power to know God, love all of God’s creation, and see the infinite.  It has inclinations of desire, happiness, and possession.  And it is guided and governed by principles that order its passions toward the good.

     Traherne’s whole system is based on his belief that humans are capable of knowing God in a personal way.  Traherne’s God is not the God of the deists, who believed that God created the world but then distanced Himself from personal contact with that world.  Felicity is his epistemological answer to the question of how a person can know God (2.21).  And his practical answer to the question of how a person can move toward godliness (2.22).  Unlike Calvin’s “signs and tokens (Calvin, p. 43),” Traherne’s felicity really gives one a personal glimpse of God (3.66).  Real personal knowledge of God is possible because God has made it possible in felicity.

     Creation is humankind’s to enjoy.  “The world serves [Him] in this fathomless manner, exhibiting the Deity, and ministering to [His] blessedness. . .”  (2.24).  Animals do not have such powers.  They cannot appreciate and admire, they can only comprehend utility—nothing more.  As humans love God’s works in creation, they come to a better understanding of God Himself.  By humankind’s very ability to prize God’s works, all of creation is validated.  One of Traherne’s poems, “Demonstration,” speaks to humankind’s central role in creation:  “That Godhead cannot prize the Sun at all, nor yet the skies / Or air, or earth, or trees, or seas / Or stars, unless the Soul of man they please (Balakier, p. 244).”

     The human soul also has the power to see the infinite.  By way of thoughts, the soul can inhabit all the ages (Stewart, 1970, p. 202-03, Thoughts IV).   He made us the sons and daughters of God in capacity by giving us “Power to see Eternity, to survey His treasures, to love His children, to know and love as He doth, to become righteous” (1.99).  “This busy, vast, enquiring Soul / Brooks no controul / No limits will endure, / Nor any Rest:  It will all see/ Not time alone, but ev’n Eternity / What is it?  Endless sure” (DeNeef, 1988, p. 30, Insatiableness II).   But thought alone is not enough.  Thought must be clothed with understanding before the power contributes to felicity (2.76).  In understanding, a soul can walk with Adam, Enoch, Noah, Moses, Aaron and Solomon and be benefited by all toward felicity (1.55).

     The soul also possesses inclinations that focus these powers.  Desire is the key word here.  “Wants are the Bands and Cements between God and us.  Had we not wanted we could never have been obliged.  Whereas now we are infinitely obliged because we want infinitely” (1.51).  Desire is what moves us toward God.  By His wisdom He “[implanted] by instinct so strong a desire of Felicity in the Soul, that we might be excited to labour after it, though we know it not, the very force wherewith we covet it supplying the place of understanding” (3.56).  It is a noble inclination because thereby humans can thirst after the highest riches and virtues (1.23).

      This desire is for happiness.  Everyone wants to be happy.  But not everyone strives toward felicity, or holy happiness.  God wants man to be happy because He is love; and love desires the best for its object (1.52).  When humans are truly happy, “holy happy,” God is happy, for they were made for His enjoyment. (4.50).  God gives all to humans and humans give praises back to God.  Praises are the end of all creation, the reason and “very end for which the world was created” (3.82).  The heartfelt praise of a person can reach where he or she cannot go—the very bosom of God (3.82).  Without this cycle, animals are but carcasses and things are but empty objects devoid of meaning (3.82).

     The soul is also inclined to possess all (1.16).  Its longings cannot be truly satisfied by anything short of infinite perfection (Traherne, Christian Ethics, p. 20).  It must possess God or be dissatisfied (2.63).  And this possession comes both by possessing and being possessed by the Great Lover of the Universe (3.100).  This is paradoxical but true.  God is both the end and means of felicity.

