Our most important fiction is the goal of superiority or success, a goal we created early in life and may not clearly understand. This subjective, fictional final goal guides our style of life, gives unity to our personality. Adler's ideas on fictionalism originated with Hans Vaihinger's book The Philosophy of "As If" (1911/1925). Vai-hinger believed that fictions are ideas that have no real existence, yet they influence people as //'they really existed. One example of a fiction might be: "Men are superior to women." Although this notion is a fiction, many people, both men and women, act as if it were a reality. A second example might be: "Humans have a free will that enables them to make choices." Again, many people act as if they and others have a free will and are thus responsible for their choices. No one can prove that free will exists, yet this fiction guides the lives of most of us. People are motivated not by what is true but by their subjective perceptions of what is true. A third example of a fiction might be a belief in an omnipotent God who rewards good and punishes evil. Such a belief guides the daily lives of millions of people and helps shape many of their actions. Whether true or false, fictions have a powerful influence on people's lives.
Adler's emphasis on fictions is consistent with his strongly held teleological view of motivation. Teleology is an explanation of behavior in terms of its final purpose or aim. It is opposed to causality, which considers behavior as springing from a specific cause. Teleology is usually concerned with future goals or ends, whereas causality ordinarily deals with past experiences that produce some present effect. Freud's view of motivation was basically causal; he believed that people are driven by past events that activate present behavior. In contrast, Adler adopted a teleological view, one in which people are motivated by present perceptions of the future. As fictions, these perceptions need not be conscious or understood. Nevertheless, they bestow a purpose on all of people's actions and are responsible for a consistent pattern than runs throughout their life.
Beyond Biography Why did Adler really break with Freud? For motivations behind the Adler-Freud breakup, see our website at http://www.mhhe.com/feist6
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