Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Level





Richard Lee

Committee Member

Bryan Reece

Second Committee Member

Warren Herold


Aristotle, Epistemology, Flourishing, Plato, Psychology, Trauma


In this dissertation I argue that psychological trauma hinders human flourishing by disrupting psychic harmony and hindering virtuous relationships. Given the negative symptomology of posttraumatic stress related disorders (i.e., PTSD) this conclusion may seem a bit obvious to some. However, making the case for trauma as a hindrance to human flourishing is more complicated than it may first appear.

First, in the extant literature, trauma as a concept tends to be unclear. In much of the empirical and philosophical literature, trauma can include a certain kind of event, experience, effect, or a combination of all three. Furthermore, because of practical and ethical reasons, most of the empirical observation of trauma has been a study of posttraumatic symptoms and not necessarily trauma itself. For this reason, I will attempt to formulate a definition for understanding trauma itself, distinct from its effects.

Second, the exact causal mechanism for psychological trauma remains somewhat unclear. To understand exactly how trauma hinders flourishing, I propose a hypothesis to explain why trauma occurs. I ground this hypothesis in the most popular family of trauma theories known as worldview or cognitive theories. I propose that trauma occurs when one’s experience presents one with evidence that conflicts with one’s established identity.

Next, I turn toward proposing a model of flourishing that is relevant to thinking about trauma. I develop a model of flourishing inspired by the work of Plato and Aristotle. In short, I argue that psychic harmony and relating well to others are necessary conditions for human flourishing. Psychic harmony is a state in which one’s reasoning and emotional processes function in a symbiotic, complementary way. In addition, relating well to others requires psychic harmony in part because relating well to others requires one to empathize well. Empathizing well requires one to maintain a state of psychic harmony.

Lastly, I argue that trauma is a response in which one’s identity is dissociated from one’s experience. This dissociation hinders the ability of one to harmonize one’s reasoning and emotional processes. In other words, trauma inhibits the proper functioning of one’s reasoning and emotions. Furthermore, trauma presents one with an experience that deeply conflicts with one’s identity resulting in lowered Self-Concept Clarity (SCC). Lower SCC makes it more difficult for persons to form excellent relationships. Therefore, trauma hinders functioning well as a human by hindering the forming of excellent relationships.