Revisiting the conceptualisation and categorisation of appreciation of beauty as a character strength : a narrative review
In order to better understand the concept of human strengths, Peterson and Seligman (2004) developed the Values in Action (VIA) classification of 24 character strengths and six virtues. Appreciation of beauty (natural, artistic, and moral), classified under the virtue of transcendence, is one such strength and the focus of this research. A number of questions are raised within the literature regarding the categorisation of appreciation of beauty (AOB) under the overarching virtue of transcendence, the varied componential makeup of this strength, its distinctiveness from or possible associations with other character strengths, and the varied cultural perceptions relating to AOB. There is no previous research addressing these core conceptualisation and categorisation issues, with AOB in general being one of the least researched and least understood of the classified character strengths. The aim of the present study was to critically interrogate the conceptualisation and classification of AOB under the virtue of transcendence. A comprehensive narrative review, which entails a narrative overview of the literature, was deemed the best suited approach for this largely unexplored field. The seven-step approach as recommended by Onwuegbuzie and Frels (2016) was followed in this narrative review process. Specific attention in the methodology was given to the introspection and bracketing of the researcher’s worldview, search strategies for the identification of studies, criteria for the inclusion and exclusion of studies, the use of multimodal texts to supplement published literature, the thematic analysis and synthesis of selected information (data), and specific ethical considerations. Thematic analysis of the literature revealed five core categories, namely: finding beauty, positive emotional states, deeper cognitive states, existential issues, and related character strengths, which were further analysed for emerging patterns that could assist in answering the specific research questions. It was discovered, firstly, that beauty can be conceptualised as either a moral or a non-moral endeavour. While the major sources of beauty (natural, artistic, and moral) are seen as both related and distinct concepts, there are many similarities between natural and artistic beauty not found in moral beauty. The associated emotional states (awe and elevation) and associated existential issues (transcendence, meaning, and connectedness) as the second and third themes, respectively, also distinguished between moral and non-moral beauty. Fourthly, the deeper cognitive states (savouring, absorption, mindfulness, and flow) showed a closer association with natural and artistic beauty than moral beauty. Finally, it was concluded that appreciation of natural and artistic beauty joins cognitive strengths such as curiosity and love of learning under the wisdom virtue rather than the transcendence virtue, and that new virtue clusters should be considered with other combinations of character strengths. The scarcity of literature on AOB as a whole, most particularly from a classification stance, as well as the lack of diverse cultural perspectives of beauty were seen as limiting factors in this study. Further theoretical, empirical, and philosophical studies are thus necessary. An analysis of the conceptualisation and categorisation of AOB and an integration of the state of the art on information in this regard (as intended by this manuscript) may be a springboard for further empirical studies on this important but neglected character strength, and may facilitate the development of interventions to enhance people’s quality of life by appreciating the beauty that is already there.
- Health Sciences 
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