The Meaning of Life continued

from Maurice Friedman, p.240, To Deny our Nothingness
Self-realization cannot be made the goal without vitiating its very meaning
as the attainment of authentic existence. Such an existence cannot be measured
in terms of the self alone but in terms of the the meaning that the self attains
through giving itself ... to other selves and beings.

If one means by self-realization no more than its realizing the empirical self
that one is, then one is already at one's goal. If one means on the other hand
a self one has not yet become but can become, then one must still discover
which of the many selves one can become is one's "REAL" self.

"Potentiality" is essentially neutral. Only the direction of "potentiality" makes
it good or bad. Values cannot be based on self-realization or the realization
of man's powers. On the contrary, we cannot define ourselves or our
potentialities apart from the direction we give them, apart from what we
become in relation to others.

n response to this critique by Friedman, let us ask: Do Fromm and Maslow give us any direction at all toward which the development of one's potentialities should be oriented? Man has such a vast number of potentials - do they tell us at all which ones to develop, which ones are the most important? 

Develop the powers of love and reason, says Fromm. Creativity, peak experiencing and B-love are emphasized by Maslow. These are very general aims which one would find hard to dispute, but they are a start. One would then have to consider Friedman's critique as being too harsh - neither Fromm nor Maslow are concerned only with the self in relationships to the self, but both are concerned too with the relationship of the self and the other - the ability to love.

Care, responsibility, knowledge and respect are all essential to loving another person says Fromm. The focus of the self-actualized individuals, says Maslow, is not the self but the problem or person at hand. Love is not motivated by personal need, but is freely given.

Likewise, Krishnamurti, with his emphasis on self-observation, is not concerned with self-expansion, but with self-forgetfulness. He stresses preoccupation with the self only as a means to understanding oneself, which is in turn a means toward the greater end of transcending the self, responding to the world and other person's with awareness, receptiveness and love.

It is easy to see how Fromm, Maslow and Krishnamurti's emphasis upon the SELF can lead us to assume that for them the self is an end. But while analytical concern with the problem of the self is their starting point, man's involvement with the world is indeed their end (although unstated) concern..

Frankl expresses the relationship between self-actualization and self-transcendence more clearly than do any of the other meaning of life philosophers. In Man's Search for Meaning, he wrote:

"The true meaning of life is to be found in the world rather than within man or his own psyche, as though it were a closed system.... Human experience is essentially self-transcendence rather than self-actualization. Self-actualization is not a possible aim at all, for the simple reason that the more a man would strive for it, the more he would miss it.... In other words, self-actualization cannot be attained if it is made an end in itself, but only as a side effect of self-transcendence."  (p.175)

Synthesizing the approaches of all these thinkers in the light of Frankl's statement, we might regard self-actualization as achieved through self-transcendence, and indeed a by-product of self- transcendence. At the same time, the striving for self-actualization is a means to self-transcendence, for in order to transcend oneself one must first be preoccupied enough with self-actualization to determine one's values and integrate them into one's life.

Thus we have a process which repeats itself over and over - from self-concern to self-integration to self-transcendence, through a loving commitment in the world. The results for the individual are twofold: the experience of self-actualization, and the satisfaction of deeds well done.