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The Courage to be Happy

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First published in Japan as Shiawase Ni Naru Yuki by Diamond Inc., Tokyo, in 2016

First published in Australia and New Zealand by Allen & Unwin in 2019

This English language edition published by arrangement with Diamond, Inc. in care of Tuttle-Mori Agency Inc., Tokyo, through Chandler Crawford Agency, Massachusetts, USA.

Copyright © Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga 2016

Copyright © Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga in this translated edition 2019

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher. The Australian Copyright Act 1968 (the Act) allows a maximum of one chapter or 10 per cent of this book, whichever is the greater, to be photocopied by any educational institution for its educational purposes provided that the educational institution (or body that administers it) has given a remuneration notice to the Copyright Agency (Australia) under the Act.

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ISBN 978 1 76052 971 0

eISBN 978 1 76087 134 5

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Though he stands beside Sigmund Freud and Carl Gustav Jung as one of the most important figures in the world of psychology, Alfred Adler was for many years a forgotten giant. Using the traditional format found in Greek philosophy of a dialogue between a young man and a philosopher, this book provides an introduction to Adler’s thought, which is said to be one hundred years ahead of its time.

The characters appearing in the book are a philosopher engaged in the study of Greek philosophy alongside Adlerian psychology and a youth who is pessimistic about his life. In the previous work, The Courage to be Disliked, the youth questioned the philosopher on the t; rue meaning of his assertion, based on Adler’s ideas, that ‘People can change. And not only that, they can find happiness.’ The philosopher offered the following statements in response:

‘There is no such thing as an internal problem. All problems are interpersonal relationship problems.’ ‘One must not be afraid of being disliked. Freedom is being disliked by other people.’ ‘It isn’t that you lack competence. You just lack “courage”.’ ‘Neither the past nor the future exist. There is only “here and now”.’

The youth rebelled against this stream of radical statements again and again. On encountering Adler’s idea of ‘community feeling’, however, he came to accept the philosopher’s words and resolved to change himself.

The setting of this volume is three years later. The youth, who has become a teacher with the intention of putting Adler’s ideas into practice, calls on the philosopher once more. Adlerian psychology is nothing but a bunch of empty theories. You are trying to tempt and corrupt young people with Adler’s ideas. I’ve got to break away from such dangerous ideas. So says the youth.

In what way should we walk the path to happiness revealed in the preceding volume? Is Adler’s thought, which sounds like pure idealism, really a practicable philosophy? And what is the biggest choice in life that Adler arrived at?

This is the conclusion of a two-part work exploring the essence of Alfred Adler and his psychology of courage. Please ascertain for yourself, together with the youth who doubted and revolted against Adler, the true shape of the courage we need.


Authors’ note



That Bad Person and Poor Me

Is Adlerian psychology a religion?

The objective of education is self-reliance

Respect is seeing a person as he is

Have concern for other people’s concerns

If we had the same kind of heart and life

Courage is contagious, and respect is contagious, too

The real reason why one ‘can’t change’

Your ‘now’ decides the past

‘That bad person’ and ‘poor me’

There’s no magic in Adlerian psychology


Why Negate Reward and Punishment?

The classroom is a democratic nation

Do not rebuke and do not praise

What is the goal of problem behaviour?

Hate me! Abandon me!

If there is punishment, does the crime go away?

Violence in the name of communication

Getting angry and rebuking are synonymous

One can choose one’s own life


From the Principle of Competition to the Principle of Cooperation

Negate praise-based development

Reward gives rise to competition

The disease of the community

Life begins from incompleteness

The courage to be myself

That problem behaviour is directed at you

Why a person wants to become a saviour

Education is friendship, not work


Give, and It Shall Be Given Unto You

All joy is interpersonal relationship joy

Do you ‘trust’? Do you ‘have confidence’?

Why work becomes a life task

All professions are honourable

The important thing is what use one makes of that equipment

How many close friends do you have?

First, believe

People never understand each other

Life is made up of trials of ‘nothing days’

Give, and it shall be given unto you


Choose a Life You Love

Love is not something one falls into

From an ‘art of being loved’ towards an ‘art of loving’

Love is a task accomplished by two people

Switch the subject of life

Self-reliance is breaking away from ‘me’

To whom is that love directed?

How can one get one’s parents’ love?

People are afraid of loving

There is no destined one

Love is a decision

Re-choose your lifestyle

Keeping it simple

To the friends who will make a new era


It should have been a more lighthearted and friendly visit. ‘I hope you will not mind if, at some point, I visit you here again. Yes, as an irreplaceable friend. And I won’t be saying anything more about taking apart your arguments.’ Indeed, the youth had blurted out such words on his departure that day. Now, however, three years had gone by and he had arrived at this man’s study with completely different intentions. The youth was trembling with the gravity of what he was about to confess, and he felt at a loss as to where to begin.


