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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[edit]

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]

Dr. Ben Carvosso in his book Life CEO - Take Charge, and start doing your life's work, not your busy work discussed the prevalence of individuals who's lives are busy, full but unfulfilled. Individuals who's lives are unfulfilled because something is missing and who come to the mistaken conclusion (driven by cleaver marketing by big corporations) that the solution is work harder and make more money to somehow make more time. Self-fulfillment comes from knowing what you really want, not what society says you should want.[6] Its only when we connect with what we really want that we experience true joy or Eudaimonia.

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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Alan Gewirth (2 November 2009). Self-Fulfillment. Princeton University Press. pp. 3–5. ISBN 978-0-691-14440-5. Retrieved 17 October 2012.
  2. ^ a b 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. ^ a b 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.
  6. ^ Ben,, Carvosso,. Life CEO : take charge and start doing your life's work not your busy work. [place of publication not identified]. ISBN 9780648216704. OCLC 1041112060.

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