cogito ergo sum


The Phenomenon of Existence (part3)

By Will Baker


Duality and the Paradox

The twentieth Century psychologist/philosopher Abraham Maslow articulated a so-called "Hierarchy of Needs." Prior to Maslow’s work, for the most part, psychological researchers separately focused on factors such as human biology and achievement to explain what motivates human behavior. However, in contrast, Maslow proposed that as one becomes more self-actualized (and transcendent) the individual develops more wisdom, and automatically knows what to do in a wide variety of situations. He defined a hierarchy of human needs based on two groupings: Deficiency and Growth Needs. As relates to the former he indicated that each lower need must be met before one could move on to the next higher level-for example, hunger and thirst, followed by shelter, a sense of belonging and esteem. Once each lower need is met and the deficiency is resolved, a new deficiency is detected and the individual will seek to mitigate it.

Maslow put forth the idea that an individual is only able to act upon the "Growth Needs" if all the "Deficiency Needs" have been met. When Maslow first introduced this idea he listed only one Growth Need, that of Self-Actualization. However later on, as he further developed his ideas he provided two lower level Growth Needs that must be resolved prior to Self-Actualization (cognitive understanding and aesthetic appreciation), and one beyond it (transcendence).

Maslow published these ideas in mid-1940, and they are still cited as a popular theory explaining human motivation. In addition, it seems to me that, philosophically speaking; his Hierarchy speaks to a sort of Neo-Platonic dualism, the idea that Man has a double nature, a lower and higher self. So what might all of this have to do with the Phenomenon of Existence?

I believe that Maslow was mostly correct in his articulation of the dual nature of human existence. I further believe that not only does this duality apply to the individual, but to the Collective as well. To apply Maslow’s lexicon, it seems to me that when we discuss societal transformation that has its basis in convenience, an argument could be made that this could be an example of the Collective attempting to resolve a Deficiency Need. However when transformation has its basis in morality, it seems to me that this speaks to the Collective’s attempt at satisfying a Growth need. At this point in the discussion I should probably offer a clarification that, at least to me is an important one. When I refer to societal transformation I am not only referring to the transformation of political divisions based upon territory or ideology, for me that is the penultimate (societal) Collective. The ultimate Collective that I image is humanity taken as a whole.

And if this is true, does this not imply that, just as, in every moment the individual is called forth by his very nature to become something better than he or she is, the same can be said for the Collective? Perhaps the Collective has a life of its own, and to a degree is a self-directed transformative entity. But again, one must recognize that the individual exists within this dynamic as a self directed sentient unit whose very nature is an expression of free will. What a paradox we have been given to ponder: In the final analysis we are utterly alone. We are born by ourselves and we will die by ourselves and we have one hundred percent ownership of our thoughts and actions that occur in the interim. Yet, as constituent parts of the Collective, we influence it and it influences us. Therefore, in a sense we are the Collective and it is an expression of us all.

Part 4: Of Consciousness and Collective Existentialism



 (Essay Collection)