Positive psychology studies the strengths that enable individuals to thrive. It is founded on the belief that we want to cultivate our best virtues and traits, and enhance our lives by embracing our best selves. But we are imperfect creatures. How do we realize our best selves and flourish in the face of our frailty, suffering, and vice?

This volume addresses the human condition in its entirety and discusses the pathways to flourishing in light of the everyday limitations that we all must face. Fowers, Richardson, and Slife discuss what they call the "breathless optimism" of positive psychology and explain how human dependency, limits, and suffering are not just negatives to be overcome. Rather they are part of our journey toward development and thriving.

Frailty, Suffering, and Vice: Flourishing in the Face of Human Limitations is a vital corrective for the conceptual and practical limitations of contemporary scholarship, reminding us all that understanding our limitations is essential to living the best kind of life.

Table of Contents


  1. A Framework for a Good Life
  2. Virtue and Vice
  3. Dependency
  4. Complications
  5. Human Limits
  6. Suffering
  7. Evil and the Vicious Character
  8. Human Frailty and the Good Life



About the Authors

Author Bios

Blaine J. Fowers, PhD, is a professor of counseling psychology at the University of Miami.

He is the author of four other books, including The Evolution of Ethics: Human Sociality and the Emergence of Ethical Mindedness and Virtue and Psychology: Pursuing Excellence in Ordinary Practices.

He conducts theoretical and empirical research on virtues, higher order goals, and their links to choiceworthy goods and human flourishing.

Dr. Fowers has published more than 80 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters. He was a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Birmingham, England, in 2016.

He is a past president of the Society for Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology and a recipient of the Joseph B. Gittler Award for Contributions to the Philosophical Foundations of Psychology.

Frank C. Richardson, PhD, is an emeritus professor of educational psychology at the University of Texas, Austin.

He is the author or editor of several books, including Re-Envisioning Psychology: Moral Dimensions of Theory and Practice and Critical Thinking About Psychology: Hidden Assumptions and Plausible Alternatives and the author of more than 100 articles and chapters in theoretical psychology and the philosophy of social science.

He is a past president of APA Division 24 (Society for Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology), from which he recently received a Lifetime Achievement award. His current scholarly interests include topics in psychology and religion.

Brent D. Slife, PhD, is the Richard L. Evans Chair of Religious Understanding and a professor of psychology at Brigham Young University.

Honored with an APA Presidential Citation for his contribution to psychology, he has served as the president of the Society of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology and is currently the editor-in-chief of the APA Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology and the editor of the Routledge book series in theoretical and philosophical psychology.

Dr. Slife has authored or coauthored more than 200 articles and 10 books, and continues his psychotherapy practice of over 30 years where he specializes in marital and family therapies.

Reviews & Awards

This book brings the positive psychology discussion to the level of depth that is needed for understanding the art of living fully, with wisdom, humility, and grace. It tackles both virtue and vice, a rare and stimulating contribution. Mature, readable, and deeply human.
—Veronika Huta, PhD
Associate Professor of Psychology, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; cofounder of the Canadian Positive Psychology Association

For Fowers, Richardson, and Slife, flourishing means much more than being oriented to the positives in life. It means staying with and drawing from the vulnerability, pain, and sorrow that life with others inevitably entails and seeing them as vitally important parts of the human drama. This book is a sophisticated, wise, and timely check on the mythology of untrammeled happiness and the self-contained individualism it often brings in tow. A true celebration of the full scope of our humanity.
—Mark Freeman, PhD
College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA