The Meaning of Life continued
from Maurice Friedman, p.240, To Deny our
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
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.
In 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."
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.