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FLOW MIHALY CSIKSZENTMIHALYI SAMI ABUHAMDEH JEANNE NAKAMURA A GENERAL CONTEXT FOR A CONCEPT OF MASTERY MOTIVATION What makes people want to go on with the ef- fort required from life? Every epistemology of behavior must sooner or later cope with this basic question. The question is not so mysteri- ous for nonhuman organisms, which presum- ably have built-in genetic programs instruct- ing them to live as long as their physical machinery is able to function. But our species has a choice: With the development of con- sciousness, we have the ability to second- guess and occasionally override the instruc- tions coded in our chromosomes. This evolu- tionary development has added a great deal of flexibility to the human repertoire of behav- iors. But the freedom gained has its down- side—too many possibilities can have a para- lyzing effect on action (Schwartz, 2000). Among the options we are able to entertain is that of ending our lives; thus, as the existen- tial philosophers remarked, the question of why one should not commit suicide is funda- mental to the understanding of human life. In fact, most attempts at a general psy- chology also start with the assumption that human beings have a "need" or a "drive" for self-preservation, and that all other moti- vations, if not reducible to, are then at least based on such a need. For example Maslow's hierarchy assumes that survival takes precedence over all other consider- ations, and no other need becomes active until survival is reasonably assured. But where is this will to live located? Is it nothing but a variation of the survival in- stincts all living organisms share, chemically etched into our genes? The last try for a comprehensive human psychology, that of Sigmund Freud, posited Eros as the source of all behavior—a force akin to the elan vital of the French philosopher Henri Bergson (1931/1944) and to similar concepts of life energy proposed by a long list of thinkers going back to the beginnings of speculative thought. 598
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32. Flow 599 Eros, which originally referred to the need of the organism to fulfill its physical poten- tial, was soon reduced in Freud's writings, and even more so in those of his followers, to the libidinal pleasure that through natural selection has become attached to the sexual reproductive act and to the organs impli- cated in it. Thus, "erotic" eventually became synonymous with "sexual." This reduction of the concept of vitality to the reproductive function rested on a rea- sonably sound logic. The Darwinian revolu- tion highlighted the role of sexual selection in evolution; thus, it made sense to see sexu- ality as the master-need from which all other interests and motives derive. A species sur- vives as long as its members reproduce. If the drive to reproduce became well en- trenched in a species, its survival would be enhanced. Following Ockham's principle of parsimony, one might expect that as long as sexual drives are well established, other mo- tives become secondary. Whatever men and
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This note was uploaded on 04/18/2008 for the course MATH-M 300 taught by Professor Gerber during the Fall '06 term at Indiana.

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