When individuals care about, look after, support, aid, and more generally seek good for others, and the recipients of this largess not only understand what they receive and feel, but express gratitude for it in many ways, we are in the sphere of personal gratitude.
Triadic gratitude is a kind of personal gratitude—a kind that is especially attentive to the exact character of the benefit received, and a duly measured response to just that benefit. But personal gratitude is often less a matter of giving each her due than a matter of appreciating the depth of our dependency on the others who help to make our lives possible. In personal gratitude, I am struck by how much of what others do for me goes well beyond anything I am owed or might routinely expect from my fellows, and I seek to show this. It is a virtue that operates in concert with appropriate humility—with having both appropriate self-regard and a sound understanding of what my fellows do for me. I am grateful to my father for teaching me to read when I was very young. I am grateful to my friends for helping me to laugh at my own foibles, and for comforting me in times of struggle and loss. I am grateful to my teachers for the encouragement they gave me, to those who believed in me when I could not entirely believe in myself, and to the many people who, as one says, went above and beyond for my sake.
Personal gratitude is balanced. Grateful people neither see themselves as fit objects of derision and neglect (who ought to be endlessly grateful any time another person shows them any kindness) nor as glorious beings owed everything the world has provided (and likely more besides).
Candace Vogler is the David B. and Clara E. Stern Professor of Philosophy and Professor in the College at the University of Chicago, and Director and Principal Investigator for Virtue, Happiness, & the Meaning of Life.