A Means for Self-Actualizing

A Means for Self Actualization

Abraham Maslow defined a hierarchy of needs to be:

  1. Biological and Physiological (water, food, shelter, air, sex, etc.)
  2. Safety (security, law and order, stability, etc.)
  3. Belonging and love (family, affection, community, etc.)
  4. Esteem (self-esteem, independence, prestige, achievement, etc.)
  5. Self-Actualization (self-fulfillment, personal growth, realizing personal potential, etc.)

This hierarchy makes us conscious of the obvious fact that we did not fret about the absence of self-esteem if we did not already have security nor did we worry about security if we did not have water to drink or air to breath.

“A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be. This is the need we may call self-actualization … It refers to man’s desire for fulfillment, namely to the tendency for him to become actually in what he is potentially: to become everything that one is capable of becoming …”

I think that the area in which Western society fails most egregiously is in the matter of an intellectual life after schooling. We have a marvelous brain that goes into the attic after schooling is complete and is brought out only occasionally on the job or when we try to play bridge or chess.

It appears to me that the fundamental problem faced by most Western democracies is a lack of intellectual sophistication of the total population. Our colleges and universities have prepared young people to become good producers and consumers. The college graduate has a large specialized database that allows that individual to quickly enter the corporate world as a useful cog in the machine. The results display themselves in our thriving high standard of living, high technology corporate driven life styles.

We are excellent at instrumental rationality and deficient at developing the rationality and understanding required for determining normative values. It seems to me that our societies are not prepared intellectually for the demanding task ahead. The only solution seems to be a change that will significantly increase the intellectual sophistication of the society as a whole. We need a rising tide of intellectual sophistication and Self-Actualization might be the way for our adults to add an intellectual life to their acquisitions.

Maslow learned to distinguish “special talent creativeness” from “self-actualizing (SA) creativeness”,
which springs more directly from the personality, and showed itself in the ordinary affairs of daily life. This is all potentiality given to most people at birth and is generally lost or buried or inhibited, as the person becomes more acculturated. These self-actualizing humans “do not neglect the unknown, or deny it, or run away from it or try to make believe it is really known…They do not cling to the familiar, nor is their quest for the truth a catastrophic need for certainty, safety, definiteness, and order.”

The creativity of self-actualizing individuals is a derivative of their “greater wholeness and integration”. SA creativeness stress first the personality, individuality, character and attitude rather than accomplishments. Character traits, the habits of behavior, such as boldness, courage, freedom, spontaneity, perspicuity, integration, and self-acceptance express itself in the creative life. “It is emitted like sunshine.”

What means do we have to consciously help us to become self-actualizing adults? I think that self-actualization can best come through self-learning (autodidactic).

I would like to introduce a concept that perhaps many have not given consideration. I would like to introduce post-schooling scholarship. I do not use the word ‘scholarship’ to mean some form of education stipend. I mean ‘scholarship’ as tailor-made learning. The individual creates her or his own learning in a process of developing a Self-Actualizing person.

I think we have placed scholarship on a too lofty pedestal and in doing so we have placed it beyond reach or consideration. I want to suggest that middle class scholarship is something that we all should consider as a friend to be embraced as our own.

The development of an economic middle class is the hallmark of success in any mature nation. I think it is possible that the development of a scholarly middle class could represent a similar development in the life of democracy of a nation. We might express the concept as middle class scholarship or post-schooling scholarship.

I think that post-schooling scholarship is a means to self-actualization. If you do not find this to be a means for self-actualization what means would you suggest?

Post schooling scholarship is a bit an akward expression as ‘schooling’ and ‘schaolarship’ seem to be directly related. But I get your point and I think it is a good one.
The thing about becoming one of those individuals who don’t cling to certainty you describe is that they do not aquire their knowlegde only from books, but from investigation. To learn in a world like ours demands that one sets foot outside ones own safe havens and seeks out cultures he presumes to be irrational, and mingles with the intellectual elite fo these cultures. Ratio is the trap most people of our western age find themselves in - few people realize how arbitrary ratio is and how easily it can be changed when one is confroned with additional information. The official intellectual west is a bit fo a closed system, one needs to actively break out of it in order to actualy learn.
Once one has aquired learning outside of one’s own habitat, the great art is to integrate the alien knowledeg and experience with the domestic life. Becoming a wanderer or a recluse is not the fulfillment you seem to be aiming at.
The simplest example I can think of right now of an enriching experience outside the domestic context to be integrated into that context and changing it subsequently is Darwins travel on the Beagle. Consider that it took him years and years to muster up the courage to publish his thoughts on the subject out of fear of conservative forces.


I suspect not many people can replicate “Darwins travel on the Beagle” in person but they can do it vicariously through books. Books are the means for travel outside ones own container. It seems to me that books are the very best means of investigation.