Self and Desire as Seeds of Virtue
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According to Buddhist philosophies, recognizing the self as impermanent, changing, and interdependent is at the root of virtue. With this realization, desires shift away from inward self-cherishing and toward outward self-transcending (e.g., for others to be happy and free from suffering). This altruistic outlook underlies virtuous action and flourishing. Our primary research question asks: 1) to what extent do people experience self-transcending and self-cherishing desires in everyday life, and 2) to what extent do these different desires predict behaviors and body physiology that underlie virtue and well-being. As highlighted by the SMV project, one challenge involves measuring both intention and action. To overcome this challenge, we propose a multimethodological study that will integrate firstperson experiences of desires (which reflect intention), secondperson reports from close others (i.e., romantic part-ners), and thirdperson laboratory measures of prosocial behavior and body physiology that underlie virtue and flourishing in the context of social relationships (i.e., with one’s romantic part-ner). We will use an “experience sampling” method delivered via a smartphone app to capture psychological desires in daily life. In the laboratory, we will examine if desires in daily life are related to prosocial behavior and physiological synchrony during face-to-face social interactions with a romantic partner. Theoretically, we anticipate that integration of Buddhist philosophy into Western psychology research will encourage more emphasis on the deep psychological desires (e.g., for wealth, recognition, esteem, social connection) that appear to continually drive behavior (v. emphasis on surface desires, food, alcohol, sex). Empirically, we predict that frequent self-transcending desires in daily life will be related to prosocial behavior and physiological synchrony during interactions with romantic partners. Going forward, this project will provide the foundation for future work examining how the moral self can be shaped through contemplative practice (e.g. compassion and or mindfulness meditation) in everyday life.
- Moral Self Archive