Philosophy is the dialogue between human beings ourselves about the nature of the world and the role of human beings in this reality. In this issue, the existence of the world and human beings itself are two main streams of philosophy for over two thousands year. My article will focus on the second part with a specific question: what is the motivation of human act? When we do a particular action, without any mental problems or hypnotization, we always do it with a precise motivation which pushes our desire and physical action to pursue a purpose. The complex of many intentional purposes leads us towards the final purpose of all human beings’ essence. This unstoppable thinking and practicing process expresses some philosophical questions in ethics (about human’s moral and virtuous actions), in social philosophy (about the effects of a particular context or a particular action), in philosophy of laws (how can we judge an action if it is wrong or right) and in metaphysics (what the final purpose really is). There are three ideas I will investigate in my article: First, the Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, which is the popular and frequent notion to describe the motivations of human’s act, especially in the aspect of the satisfaction of needs. However, this “external standpoint” is merely limited when being used to understand the final purpose in human act, but too narrow to consider the effects of social environment and specific context of the action as well. Second, the Aristotle’s Teleology, this is the most important undeniable viewpoint whenever we need a bedrock to understand the act of human beings. Aristotle showed us the way to follow the basic essence of the act of the subject of thinking process, human beings, and not only the “final purpose” (end) as the final point of the universe, he analyzed the seven causes of human’s act as the way to understand ourselves and how to judge an particular action in moral view. Third, the new way to describe our action, these are social and mental experiments in contemporary time of Milgram and Daniel Richardson which is based on Gustave Le Bon’s idea of psychology of the crowd. With these contemporary analyses, we make clear that a specific action cannot be understood by the satisfaction of needs or the metaphysical vision of purpose.
I would like to commence with the well-known Maslow’s idea of the motivations of human action. Abraham Maslow (1908 – 1970) released his article, named “A Theory of Human Motivation” in Psychological Review in 1943 in the purpose of understand human act, focusing on the motivation of the needs. This idea has become popular with the pseudonym “The Pyramid of Maslow” or “5-storey pyramid”. The implication of “Pyramid” or “5-storey” is the key point, which merely makes the strongest but the weakest of his concept as well. Let’s have a look at his “pyramid”. Maslow pointed out human act in five types of motivational needs: physiological, safety, social, esteem and self-actualization.
The first need, physiological, is the basic and undeniable foundation point of human act such as air, food, drinks, sleep, shelter and sex. They are simply the needs to survive and guarantee the potential function of human body.
The need of safety is based on the fear of something “unsafe” like natural disasters, violence, war, social crisis, etc. This need motivates the commitments to protect ourselves such as law, personal security, insurance, healthcare and other systems for maintaining the stability.
The social need, sometimes called love and belonging need, is used to describe the feeling aspect of human beings, that leads us to the demand on loving and being loved in a specific group. Communication, love, friendship, collaboration, etc. among people in a social circle make an individual feel himself belonging to something larger than he does on his own. It also reinforces human to fight against solitude and get through the stress by using the strength of majority, no matter how big the group is.
The fourth need, esteem need, focuses on the “self-respect, or self-esteem, and for the esteem of others” (Maslow, 1943, p.372). There is one concept to describe the “self-esteem need”, which come from one side only, narcissism. It is so nonsensical when someone just feels self-respect based on nothing (he just reckons that he gets something but in fact he does not). The most critical issue we need to consider here is this need absolutely is fulfilled when and only when the respect comes from an individual or a group as an object of cognitive process. The satisfaction of this “self-esteem need” makes human beings feel valuable and creates the motivation, self-respect, self-confidence, when the others recognize his achievements, which urge him to pursue the upcoming aims in reality by participated his core potentials.
Self-actualization is the highest need in Maslow’s pyramid, which suggests that an individual has the need to chase his desirable potentials and possess something he has to be, “what a man can be, he must be” (Maslow, 1943, p.373). This ultimate need is the most essential level of human act since it focuses on the main purpose that the man un-doubtfully means to be. A man needs to become an artist because of the love of music or painting. Another man is inspired to protect people based on the joy of serving. Someone else is triggered to fly to the moon because of the thirst of discovering a new horizon. They usually use this kind of to distinguish an evolved man who has an advance natural intelligence and able to question about himself independently and tries to answer effetely and an animal passively satisfying with surrounded factors.