PHILOSOPHER: Well, can you tell me what is going on?

YOUTH: You’re asking why I have come to visit this study again? Well, unfortunately, I’m not here just to hang out and renew an old friendship. I’m sure you are busy, and my situation, too, is that I have little time for such things. So, naturally, there is a pressing issue that has brought me here again.

PHILOSOPHER: Yes, of course, it would seem so.

YOUTH: I have thought things over. I have worried and obsessed over it all more than is necessary and thought it all completely through. In doing so, I arrived at a very serious resolution and decided to come here to convey it to you. I know you have much to do, so please give me your time for just this one evening. Because this will probably be my final visit.

PHILOSOPHER: What happened?

YOUTH: Haven’t you figured it out? It’s the problem I’ve been suffering over for so long: ‘Do I give up on Adler or not?’


YOUTH: I’ll get right to the point: Adler’s ideas are quackery. Utter quackery. Actually, I have to go further and say that they are dangerous, even harmful ideas. While you yourself are certainly free to choose what you wish to adhere to, if possible I’d like to get you to be quiet about it for once and for all. I’ve resolved to make this my final visit tonight as I’ve said, in the knowledge that I had to give up on Adler completely, in your presence and with this feeling in my heart.

PHILOSOPHER: So, was there some event that triggered this?

YOUTH: I will talk this through calmly and in an orderly fashion. First, do you recall that final day three years ago, when I last saw you?

PHILOSOPHER: Of course I do. It was a winter’s day, with glistening white snow all around.

YOUTH: Yes, it was. The night sky was a beautiful blue, and there was a full moon. Under the influence of Adler’s ideas, that day I took a great step forward. I quit my job at the university library and found a teaching position at my old middle school. I thought I’d like to put into practice a kind of education that was based on Adler’s ideas and bring it to as many children as possible.

PHILOSOPHER: Isn’t that a wonderful decision?

YOUTH: Sure. I was burning with idealism then. I simply couldn’t keep such wonderful, world-changing ideas all to myself. I had to get more people to understand them. But whom? I could arrive at only one conclusion. The adults, who are no longer pure and unsoiled, aren’t the ones who need to know about Adler. It’s by bringing his thoughts to the children who will build a new generation that his ideas will continue to evolve. That was the mission I had been assigned. The fire inside me was burning so bright, I might well have burned myself.

PHILOSOPHER: I see. You can speak of this only in the past tense?

YOUTH: That’s right; it’s totally history now. But please don’t misunderstand me. I haven’t lost hope in my students. And neither have I lost hope or given up with regard to education itself. It’s just that I have lost hope in Adler—which is to say, I have lost hope in you.

PHILOSOPHER: Why is that?

YOUTH: Well, that’s something for you to contemplate and ask yourself! Adler’s ideas have no use in actual society and are nothing more than abstract, empty theories. Especially that education principle that states, ‘One must not praise, and one must not rebuke.’ And just so you know, I’ve followed it faithfully. I didn’t praise, and I didn’t rebuke anyone, either. I didn’t give praise for perfect scores on tests or for a thorough job cleaning up. I didn’t rebuke anyone for forgetting to do their homework or for being noisy in class. What do you think happened as a result of this?

PHILOSOPHER: You got an unruly classroom?

YOUTH: Completely. But when I think back on it all now, that was only natural. It was my fault for getting taken in by such cheap quackery.

PHILOSOPHER: So, what did you do about it?

YOUTH: Needless to say, for the students who were doing bad things, I chose the path of stern rebuke. I know you’re probably going to make light of that and tell me it was a foolish solution. But look, I’m not a person who busies himself with philosophy and gets lost in daydreams. I am an educator who lives, and who handles real, on-the-ground situations, and looks after students’ lives and destinies. Because the reality right in front of us never waits—it’s moving constantly from moment to moment. You can’t just sit back and do nothing!

PHILOSOPHER: How effective is it?

YOUTH: Naturally, if I rebuke them any further, it doesn’t do any good. Because they disparage me now—I’m just a softy to them. Honestly, there are even times when I envy the teachers of ages past, when physical punishment was permitted and even standard.

PHILOSOPHER: It’s not an easy situation.

YOUTH: True. Just so there isn’t any misunderstanding, I should add that I am not letting my emotions take over or getting angry. I’m only rebuking, in a rational manner, as a last resort for the purposes of education. I guess you could say I’m prescribing an antibiotic medicine called ‘reprimand’.

