The excerpt below is an overview about a new book from the American Psychological Association and Oxford University Press:
Peterson and Seligman, Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification

The foundation of any science rests on a high quality nomenclature that can be consensually adopted, and on tools for measuring important constructs. A key construct in the new science of "Positive Psychology" is that of "character" - those characteristics that define what's best about people and the path to what positive psychology calls "the good life".

Though "character" has become a front-and-center topic in contemporary discourse, this term does not have a fixed meaning. Character may be simply defined by what someone does not do, but a more active and thorough definition is necessary, one that addresses certain vital questions. Is character a singular characteristic of an individual, or is it composed of different aspects? Does character - however we define it - exist in degrees, or is it simply something one happens to have? How can character be developed? Can it be learned? Relatedly, can it be taught, and who might be the most effective teacher? What roles are played by family, schools, the media, religion, and the larger culture in the formation and understanding of character?

This groundbreaking handbook of character strengths and virtues is the first progress report from a prestigious group of researchers who have, for the first time ever in such depth, undertaken the systematic classification and measurement of widely valued positive traits. They approach good character in terms of separate strengths - authenticity, persistence, kindness, gratitude, hope, humor, and so on - each of which exists in degrees.

The publication of this book marks the formal launch of the new scientific discipline of positive psychology by presenting a unifying classification of human strengths.

To read more:
http://www.viastrengths.org/