The Maslow’s pyramid looked human needs from a passive position in which the satisfaction come from outside and the satisfied one is the subject of awareness. This passive-satisfaction can be separated into two ideas: First, the object – a specific individual – asks and demands his needs of being satisfied; all of objective elements from society and nature support his orders and the more supports he has been taken care of, the more satisfaction he will feel. Second, these external supports will become the alien mirror of the reflection of his moral. This “mirror” corrupts his ego into the product of the dogmas and rules of the society because society is his overall provider. It becomes the measurement of his moral, the judgment of his actions and the punishment of his failure. In this case, with the role of the controller who plays the game as the way he has to be, he has corrupted into a product of the production that provides him any necessary products. Who is the one in charge to the measurement when and how he feels satisfaction? Not himself. It is because from the beginning, he has already demanded from the outsiders his active order that he must be. He signed a simple commitment that he would continue ordering the next meal from a never-ending menu. The more elements he demands to be satisfied, the more dependence he will get. Obviously, the needs which make motivations for human act have been expressed by human beings from the beginning step; however, the satisfaction which just comes from outside is the key makes human beings corrupt themselves to an alien beings that controls and refuses “the pure purpose of human action”.
The outside measurement is quite clear for us today. At present, we all know exactly who a rich person is, what the satisfied need is or how can we fulfill our demands. Today, a rich person can be described as the one who lives in penthouses, villas; drives Ferrari or limousine with chauffeur; eats in three stars Michelin restaurants; wears Prada, Hermes and spends their holidays on his own yacht; etc. A satisfied person are the one who has life and health insurance with the best healthcare and the 24 per 7 security service; he also has a decent job with high salary and a comfortable environment for the creativities he “must be”. We, human beings, are trying to satisfy our needs via production system, and then, this system becomes the measurement to tell us what satisfaction is.
This is the first paradox of Maslow’s pyramid.
The second problem of his concept is the way he identified human needs with 5-storey in which when the lower need is fulfilled, an individual will pursue the next higher level of needs, and keep moving forward to the highest one.
At once other (and “higher") needs emerge and these, rather than physiological hungers, dominate the organism. And when these in turn are satisfied, again new (and still “higher") needs emerge and so on. This is what we mean by saying that the basic human needs are organized into a hierarchy of relative prepotency' (Maslow, 1943, p. 375).
The first satisfaction is the concrete base for the second satisfaction; the second is the one of the third and so on. So, what happens if someone who has already been supported all the elements of the pyramid, they have everything, all 5-storey of needs, but they just continue demanding more and more even the lower needs included (like physiological and safety) from society despite the sufficiency to excess they’ve already had? And what is the motivation in action of the other persons who only have a satisfaction at minimum but they are always ready to share their satisfaction and refuse to take the next step on the pyramid?
On November 22, 2015, Coby Persin, an American YouTube prankster, published a social experiment video with over 3 million views until now named “Money Suit Social Experiment”. In this video, Coby Persin tests on unprepared persons on New York streets with his suit covered with many one U.S dollar notes and a sign with the title “Take what you need”. Many persons came and took money from his suit; most of them look very rich with expensive suits, splendid suitcases and fashionable haircuts. When Persin asked them: “You really need this money? You don’t look like you need this money?” they turned to him with simple answers such as “I don’t need it, but it’s free. Who wouldn’t take it?” or “Yeah, I have a nail appointment tomorrow”. Although they said they do not even need this money, they just keep taking it. They did it, keep their hands on that money unstoppably, because the outside, in this case is Coby Persin, still continue providing in spite of the fulfillment of needs they have already had. From the one who express the needs, they become something passively receive but always demand and demand, more and more. “The container of needs”, that is the way they have become. In contrast, when Persin passed a homeless, with a dog sitting on the street, and told him that he can take whatever he needs. The homeless answered that he just would take 2 dollars. “Is that all you need?” Persin asked the homeless, and he said that he only need 2 dollars for the food that day. Moreover, and incredibly, the homeless told Persin to bring this money to someone who really needs it:“Just give it to other people”. Admiring by the homeless’ gesture, Persin gave him 60 dollars for whatever he wants: the food tomorrow or for his dog, etc.
