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Book Review: Abraham Maslow, Toward a Psychology of Being

September 16, 2018

Toward a Psychology of BeingToward a Psychology of Being by Abraham H. Maslow

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Maslow offers a future enabling, rather than just a past repressing (as in Freud), psychology of human Being. He focuses on the psychologically healthy, rather than the psychologically ill, and delves into the experiences that healthy people have. His purpose is to show how healthy behavior is not just about adaptation to normal standards, it is about internalising these standards as well as going beyond these standards in a future oriented life. Self-actualisation is the term he uses for this. And people of this kind he suggests should be the role models for us all. They have more peak experiences, more enjoyment in life, but they also embrace the responsibilities and duties that come with this. They have integrated the tendencies towards order and creativity in their personalities, so as to remain always best in touch with the reality surrounding them. Maslow argues also, akin to Plato, that the good and the true and the enjoyable all come together, in these types of people.

I cannot agree with aspects of his approach, such as his belief that this is just science that can be taken in as such. There is no way that much conventional science would accept such an ontology where the center place is held by self actualisers. His combining of Being and Becoming would be anathema to many scientifically minded. A therapist in psychology wants to enable and help others naturally, scientists in many other areas do not have such a motivation, they are motivated more by controlling and circumscribing “things”. Maybe they can learn from Maslows approach, but I think many would simply plug their ears up and refuse to listen. The recent rise of naive selfish instinct based views as in Dawkins and the evolutionary biologists, tells us more the kind of view that science wants to hold as its archetype on this subject matter. Science determines from the outside, self actualisers as in Maslow, partly determine themselves from the inside, at least in some key areas of their lives and personality. This latter can be true all it wants, but it simply will not fit with the agenda of science, and I think this is why this kind of approach tends to be historically revised out of existence in our current science dominated era.

If the Maslow style approach is to gain more ground in our contemporary day to day culture, it will be by those with a more critical eye to the limitations of science, not as an exemplar of science, as Maslow seemed to hope.

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