An Existential-Humanistic-Positive Theory of Human Motivation

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Abraham Maslow proposed a theory of human motivation, which, despite widespread criticism, bears much relevance to the study of human behavior. I examine the criticisms in the light of existing literature, and reconceptualize key concepts in order to make the validity of the theory more apparent. Further, I articulate an integrated theory of human motivation by drawing parallels between Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Seligman’s approaches to happiness, and Kierkegaard’s types of despair. The theory posits that gratification of one’s needs influences whether an individual will conceptualize the ideal life as a pursuit for pleasure, a quest for engagement, or a search for meaning. Consequently, the theory has implications for formation of identity, basis of morality, and emergence of values.

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