Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

FLG asked a question in marketing class that was, as you might have guessed, informed by Plato. The professor said he wasn't sure of what philosophy said on the question, and instead pointed me toward Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

FLG felt immediate revulsion. At first glance, it appears very Platonic. It's teleological. It gets toward being versus becoming. And the top part, self-actualization, seems a lot like human flourishing. But the problem, as FLG sees it, is that the end goal seems pretty damn self involved, which Plato would object to.

Anybody familiar with this framework? Have any thoughts on it?


Withywindle said...

Unfamiliar till now ... Gadamer would object to getting rid of prejudices. "Self-actualization" is either a terrible term, or has become so due to the accretion of narcissistic blither around it. I think a good Stoic or Augustinian could sign on for various version of "self-actualization," where the definition of the full self and morality is not stupidly egocentric. I might say that even if I were to accept the pyramid, that top level in particular is, if not exactly wrong, so vague as to be uninteresting and unhelpful for a great many of the discussions you'll find on FLG, A&J, and other fine purveyors of poli-theory discourse.

The Maximum Leader said...

I remember having to read a book by (on?) Maslow in college. I seem to recall that in terms of his hierarchy I was stuck in the "Law & Order" stage. This stage was characterised by a focus on setting up an orderly and generally rule abiding life (and society). I was a long way from being "self-actualized" according to Maslow.

All in all I dismissed Maslow as a dirty hippie. Sorry I can't be of more help.

Flavia said...

I hear it referenced a fair amount in conversation (about issues of public policy, such as education, health care, etc.), but just in a general way, and usually simply to make the point that some much more basic need has to be addressed before we start trying to solve other problems.

I've never heard anyone talk about the higher-order needs in any concrete way (and only learned about them from following your link).

But then, I don't hang out with psychologists.

Andrew Stevens said...

My experience with Maslow has always been similar to Flavia's. I always thought it was principally a theory of motivation. Why do people do anything? First, they're trying to satisfy physiological needs, then safety needs, etc. The problem with it is that it's pretty clear that not everyone has the same hierarchy as Maslow's nor is anyone's hierarchy as rigid as would seem to be implied by the use of the word "hierarchy." Financial security is pretty basic for me, but doesn't seem to be as basic to other people as Maslow claims. And there are instances where even I would discard financial security out of love. (The daughter needs a critical, but fabulously expensive, operation, for example.)

Maximum Leader: I suspect you're actually thinking of Kohlberg's stages of moral development rather than Maslow's hierarchy of needs. The "Law & Order" stage of moral development is the fourth stage out of six in that framework.

Ben said...

Richard Lowry of Vassar College has written a good overview


"In the original paper, Maslow described the overarching characteristic of the self- actualizing person as "more efficient perception of reality and more comfortable relations with it."

The result of this clarity is likely to be noticed first in "an unusual ability to detect the spurious, the fake, and the dishonest in personality, and in general to judge people correctly and efficiently.""

The Maximum Leader said...

Andrew: You may well be right. I may do a little reading (thanks Google and Wikipedia!) and see if I am just misremembering. Which I likely am.

As I said, I was very dismissive of the whole thing. Dirty hippies.

Andrew Stevens said...

There is much reason to believe that Kohlberg is a dirty hippie. The stage after "law and order orientation" is "social contract orientation." I conclude there is a very good chance that he was covertly arguing that liberals were more morally advanced than conservatives.

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