self-actualizing personality

“Their behavior is marked by simplicity and naturalness, and by lack of artificiality and straining for effort. This does not necessarily mean consistently unconventional behavior.

Actually, the ‘self-actualizing personality’ is not extremely unconventional. His unconventionality is not superficial but essential and internal. It is his impulse, thought, and consciousness that are unconventional, spontaneous and natural.

Apparently recognizing that the world of people in which he lives could not understand or accept this, and since he has no wish to hurt people or to fight them over trivialities, he will go through the ordinary trivial conventions with a good-humored shrug and with the best possible grace. . . . But the fact that this ‘conventionality’ is a cloak which rests very lightly on his shoulders and is easily cast aside can be seen from the fact that the self-actualizing person practically never allows convention to hamper him or inhibit him from doing anything that he considers very important and basic.”

Hayakawa, S.I. Symbol, Status, and Personality. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1963. 55–56. Print.


potentiality of being

…in order to proceed from Von Uexküll’s theory to existential analysis, one must perform the Kantian-Copernican turn; instead of starting with nature and its planful system and dealing in natural science, one has to start at transcendental subjectivity and to proceed to existence as transcendence. Von Uexküll still throws both into one pot, as one deduces from the following ideas (which are quite impressive in themselves):

Let us take as an example a certain oak tree and then ask ourselves what kind of an environmental object will that oak tree be, in the environment of an owl that perches in its hollow trunk; in the environment of a singing bird that nests in its branches; of a fox which has its hole under its roots; of a woodpecker which goes after wood-fretters in its bark; in the environment of such a wood-fretter itself; of an ant which runs along its trunk, etc. And, eventually, we ask ourselves what the role of the oak tree is in the environment of a hunter, of a romantic young girl, and of a prosaic wood-merchant. The oak, being a closed planful system itself, is woven into ever new plans on numerous environment stages, the tracing of which is a genuine task for the science of nature.

Von Uexküll is a natural scientist and not a philosopher. So it should not be held against him that he, like most natural scientists, makes light of the essential difference between animal and man and does not “keep sacred” (Spemann) the division between them.

And yet, just at this point, this division becomes almost tangible. In the first place, the animal is tied to its “blueprint.” It cannot go beyond it, whereas human existence not only contains numerous possibilities of modes of being but is precisely rooted in this multifold potentiality of being.

Human existence affords the possibility of being a hunter, of being romantic, of being in business, and thus is free to design itself toward the most different potentialities of being; in other words, existence can “transcend” the being—in this case the being which is called “oak”—or make it accessible to itself, through the most diverse world-designs.

May, Rollo and Ernest Angel, Henri F. Ellenberger. Existence: A New Dimension in Psychiatry and Psychology. New York: Basic Book, Inc., 1958. 19798. Print.



In the period of transition from Medievalism to the Renaissance, a moment of radical upheaval in Western culture, Pascal describes powerfully the experience the existentialists were later to call Dasein:

“When I consider the brief span of my life, swallowed up in the eternity before and behind it, the small space that I fill, or even see, engulfed in the infinite immensity of spaces which I know not, and which know not me, I am afraid, and wonder to see myself here rather than there; for there is no reason why I should be here rather than there, now rather than then. . . .”

Rarely has the existential problem been put more simply or beautifully.

In this passage we see, first, the profound realization of the contingency of human life which existentialists call “thrownness.” Second, we see Pascal facing unflinchingly the question of being there or more accurately “being where?” Third, we see the realization that one cannot take refuge in some superficial explanation of time and space, which Pascal, scientist that he was, could well know; and lastly, the deep shaking anxiety arising from this stark awareness of existence in such a universe.

May, Rollo and Ernest Angel, Henri F. Ellenberger. Existence: A New Dimension in Psychiatry and Psychology. New York: Basic Book, Inc., 1958. 18. Print.


This is my way; where is yours?

Here we have arrived at the point of the existentialist’s rejection of normative theories of human nature. In the existentialist’s opinion, there is no one model that specifies how all human beings ought to be.

Indeed there is no single way, in any sense, that each and every human being ought to be. There is only the way that each person is, and that finally comes down to the way he chooses to be. In the words of Friedrich Nietzsche: ” ‘This is my way; where is yours?’thus I answered those who asked me ‘the way.’ For the waythat does not exist.”

For the existentialist, each person is unique. There is no model outside the person that tells him or her how to be. It is within himself or herself that the person must find the resources for making choices and for living. Clearly, this is asking a lot. Some people would say it is more than any human being can handle, since external guidance is necessary for human life.

Snyder, William S. and Eugene A. Troxell. Making Sense of Things: An Invitation to Philosophy. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1976. 96-97. Print.