Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Evil Concept Of Adequacy

A concept that has gotten far too big for its merits is Alfred Adler's concept of “adequacy” and “adequacy striving.” I seek to contend with this concept and show how wrongful it is.

Different people are endowed to different extents with different qualities. It is expected that they will use their strengths to compensate for their weaknesses. If someone has a weak body but a strong mind, it would make every bit of sense for him to trade on his mind. If someone is weak intellectually but has a strong will, a big heart or a rich imagination, it is expected that he will trade on these things as well. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, and I do not expect people to act in any other way.

Indeed this process is necessary for the civilization as we know it. No human being is an adequate physical match for a tiger; yet people are running the planet and tigers are an endangered species. For that matter Bill Gates is not an adequate match for an inner city gangster, yet Bill Gates is a billionaire and most gangsters are dead or behind bars.

To pathologize such a thing is to pathologize the civilization. Even worse, it is to pathologize humanity. We use our brains, in which we are superior, to overcome other species that are superior to us physically. Within humanity itself, people rely on what they are superior in and not on what they are inferior in. There is nothing wrong with that. Everyone does this; everyone has always done this; everyone always will do this.

Ayn Rand hated Immanuel Kant with almost a personal hatred. She called him the most evil man that ever lived. Adler may not have been a horrible person, but his ideas are terrible. He would pathologize what has made possible the civilization as well as achievement within civilization. And that makes his ideas an evil influence.

So of course all sorts of confused or malevolent people have taken that concept and used it to claim all sorts of people to be inadequate. The question to ask is, Inadequate at what? I do not claim to be an adequate physical match for Mike Tyson, but I am quite adequate at a number of more meaningful things than beating people up. Most people get adequate at something or other, whether or not they started out that way. Even many of the least endowed people become effective human beings. They learn, they practice, they work hard, whatever. Many become more than adequate even if they did not start out that way.

But the people who have this attitude want to claim: Once “inadequate” always “inadequate.” This denies the central fact of human existence: The fact of choice and will. All sorts of people get to all sorts of places through effort and determination. The claim above is wrong absolutely. Anyone can achieve “adequacy”; many – even ones claimed to be inadequate – can, and do, achieve a lot more.

In short, what we are dealing with here is a completely wrongful mentality. Not only does this pathologize most of humanity's greatest contributors, but it pathologizes human civilization as such. It is expected that people would use their strengths to compensate for their weaknesses. It is expected that a species endowed with weak bodies but strong minds will use their minds against other, more physically adequate, species. And it is expected that humanity – and the civilization – would grow through that process and benefit from the efforts of all sorts of people who do just that.


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