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Maslow and Aristotle: Similarities and differences

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Abraham Harold Maslow (1908-1970) was a psychologist and visionary who pioneered revolutionary ideas that helped form modern psychology (Hoffman, 1988, p. XV). He strived to find the good in people, “the best of humanity” through positive psychology. His greatest contribution to the psychology world was probably the hierarchy of needs. One of his greatest influences was Aristotle and one can clearly see that on the hierarchy of needs. In this essay we are going to examine Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and Aristotle’s psychological and moral theory, and how their similarities and differences, but most of all we are going to see the influence Aristotle has in Maslow’s development of the hierarchy of needs.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs

Like Aristotle, Maslow viewed self-sufficiency (self-actualization) as the highest achievement in a human being’s life. Self-actualization, or self-sufficiency, is that “which when isolated makes life desirable and lacking in nothing” (Denise, White, and Peterfreund, 2008, p. 26). One can also see Aristotle reflected on the fourth step of the hierarchy: esteem. In Aristotle believed that we each fulfilled our humanness by developing our naturally given potentials, and that by achieving those potentials one could achieve happiness within one’s self. When it comes to love and belongingness they are also alike: Aristotle believed that “man was born for citizenship” (Denise, White, and Peterfreund, 2008, p. 26) and that self-sufficiency involved one’s relationship with his/her family and fellow citizens. This definition could also be linked to the safety needs: social safety. To achieve self-actualization (happiness or self-sufficiency) there must be a balance of everything; there should be no excess and no deficiency.,

In Aristotle’s view there are levels of self sufficiency and reason is on top of all other things, and that philosophical and political sciences are the full achievement of self-sufficiency. In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, rationality, emotionality, and all other facets of human nature are equally respected. He also emphasized that even though only a small percentage of human being will reach self-actualization, we are all capable of achieving it. Maslow believed that one can be whatever one wants and dedicates one’s self to and that all aspects of human nature rather than being in conflict with one another, they cooperated with each other; Aristotle believed that achieving one’s naturally given potential had to do with social classes. A merchant’s son should fulfill his destiny and be something within that range, as for a doctor’s son, like Aristotle, he should also fulfill his destiny and be someone high in society (philosopher).

Even though there are many differences between Aristotle and Abraham Maslow’s beliefs, one can plainly see the influence Aristotle has in Maslow’s development of the hierarchy of needs, among other things. 2,300 years after his death, Aristotle’s ideas and concepts continue to have a great influence on modern society.

Works cited

Denise, T., White, N., & Peterfreund, S. (2008). _Great Traditions in Ethics_. Beaumont, Ca: Thompsom Wadsworth.

Hoffman, E. (1988). _The Right to be Human: A Biography of Abraham Maslow_. Los Angeles, CA: Tarcher.

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