What makes the differences between the action of the homeless and the others? Why a man who has nothing just wants and takes what he really needs and is ready to share with the other people? And why someone just keeps taking everything more and more no matter how wealthy and sufficient they have? Is Maslow’s pyramid still enough to understand human act? Is there something beyond the pyramid of needs we should understand?
This is the second paradox of Maslow’s pyramid. If we just narrow his idea into the analyzing of some motivations of human acts, it is all right so far. However, it will be not enough for understand human acts, especially the final purpose of human acts. Maslow’s idea is probably useful in the description of the pursuit and the satisfaction of needs, but when he explains the motivations of human’s acts as the satisfied needs, he localized the action as the one-side of the self-awareness; a man does a specific action because he wants to satisfy his needs. This understanding is not considered to be the influences of a particular context that leads a man towards a determined action. Therefore, we have to move on and just respect Maslow, as the scholar who expressed a good standpoint of human beings’ acts.
To overcome Maslow’s pyramid, we have to return to Aristotle who lived 2400 years before our times. In Aristotle’s theory of four causes, the universe contains the efforts towards the implementation of the specific purpose itself.
“Everything that Nature makes is means to an end” (Aristotle, On the Parts of Animals, Book I)
Everything in the universe always tries to complete its potential, purposes such as a seed tries to become a tree, and a man tries to become a good man. Aristotle believes that human beings, like anything else in the universe, have a purpose, which must be achieved, or a function, which must be finished.
In his Teleology (τέλος, telos – “end, purpose” and λόγια, logia – “a branch of learning”), Aristotle mentions every action toward two kinds of purpose: instrumental purpose (actions are used as the means to achieve the other purpose) and internal purpose (actions are done for itself). Every action has its specific purpose but after that action complete, it is the means to reach the other purposes (ends). As the thinking object, human beings have our some final objects to pursue and the final purpose (end) is eudaimonia (ευδαιμονία – happiness) universally. If we can figure out the purpose that human beings pursue, we can understand human action for that final purpose in which all purposes are just the means of this final purpose.
Indeed, human acts always achieves the specific purpose itself, so it is easy to understand people from Persin’s social experiment or someone else, who always looks for property, pleasure and glory. However, nothing in these can be the final cause of human acts. To become the final purpose (end), “an act must be self-sufficient and final” (Samuel Enoch Stumpf, 1999). In this meaning, an action has been thriving for itself and never for something else, and human beings can achieve it, of course. Aristotle mentioned that eudaimonia is the purpose that itself alone can satisfy any demands to be the final purpose of human acts. It is true that we, human beings, choose the way to pursue property, pleasure, glory because we think and believe that those things are the instrumental to achieve the happiness. Happiness is the completeness of the specific functions of human beings. Aristotle believed that ethical knowledge is not only a theoretical knowledge, but also a practical action; if an individual want to become a virtuous person, he cannot just simply learn what is virtue, but have to practice virtuous action in reality.
“We are not studying in order to know what virtue is, but to become good, for otherwise there would be no profit in it”. (Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, book II, p.2)
With this meaning, moral virtue includes actions because there is nothing called “good” if it is not in action. On the other hand, if eudaimonia is the consequence of our action through our basic nature, it is also the highest goodness of our highest action naturally. That term can be called “practical wisdom”.
From Aristotle’s standpoint, the virtue is the combination of intellectual virtue and moral virtue so that the complete virtue demands both of practical and theoretical virtue. A happy person is the one who comes with practical wisdom and can choose the most pleasant and happy life for the final purpose of all things. From this view, we can realize that a virtuous person is not only “understanding” the way he must be as human beings with human beings’ final purpose, but also “practice” it in his life.