     Unfortunately, these powers and inclinations are often perverted in direction.  Instead of all things being seen in the light of God, they are possessed for what they can do for the possessor.  Everyone must live for something (1.71) because “felicity is a thing coveted by all” (2.100).  Desire moves us, but an individual sets the direction.  It is not just the things we behold and desire, but with what eyes we behold them (3.68).  Properly followed, all objects lead to God.  To not see God in all things is to be one’s own worst enemy (4.7).  Such a person Traherne describes as a “blind wretch that wounds [himself]” (4.20).  Because of this difficulty (3.63), principles of proper soul functioning are necessary (4.94) for humans to reach their God-ordained end in felicity.

     God has designed the soul to function according to certain principles.  Traherne lists many in his fourth century in Centuries.  We will take note of only three.  First, seek wisdom and its companion, holiness (4.4 and 4.31).  Second, see God as a personal friend (4.15).  And third, see God as sovereign over one’s life (4.19).  In these three principles we see God as truth, goodness, and security—all functioning to produce felicity.

     The propositional laws of God are given to move humans in the direction of the above principles.  These teach us to love God and all that is good and just (1.20) and to live in His image.  Obedience to these laws results in blessedness (2.29).  They are liberating because they free us from "seducing and enslaving errors" (1.36).  They are liberating because they move us to felicity which itself liberates one "from such imaginary captures as require the continual denial, sublimation, or transference of desire (DeNeef, p. 176)," when objects are possessed apart from God.  “The laws of God discover all that is therein to be created for [our] sake.  For they command [us] to love all that is good, and when [we] see well, [we] enjoy what [we] love.  They apply the endless powers of [our ] soul to all [its] objects: and by ten thousand methods make everything to serve [us] (1:20).”

     Thomas Traherne believed that God made humans for relationship with Himself.  He believed that humans could actually touch the heart of God and that God was not a distant Being as the deists believed, but that He desired intimate contact with humans.  And the ultimate proof of this, according to Traherne, was the appearance of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, in the affairs of men and women.  Jesus came to us, seeking our hearts.  The Cross of Calvary breaks the receptive heart.  Jesus gets our hearts through Calvary.  That is why He did it!  God is not distant, but He showed up on the human scene to experience our wounds and release us from bondage to sin.  Traherne wants us to know that God cares and that He loves us.  A heart that truly knows this will be moved toward felicity, or holy happiness.

Virtue and the Sixth Need

     Based on all of the above information, I, therefore, think that a sixth need should be added to Choice Theory.  A previously published paper of mine in the International Journal of Reality Therapy, Fall 2002, made the case for the addition of this sixth need.  I tried to draw attention to the human need for blessedness in our lives.  “Using this word I want to stress three things: 1) Human well-being requires attention be given to things beyond self and human relationships as suggested by our expansive intellectual abilities.  2) Human well-being requires a sense of awe and wonderment in order to ‘feel’ attached to something beyond self.  One characteristic of unhappy people is their self-absorption.  3) A sense of blessedness helps us recognize real priorities on which to build our lives.  Mere money making and business lose their sense of importance to one who has cultivated blessedness.  Unmodified capitalism corrupts both the sense and striving for the Blessed in our lives. The need for blessedness is common to humankind but absent from animals.  Animals seem content when food abounds and their surroundings are peaceful.  That is not true of humans….  Everyone has this capacity, some more, some less, and when it is allowed to guide and inform our lives we are better off, we sense a central blessedness in our inner beings.  Humans need a sense of blessedness to function as they were created and designed by their Creator (p. 17).”  I do not see “blessedness” as merely a satisfying experience, as many other experiences we have.  The “blessedness” I am talking about is the kind that makes us better, more virtuous, godly people. 

     Following is a chart showing the Choice Theory needs in relation to virtue (Skeen, pp. 15, 18).  And notice that “blessedness” also has good and bad, or mean and extreme, expressions.

