I was talking to a friend yesterday about something random. Suddenly I found myself sermonizing on Maslow’s Need hierarchy. It is a pretty interesting concept. If you are / have been an economics / philosophy/ management student (or ever had a curiosity to know more on the subjects!), then the chances of you coming across Maslow’s theory are as good as that of the Sun rising from the east tomorrow morning. It is a very simple postulate which states that only after the basic needs (like food, breathing, shelter) have been satisfied, do human beings seek to satisfy successively ‘higher needs‘ that occupy a set hierarchy.
The hierarchy depicted by a pyramid, followed by the explanation (Thanks to Wikipedia for both) have been shamelessly copied and pasted here:
“Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is often depicted as a pyramid consisting of five levels: the four lower levels are grouped together as deficiency needs associated with physiological needs, while the top level is termed growth needs associated with psychological needs. While deficiency needs must be met, growth needs are the need for personal growth. The basic concept is that the higher needs in this hierarchy only come into focus once all the needs that are lower down in the pyramid are mainly or entirely satisfied. Once an individual has moved past a level, those needs will no longer be prioritized. However, if a lower set of needs is continually unmet for an extended period of time, the individual will temporarily re-prioritize those needs – dropping down to that level until those lower needs are reasonably satisfied again.”
Interestingly, the evolution of Greek Philosophy surprisingly tends to agree with Maslow’s theory. Earlier Greek Philosophers like Thales (640 – 550 B.C.) and Anaximander (610 – 540 B.C.) thought primarily on the lines of Physics and Astronomy. They probably did because at that time a lot of the laws that seem “natural” to us were unknown and understanding these laws (and making “sense” of nature) was essential for survival. Then came the era of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. One can almost see a change in direction of Ancient Greek thought from “the physical to the Moral” (The story of Philosophy, Will Durant, 1926). The era in which Socrates, Plato and Aristotle lived was one in which Greek was in the midst of a political turmoil. Therefore, their thoughts and area of study focussed around ethics, righteousness and justice. (Although Aristotle ventured a lot towards Science as well). But the point to note is that only once “basic needs of mankind” were satisfied (Roti, kapda aur Makaan), did they start thinking of “higher” needs like society, organization and governance.
I also beg to point out that in contrast to evolution of Greek thought, Indian mysticism has a different story. We hear (and perhaps know!) of the great sages and Rishi’s who meditated for days, months (perhaps, years!) in jungles by conducting a very “basic existence,” to the extent that they did not fulfill their basic needs. However, their thoughts centered around the “spiritual” and although Maslow does not categorically state that the highest triangle in the pyramid (Self-Actualization) actually refers to Spiritual Needs, it would, according to me, be safe to assume that. This would imply that the evolution of Indian thought actually contradicts Maslow’s Need Hierarchy. I am not trying to disprove anything here. I am incompetent to even venture! It is purely an observation.
However, i found this article (whose authenticity I am yet to completely determine), but the author says, and I quote:
“Spiritual Needs are redundant and differ from mere self actualization. Spiritual Needs actually could be placed around the pyramid, as they are accessible at any level”
I can’t confirm whether Maslow said anything about Spiritual Needs. But I’ve decided not to put too much thought into it for the time-being. As long as MY basic needs are satisfied! Ha! 🙂