In many ways, the question of “final” of something is a common sense in Greek ancient philosophy where the philosophers spend most of their time seeking the ontology via metaphysical questions. In reality, under influence of practical factors in living environment, an individual expresses his action with specific reasons in particular contexts. It is not metaphysically a philosophical question but practically a useful motivation of leading us toward an action. In this case, to make it more practical, more ethical, let us see how Aristotle describes the judgment in human acts. His teleology analyzes the seven causes of human acts which focuses on the mental cause of the action, which are “chance”, “nature”, “compulsion”, “habit”, “reason”, “passion” and “desire”.
However, this subject has already been cleared up in part in our discussion of the virtues and will be further explained later when we treat of the emotions. We have now to consider the motives and states of mind of wrongdoers, and to whom they do wrong (…)
(…) Thus every action must be due to one or other of seven causes: chance, nature, compulsion, habit, reasoning, anger, or appetite. It is superfluous further to distinguish actions according to the doers’ ages, moral states, or the like; (Aristotle, Rhetoric, chapter 10)
When an individual does an act, his action can be explained as two factors “motives” and “states of mind” into two components, especially the wrong acts: due to himself such as compulsion, chance, nature and not due to himself such as habit, reasoning, anger, appetite. These concrete analysis of Aristotle in Rhetoric proved that a specific action influenced by both an individual’s internal motivation and environment’s external impulse. A person could know exactly what he should do as the way he should be. Even when he has the conflict between with his moral reason and appetite, the context makes his act be not due to his part also takes the suggested role for his behavior.
Over two thousand years after the Rhetoric of Aristotle, Stanley Milgram (1933 – 1984) proved these ideas are right with his controversial psychological experiment in 1961. Stanley Milgram, a Psychology Professor at Yale University, advertised $4/hour jobs for an experiment name “The effects of punishment on learning ability”. Forty people took this job totally. The participants starred in the role of the “teachers” asking the “students”. Both sat in two different rooms and contacted via walkie-talkie. The “teachers” turns to ask questions, and when the answer of “students” is wrong, the experiment’s supervisor orders the “teachers” to press the electric shock to punish “students” with growing intensity, a maximum of 450 volts. Obviously, the “teachers” did not know that no one was electrocuted; the “students” are in Milgram’s group and the cries or pain are just the pretending. During the experiment, the “teachers” expressed the differences of stress and worry. Nevertheless, no one expressed the interest stopped before the 135 volts. When approaching 300 volts, some participants want to stop the experiment and refund the money. However, when the supervisor assured and urged that no one will be responsible for any uncertainties such as “although the shocks may be painful, there is no permanent tissue damage, so please go on”, “whether the learner likes it or not, you must go on until he has learned all the word pairs correctly, so please go on”, “I will take responsibility” (Spencer A.Rathus, 2011) the participants continue pressing despite cries from the other room.
In the result, there are only 14 of 40 “teachers” resolutely stop the experiment before the maximum level of 450 volts, i.e. 65% (26 of 40) of the participants go to the end of this terrible psychology experiment. Meanwhile, before this experiment, Professor Milgram explored the opinion of many final-year students as well as one hundred of his colleagues in psychology department and everyone thinks that only a very small participant will be ready to press the button after the 300 volt. In the following years, Milgram as well as some other experts conducted hundreds of similar experiments, and the results are less than half of the participants decided to give up. Since then, he concluded that under the pressure of the orders of those in authority, while claiming that we are not responsible, the man could cause an evil act, causing injury to others despite knowing that they are contrary to faith and morals. When an individual is rescued from the ethical constraints or legal responsibilities, he could implement the other’s order as an acting subject in passive situation. What make an individual feels free in this case is the responsibilities beyond his real act which will take the charge justifying the action. This kind of commanded action or recommended action can be seen not only in Milgram’s experiment, but also in the massacre of the Saracens by the Crusade army in medieval time because “God wishes it”, in the extermination of Jews by Nazis leader’s order because the destiny of the so-called “racial superiority”, in Vietnam War with the lie policy of “the wave of communism in Southeast Asia” or in the fanatical brutality of the so-called “Islamic State” with the purpose establishing a global Islamic state nowadays.