Choice Theory’s Needs and their Virtues and Vices

Choice Theory NeedsDeficiencyMeanExcess
power docile tenaciousobstinate
power  vacillatingfirmstubborn
power  carelessanalyticalperfectionistic
powereasily distracteddiligentobsessive
power  pliableresilientinflexible
power obsequiousprincipleddogmatic
powerlow self-estimationself-confidentarrogant
blessedness*bio-psycho-emotional Satiation*Connectedness to God, Nature, and Creation *Pride that strives for personal divinity and/or superiority

Blessedness is a real human need that when fulfilled “meanly”, or rightly, yields certain benefits.  Virtue is one of those benefits.  As Traherne puts it: “We come moreover to know God’s goodness, in seeing into the causes wherefore He implanted such faculties and inclinations in us, and the objects and ends prepared for them….a power of admiring, loving, and prizing, that seeing the beauty and goodness of God, he might be united to it for evermore (1960, p. 132).”  Knowing God and His world should make us better people. 

Because I think that a more complete view of humans requires the addition of blessedness as the sixth need, the updated need-behavior chart (Skeen, p. 18) is recorded below.

Six Basic Human Needs

(Instead of dividing humans into parts, it can be helpful to divide them into needs or capacities instead)

    --Air    --Food    --Water
    --Body Functions    --Shelter    --Health
    --Exercise    --Sex

    *Friendship    *Cooperation      *Involvement
    *Caring    *Relationships    *Connected
    *Companionship    *Intimacy    *Collaboration

    *Importance    *Competition    *Recognition
    *Achievement     *Competence    *Attention
    *Respect        *Skills    *Being Heard
    *Impact    *Pride     *Significance

    *Choices    *Independence    *Options
    *Liberty     *Autonomy     *Moving Around
    *Physical     *Psychological

    *Enjoyment     *Pleasure    *Learning
    *Relaxation    *Laughter

    +Contemplation    +Imagination    +Wonderment
    +Meditation    +Mental Focus on and Possession of Intangibles (infinite, eternal, abstract, virtue) 


     Choice Theory has little or nothing to say about the intellectual-spiritual dimension of human personhood.  And because it does not it falls short of guiding people to a true expression of humanity and complete human happiness.  Does it really not see the intellectual-spiritual capacity Aristotle and Traherne see?  And countless others as well?  Because it does not “see” its portrait of humans is flawed.  But it does give us a piece of the puzzle.  Choice Theory makes an important contribution by saying that humans are internally motivated by innate needs or impulses, rather than just social and environmental forces. 

     We need something beyond human relationships.  Human friendships and service to others are important.  But they are not enough.  We need to exercise our intellectual-spiritual capacities toward God and the universe around us that our happiness might be perfected.  Aristotle and Traherne teach us that contemplation of God and His creation is a vital part of a good and happy life.  The type of contemplation advocated by both Aristotle and Traherne is concrete contemplation.  Using the adjective “concrete” I mean: “existing in reality or in real experiences; perceptible to the senses; real.”  Traherne especially captures the spirit of the kind of contemplation that increases well-being.  The kind of contemplation focused on objects primarily outside the self, God and His creation.  Modern psychologies that do not contain reference to this dimension of human nature fall short in their attempts to lead men and women to a robust and lasting happiness, both now and forever.


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Traherne, Thomas (1960).  Centuries.  Wilton:  Morehouse.

Traherne, Thomas (1968).  Christian Ethicks.  Ithaca:  Cornell University Press.

Tuozzo, Thomas M.  edited by Bosley, Shiner and Sisson. (1995).  Aristotle, Virtue, and

     the Mean.  “Contemplation, the Noble, and the Mean:  The Standard of Moral Virtue in Aristotle’s Ethics.”  Edmonton:  Academic.

Walker, Wendall. Chart personally received from Wendall Walker during Choice Theory/Reality Therapy training.

Yack, Bernard (1993).  The Problems of a Political Animal.  Berkeley:  University of California Press.

Emerging Church Economics

There are too many errors in this book for unsophisticated readers. McLaren’s book has value only to readers who recognize the mistakes but are willing to learn about a position that springs from ideology and a theological framework. For me, the emerging church movement is enough to consider by itself without flawed economics intertwined

Mordecai Kaplan: Rethinking Judaism for the New World

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