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Amphiist 14: Carlyle’s Natural Aristocracy, Mayer and Salovey’s emotional intelligence, and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
There are three separate concepts that scholars have discussed over the past few centuries that I would like to bring together because I think they are all part of the same aspect of human nature. The first idea I would like to talk about is the oldest. When the Founding Fathers of the United States created America, they rebelled against the idea that a man should be respected just because he was born to certain parents. For example, if a child was born into the Royal Family, they never had to worry about money. They had people bowing or curtseying to them. They never had to do anything themselves that they did not want to do. And they were called heroes just because of the circumstances of their birth. The Royal Family of England still exists today. Queen Elizabeth II is now reigning over the Commonwealth. When she dies, her son, Prince Charles, will inherit the throne. Thomas Carlyle is the scholar who came up with the idea of natural aristocracy.
At the time of the American Revolutionary War (in the 1770s and ’80s), George III was the reigning monarch of England. The Founding Fathers, men like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, believed that men should be respected for the contents of their character, not the circumstances of their birth. They believed that a man should be a natural aristocrat, not just an aristocrat. An aristocrat is someone who is connected by birth to the Royal Family. The Founding Fathers believed that men should be aristocrats based on their level of morality. Men should be heroes only if they behave heroically over the course of the small affairs of their days, in other words. Not because they are related to the Queen of England, as we would say in current or contemporary times.
The second concept that I’d like to discuss is emotional intelligence. This concept was popularized by the scholar Daniel Goleman in the 1980s. Emotional intelligence refers to how good we are at controlling our emotions. If a person is emotionally intelligent, Goleman says, they will be good leaders in the workplace. They will master their emotions. They will be good team players. They will see the big picture, the long term. If someone does something wrong to them, they do not want revenge. They are not interested in punishing the other person. They remain calm. There is Biblical encouragement of being emotionally intelligent. As Jesus Christ instructed us, “A soft answer turneth away wrath,” meaning that if someone wants to argue with us, if we remain calm, and do not match their anger with our own, then we will prevail. We will win. We will be victors. Christ also importunes us to pray for those who do spitefully use us. It’s all part of the same thing.
Tying the two concepts together that I have discussed so far, someone who is emotionally intelligent would be a natural aristocrat. They would have integrity and character. They might be poor, and have little of the world’s financial resources. But they are rich in character. They might not be good looking. But they are emotionally intelligent natural aristocrats.
Now, the 3rd concept that I’d like to discuss is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Like Goleman’s discussion of emotional intelligence, the context of Maslow’s was the business world, and what would motivate employees to do the best job possible. However, it can also be applied to everyday life, in the personal sphere. For example, the lowest level of Maslow’s hierarchy is physiological. It means a person’s desire to have food, sex, water, etc. His next level, safety, refers to feeling secure. His next level is love/belonging, which has to do with the universal need to be part of a group. The next level is esteem, where we have a need to be respected and to feel like our own unique contribution to the world is actually being appreciated. The highest level of motivation in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is self-actualization. This is where a person reaches their maximum potential. They are their best self. If a person’s need for food is not met, then the lack of this basic need means that they will be too distracted to bother about being respected. This is just common sense. For example, if someone is starving, they are not going to be in any mood to discuss the finer points of Plato’s philosophy. If someone tries to explain Plato’s concept of a cup to them, the starving person will just want the cup given to them, full of food.
There is a clear connection between being an emotionally intelligent natural aristocrat, and being self-actualized according to Maslow’s model. An emotionally intelligent natural aristocrat can be self-actualized, according to the top practice of the gifts God has given them. Each time someone makes a decision not to become angry with an enemy, they achieve a higher degree of self-actualization. If they stop behaving like a natural aristocrat who’s emotionally intelligent, then they lose their self-actualization. Any human being can regress, or progress, depending on the content of their actions, and their characters.
This is the basis of my world view, and encompasses different areas, because it can be applied to different areas of life, such as philosophy, politics, sex, religion, etc. In Amphiist, my periodical that I publish, I will apply these concepts collectively to politics, entertainment, etc.