A specific action in a particular context can be performed from the pursuing of needs, the internal awareness seeking the final purpose or the encouraging of the commanded/recommended action.
Daniel Richardson performed the second exciting psychological experiment for this proving in 2015. As a researcher at University College London, Richardson wants to know the differences between actions in an individual’s psychological decision alone and a in a crowd. He asked 50 persons go to the Phoenix Arts club and each of participants visit a website designed to serve the experiment in which everyone has to move a dot on the touchable screen. There is a big screen showing all the dots of participants. After Richardson asks his question, the participants move their dot to the right side for the “yes” answer and to the left side for opposite opinion. The questions are in various area such as “Have you ever cheated on a test?”, “The United Kingdom should leave the EU?”, “London tube strikes should be forbidden by law?”, and “Someone who buys food for their friends has the right to take a larger share?” The result of this experiment shows us that it is so easy for the participants choosing their answer “yes” or “no” when they can see the moving of the dots on the big screen. In other words, we can make a decision faster in a group because we can find the resemblance each other or the homogenous. This is the dangerous of a crowd and how much it impacts on an individual’s decision. When we make an interaction with each other in a crowd, we easily agree even with prejudices or less intelligent decision because the protection of the resemblance each other/homogenous of a crowd which makes us feel free for any responsibilities or punishments. This resemblance can dissolve the ego and personal wisdom in the so-called “wisdom of crowd”. “When people interact, they end up agreeing, and they make worse decisions (…) they don’t share information, they share biases. We’re trying to figure out why that is, and how we can make collective decisions better” (Richardson, 2015).
The effect of the commanded/recommended action and the resemblance each other/homogenous are the realistic materials for the popular mind studies of Gustave Le Bon in nineteenth century. In his best-known work “The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind”, Le Bon (1841 – 1931) said that a crowd of people has the new characteristics which are quite different from the characteristics of each person forming that crowd. The conscious personality of every member will be dissolved towards the same tendency in a particular context. Despite the temporary existence, this kind of “soul of group” has the clear characteristics in which forms a unique entity following the soul unity of the crowd (Gustave Le Bon, 1895). The special qualities of personality have been controlled by the unconsciousness that has an average quality in all ethnics. This makes a crowd unable to perform a high intelligent act. In Le Bon’s standpoint, there are three reasons of this situation: First, an individual be aware of the absolute power of the crowd basing on the large number of the members that lead toward an irresponsibility, which in contrast, makes an individual careful in action as a single person. Second, the psychological infection in a crowd makes a member khis benefit for the group’s tendency. Third and the most important reason is the way an individual loses his conscious personality into the suggestion or the order from the leader in group or the group itself.
From this understanding, we can realize that the self-awareness and the internal motivation can form the moral responsibility and specific personality of an individual, but the effect in a particular context is the key factor pushing us to make a choice in action.
Let us get back to the social experiment in Persin’s experiment. Why those “rich people” still collect every small changes on Persin’s suit no matter how rich and wealth they have? It is because the “soul of crowd” or the impulse of the outside measure (in Maslow’s pyramid) making them losing their control (or autonomous) in the self-awareness. This particular context also takes the leading role for their behavior with its own suggestion and order. Moreover, in Aristotle’s opinion, it is also because of the final purpose they still don’t have or don’t want to pursue; they misunderstood the instrumental with the final purpose in action as human beings, not to mention that they let the “outside’s measure” control and decide what is right or wrong, what should we do to satisfy our needs, etc. Why can they not figure out their final purpose? It is because of the sympathy and compassion which they still do not have them. And why don’t they still have those ideas? Karl Marx in his dialectical materialism mentioned about human essence in the Theses on Feuerbach in 1843:
“…the human essence is no abstraction inherent in each single individual. In its reality it is the ensemble of social relations” (Marx, 1845, 63).
