International Journal of Existential Positive Psychology

How to Flourish as a Dependent, Limited Creature

Blaine J. Fowers, Ph.D.

University of Miami


I begin this article with an acknowledgement of multiple, unavoidable human limitations and frailties. These foibles and shortcomings seem, at first glance, to be incompatible with the idea that people can have flourishing lives. To address this seeming paradox, I argue that virtues have been identified as pathways toward human flourishing in the face of human frailties. I address human dependency and limits as two key frailties. Virtues are the characteristics that allow people to enact excellence in ordinary activities, and this excellence is central to flourishing. Specifically, high-quality character friendships, which are based on strong bonds, shared goals, and commitment to the friend’s welfare, are identified as the virtue that allows for excellence in dependency. That is, character friendships allow inherently dependent humans to flourish. Similarly, addressing unavoidable human limits requires the practical wisdom to commit oneself to projects, people, and relationships that are choiceworthy. In addition, reverence toward that which is not as limited as humans (e.g., the divine or the universe) and being able to forgive oneself and others for our limitations facilitate excellence in the context of limitations.

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