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Short description: Realizing of one's deepest desires and capacities

In philosophy and psychology, self-fulfillment is the realizing of one's deepest desires and capacities. The history of this concept can be traced to Ancient Greek philosophers and it still remains a notable concept in modern philosophy.

Definition and history

Philosopher Alan Gewirth in his book Self-Fulfillment defined self-fulfillment as "carrying to fruition one's deepest desires or one's worthiest capacities."[1] Another definition states that self-fulfillment is "the attainment of a satisfying and worthwhile life well lived."[2] It is an ideal that can be traced to Ancient Greek philosophers, and one that has been common and popular in both Western and non-Western cultures.[1] Self-fulfillment is often seen as superior to other values and goals.[1]

Gewirth notes that "to seek for a good human life is to seek for self-fulfillment".[1] However, in modern philosophy, the ideal of self-fulfillment has become less popular, criticized by thinkers such as Hobbes and Freud, who feel there are conceptual and moral problems associated with it.[1] It has been called an egoistic concept, impossible to achieve, with some suggesting that it is an obsolete concept that should be abandoned.[1] Moral philosophers focus less on obtaining a good life, and more on interpersonal relations and duties owed to others.[1] Similarly, whereas Plato and Aristotle saw the goal of the polis in providing a means of self-fulfillment to citizens, modern governments have given up on that, focusing rather on maintaining civic order.[1] Despite the criticism, the concept of self-fulfillment still persists in modern philosophy, its usefulness defended by thinkers such as Gewirth himself.[1]

Gewirth noted that the term self-fulfillment has two near synonyms: self-realization and self-actualization, used respectively by philosophers and humanist psychologists, whereas the term self-fulfillment is more commonly used outside those expert fields.[3] Gewirth however argues that this concept is sufficiently different from those others to merit not being used as a synonym.[3] Self-actualization in particular, often discussed in the context of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, is frequently defined as the "need for self-fulfillment".[4][5]

Self-fulfillment has been positively connected to altruism.[2]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 Alan Gewirth (2 November 2009). Self-Fulfillment. Princeton University Press. pp. 3–5. ISBN 978-0-691-14440-5. Retrieved 17 October 2012. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Barbara Kerr (15 June 2009). Encyclopedia of Giftedness, Creativity, and Talent. SAGE. pp. 63–65. ISBN 978-1-4129-4971-2. Retrieved 17 October 2012. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Alan Gewirth (2 November 2009). Self-Fulfillment. Princeton University Press. pp. 6–8. ISBN 978-0-691-14440-5. Retrieved 17 October 2012. 
  4. Barry L. Reece; Rhonda Brandt; Karen F. Howie (15 January 2010). Effective Human Relations: Interpersonal and Organizational Applications. Cengage Learning. p. 147. ISBN 978-0-538-74750-9. Retrieved 17 October 2012. 
  5. Ellen E. Pastorino; Susann M Doyle-Portillo (1 January 2012). What Is Psychology?: Essentials. Cengage Learning. p. 288. ISBN 978-1-111-83415-9. Retrieved 17 October 2012. 

External links