An individual essence does not come from himself in a prior way before his experience, also not from God with his special privilege. Human nature cannot be born; it is the becoming via the contacting way between objects and us in our cognitive process. As a living entity, human beings have a living essence, not come from a priori determinism that the teleology we have to figure out. Regarding this way, we can organize human nature into five factors that come into being the essence of human: gene – biology, education, society, geographic environment and autonomous individual. These five factors build the three components of an individual: body – mind – spirit. The gene – biological factor takes the platform or background role for the shape of a living human. The educational factor is the mainstream for the human nature’s growth. The geographical environment forms the thinking way of the community that an individual has been grown from; this factor affects the human nature indirectly via the community psychology. The society is the decisive factor for human nature because as a social creature, an individual forms his essence if and only if he exists in a particular society and expresses his existence in the relationship with other members. The last factor plays a role of direct decision for human nature in choosing situations. In fact, despite the great influence from community and environment, an individual can make the choice for himself which is wrong or right, bad or good, do or not do; in contrast, there is no existence of “free will” in an individual’s action because every knowledge, experience, motivations, etc. of human action cannot exposed from internal awareness as the self-consciousness. This is the two-side relationship between an individual and a particular society.
Obviously, the homeless in Persin’s experiment is still a member of the society where he is under effect of the “soul of crowd” as everyone else. However, what makes the difference is the way he escapes from the role as a member of the crowd’s order and express his own personality. Why does it happen? Because he is the one who can exactly understand what is starving, what is material he really needs and how should we share our surplus to someone who really needs it because he was in that situation, he is still in that situation. His experience makes him understand more widely the money, about the things that a person really needs. The “inter-personality” is the highest vision he has. His social relations make him understand the situation and then, he showed us the sympathy, the compassion; in this meaning, he can figure out the final purpose to guide his action as the internal purpose via his intellectual and moral virtue not be controlled by any outside’ measurement or passive satisfaction.
The sympathy and compassion are the result of the final purpose with the experience of social relations.
In many years, most of the administration researchers, psychologists, economists, educators, etc. idolized of the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to describe the pattern that human acts generally move through some motivations. However, the human acts cannot be localized into some fixed visions. The motivations make someone do a specific action, which leads us to another question with higher horizon of thinking about the final purpose and its consequences such as the sympathy and compassion. This understanding can show us the connection among philosophers who lived in different times but still try to do the same thing: discover the answer to the final question of human beings.
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 There are some of opinions that pose the questions about the need of “sex” in this “basic need” while we obviously are able to survive without “sex” itself. The answer is that this need belong to animal including human beings and it is un-debatable, certain and unquestionable.
 Futoshi Kobayashi (2008) answered a part of these above questions in his article named Looking at Lee's Love Theory through Abraham Maslow's Eyes: Factor Analyzing Four Different Models. As a combination of Maslow and John Alan Lee’s ideas, Kobayashi expresses the reciprocal relationship of the “give and take”, which then becomes the so-called “storge”. The combination of “storge” and “eros” (the desire in physical satisfaction when we have a co-ordination with our fellowship) and “ludus” (the good feeling when we can spend our time together) builds the “three basic love styles” that makes us follow the partnership (between ludus and storge) or the love (between eros and ludus). This is the way that we can acquire the satisfaction from the inter-personality among individuals; it does not come from the way we pursuing our needs only, but can be from the understanding with each other also.
 As a teacher tries to educate a student in economics school, after that student graduated, the teacher finished the purpose of a teacher. However, an economics student is just the means of a financial company to run a securities project. The same thing happens with a worker who builds an office building, and the building also finishes its functions as a place for company’s employees to work. The final purposes of the worker and the building are not the internal purpose; those are instrumental to provide the environment to employees to do their job. The role of the securities database supplier finishes when he transfers enough information for the company, but this purpose is just the means, which has been used by the employees to analyze the up and down of stock market. The C.E.O of the company focuses on the purpose to increase the profit, but the profit increasing is just the means of the economic development. Even the economic development at the first glance is considered the final purpose of a nation, it is just the means to create the conditions or environment for human living and complete human function as the way it has to be. “The final cause” is not the cause of human as the role of the teacher, the employee, the worker or the C.E.O, but as the role of human beings. If we can figure out the purpose that human beings pursue, we can understand human action for that final purpose of which all purposes are just the mean.