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Maslow's hierarchy challenged

By Dr. Henry Wong Meng Yeong | Monday, July 22, 2013 at 6:18AM

The teachings of Confucius challenge currently accepted dogma that to be self actualized and fulfilled, our needs (financial, emotional, sexual etc) will first have to be met.

This in essence is the cause of corporate greed and corruption, when people look out for their own self interest, lining their pockets to meet their needs which are indistinguishable from their wants. It's especially apparent when personal interest supersedes that of the organization, corporation or country one is meant to serve.

Following Maslow's argument, the implication is that only when one is self actualized and fulfilled financially, would one be honest. Put another way, only financially fulfilled people are honest. This is clearly not the case as we have witnessed wealthy bank rogues. Conversely, would it be true that people who are poor and whose needs are unmet will tend to be corrupt? This is also not the case; there are many poor people with honor and integrity. What ultimately matters are one's precepts.

The precepts of Confucius stress character building which then influences behavior and relations with one's fellow beings. Our behavior should be determined by principles and values and not driven by the insatiable desire to amass fortune, the draw of which is increasingly powerful in the world in which we live.

Of all his 3000 students, Confucius loved and respected Yan Hui, who was his favorite. Yan Hui was a young man who lived in a derelict shack and survived on meager supplies of food and drink. But he did not let his poverty dampen his cheerful, upright character or corrupt his honorable behavior.

What then are Confucius' thoughts on human desires and ambition?