The Philosophy of Lifestyles by Martin A. Sullivan


The Philosophy of Lifestyles by Martin A. Sullivan

The word lifestyle was first introduced by Austrian psychiatrist Alfred Adler in his influential article, The Case of Miss R, with the implied meaning of “the most elementary nature of a human being”. The concept was further developed and defined by American psychiatrist, Murray Bowen, in his work, The Anxiety Disorders, also published in 1929. In both books, Adler and Bowen presented an analysis of the behavior of the individual and group and their environment to identify the factors that influence the development of these disorders.

In his theory of LIFESTYLE, Adler classifies four main types of people, with contrasting characteristics. The first type, which he termed the Minimalistic person, is motivated by many goals and desires rather than a particular purpose. The second type, which he called the Focalizer, wants only one objective and is intensely focused on that object. The third type, the Concretean, is driven by a need for power and domination over others and is obsessed with control. The last type, the Superficial, is obsessed with the appearance and acceptanceability of the lifestyle they are living, while lacking any commitment to any of the aims or values that motivated them in the beginning of the formation of their life.

In this way, Adler distinguishes the LIFESTYLE individual with those who live a chaotic and disorganized life-style and those who choose to design their lives around their “Lifestyles”. Adler’s classification is not absolute; he allows for variation among these individuals, however, he insists that the only true lifestyle is one based on LIFESTYLE principles. Adler contends that, because LIFESTYLE principles are the basic concepts of his writing, his work, and his life, no one can be considered a minimalist or a maximalist. Rather, each of us must choose to live according to his own understanding of the word LIFESTYLE.

According to philosopher Peter Senge, LIFESTYLE was an idea first propounded by the British philosopher and cultural thinker, Bertrand Russell. Russell’s concept of LIFESTYLE was primarily concerned with an idea of personal fulfillment. He believed that humankind has lived most of its life-time in a “culture industry,” in which there is a uniform uniformity of behaviors and objectives among the cultures of humanity, despite differences in race and language. Russell felt that all human beings share certain basic principles, such as self-discipline, self-respect, and the ability to make choices. These are the LIFESTYLE elements, which are necessary if mankind is to move beyond their present cultural patterns and achieve a higher level of existence.

Richard Crowther, one of the most eminent philosopher of modern times and a leading light in the studies of aesthetic valuation, rejected the view that all truths are objective, saying that most truths are subjective and dependent upon personal interpretation. According to Crowther, most truths about the good life are nothing more than “gut feelings.” In his view, LIFESTYLE is a “folk belief,” which is subjected to social and cultural pressure as well as individual acceptance and which consequently changes over time.

For Russell, the key to a meaningful life was finding a unique and correct philosophy or Lifestyle to guide one’s life. According to him, such a philosophy required to be both universal and particular, including a recognition of a distinction between inner and outer reality and a rejection of the reduction of human life to an inert and passive existence. Lifestyles and their cultures have a positive effect on happiness and one’s sense of well-being and are a major factor in determining one’s personality and quality of life. According to Adorno and his school, the idea of LIFESTYLE is important in defining our sense of what it means to be human.