The noble experiment!
Henry D. Thoreau believed the only necessities of life were food, clothing, shelter, and fuel (Thoreau, 11.)[i] Although he conducted his great experiment to prove this theory in 1845, could we survive today on Thoreau’s base necessities and would we be happier if we did? In his book Walden, Thoreau describes life in a home that he built himself at Walden Pond, where he remained for two years and two months, away from the luxuries of civilization. Thoreau hoped to prove in order to get more out of life we needed less. One can agree that physical survival is dependent on Thoreau’s base necessities. However, to survive emotionally, to be happy, and to reach “self-actualization” as defined in “Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs”, more is required. There are deep primal needs that were not addressed such as companionship, competition, and the need for comfort. By the time you finish reading this essay I will convince you why Thoreau’s “Walden” experiment is a rough draft of Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” theory published in 1943.[ii]
Abraham Maslow expanded on Thoreau’s idea of what it is that a human being needs to be happy and attain self-actualization. He created a hierarchy of needs commonly represented in a pyramid structure. The base of the pyramid represents physiological needs such as breathing, food, water, sex, sleep, homeostasis, and excretion. This was the level Thoreau also believed would be all that was necessary for an individual’s happiness. While it is true that this baser level of needs must be satisfied to progress toward happiness and self actualization, human beings are complex creatures and more is required. Above the physical needs in Maslow’s pyramid are needs for safety which include security of body, employment, resources, morality, the family, health, and property. Once the needs of safety are satisfied then the next level of the pyramid represents needs of love and belonging. They include friendship,...
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