Maslow: Motivation and Personality -- The Wrong Question?
In sum, I will argue that Abraham Maslow, in his "hierarchy of needs," makes a critical error in answering the wrong question...
By this, I mean that he is going about motivation and personality from a scientific rather than a PHILOSOPHICAL perspective.
He is questioning, "What motivates and drives people to do the things they do."
Instead, he should be asking the question, "What SHOULD motivate and drive people?" The former is a scientific question about what actually happens in the natural world. The second is a completely different question that is philosophical in nature. This second question deals with ETHICS and THE MEANING OF LIFE.
Maslow's approach can only tell us sterile information about what is prevalent, not what SHOULD be.
For instance, we might find that it is true that people seek to earn lots of money after they meet certain base needs. Does that mean that they SHOULD? Furthermore, does that mean that will make them happy?
In other words, there are certain goals or values that should be the basis of creating a "SHOULD" list of needs/desires.
In fact, I think that one can posit a "hierarchy" in which the base level comprises only those needs that you would have if isolated in the wilderness in nature. You would need food, water, oxygen, clothing, shelter, homeostasis of temperature, and safety from predators.
The fundamental needs to preserve human life should be our most important concerns. Anything else beyond these basic human needs are subjective desires that cannot be rationally determined with any degree of objectivity.
For these reasons, I think Maslow's CONCEPT can have great applications for an ethical system in the context of government and world politics.
For a look at Maslow's hierarchy, go here:
My criticism here is similar to GE Moore's naturalistic fallacy. GE Moore would criticize evolutionary ethics with the simple maxim: "YOU CAN'T GET OUGHT FROM AN IS."
It is common to see animals that rape other animals, but does that mean humans should do it because it's natural?
Same thing with Maslow. So what if people seem to exhibit a certain behavior of "ascending" on the hierarchy? Does that mean that certain needs or desires that humans have are actually JUSTIFIED in an ethical context?
REDUCTIO AD ABSURDUM.