PHILOSOPHER: And then you felt you wanted to give up on Adler?

YOUTH: Well, I mentioned that just to give you a clear example. Adler’s ideas are certainly wonderful. They shake up your value system and make you feel like the cloudy skies over your head are clearing up; like your life has changed. They would seem to be beyond reproach, a universal truth even. But the fact of the matter is that the only place they hold water is right here, in this study. Once you throw open the door and dive into the actual world, Adler’s ideas are just too naïve. The arguments they put forward are quite impractical and nothing but empty idealism. You’ve just been fabricating a world that suits your purposes here in this room and losing yourself in daydreams. You don’t know a thing about the real world and the swarming masses of people who live in it!

PHILOSOPHER: I see … And then?

YOUTH: An education in which one neither praises nor rebukes? An education that espouses autonomy and leaves students to fend for themselves? That’s nothing other than a renunciation of one’s professional duties as an educator. From now on, I am going to face the children in a way that is very different from Adler’s. I don’t care if it is ‘right’ or not. Because I have no other choice. I will praise, and I will rebuke. And naturally, I will have to mete out harsh punishment as well.

PHILOSOPHER: Just to confirm, you’re not going to quit working as an educator, are you?

YOUTH: Of course not. I will never give up on the path of being an educator. Because it is the path I have chosen. It is not an occupation, but a way of living.

PHILOSOPHER: It is most reassuring to hear that.

YOUTH: So, you think this is just somebody else’s problem? If I’m going to continue as an educator, I’ve got to give up on Adler right here and now! If I don’t, I’ll be renouncing my responsibilities as an educator and abandoning my students. This is the proverbial blade to your throat. Well, what’s your response?

* * *

PHILOSOPHER: First, allow me to make a correction. You used the word ‘truth’ earlier. But I am not presenting Adler as an absolute, immutable truth. One might say that what I am doing is giving a prescription for eyeglass lenses. I believe there are many people whose fields of vision have been broadened as a result of these lenses. On the other hand, there are probably those who say their vision has become even cloudier than before. I do not consider trying to force these lenses of Adler on such people.

YOUTH: Oh, so you run away from them?

PHILOSOPHER: No. Let’s look at it this way. No other form of thought is as easy to get wrong and as hard to get right as Adlerian psychology. The majority of those who say, ‘I know Adler’ misunderstand his teachings. They do not possess the courage to approach a true understanding, and they do not try to look directly at the landscape that spreads out beyond this way of thought.

YOUTH: People misunderstand Adler?

PHILOSOPHER: That’s right. If someone comes into contact with Adler’s ideas and is immediately moved very deeply and says, ‘Life is easier now,’ that person is grossly misunderstanding Adler. Because when one truly understands what Adler is demanding of us, one is likely to be shocked by its severity.

YOUTH: So, you are saying that I, too, misunderstand Adler?

PHILOSOPHER: Yes, from everything you have been telling me, it would seem so. You are certainly not alone in this, however. There are many Adlerians (practitioners of Adlerian psychology) who misunderstand him at the outset and then climb the stairway of understanding. It would seem that you haven’t actually found the stairway that you should climb yet. I didn’t find it right away either, when I was young.

YOUTH: Huh. You had a period when you were lost, too?


YOUTH: Then, I want you to teach me. Where is this stairway to understanding, or whatever it is? What do you mean by ‘stairway’ anyway? Where did you find it?

PHILOSOPHER: I was fortunate. Because I was a househusband in the midst of raising a young child when I came to know Adler.

YOUTH: What do you mean?

PHILOSOPHER: Through my child, I learned Adler, and, together with my child, I was able to practise and thus deepen my understanding and obtain positive proof of Adler.

YOUTH: So, that’s what I’m asking you to tell me! What did you learn? And what is this positive proof you obtained?

PHILOSOPHER: In a word, it was ‘love’.

YOUTH: What did you say?

PHILOSOPHER: You don’t really need me to say it again, do you?

YOUTH: Ha-ha, what a laugh! Love, the thing that there’s no need to speak of? You’re saying that if I want to know the real Adler, I have to know about love?

PHILOSOPHER: You who can laugh at this word do not yet understand it. The love Adler speaks of is the harshest and most courage-testing task of all.

YOUTH: Oh, please! You’re just going to recite some preachy talk about neighbourly love. I don’t want to hear it.

PHILOSOPHER: Just now you stated that you have reached a dead-end in education and have a feeling of distrust for Adler. And then you are eager to tell me that you are denouncing Adler, and that you don’t want me to talk about him anymore, either. Why are you so upset? I suppose you felt that Adler’s ideas were something like magic. As if you could just wave a wand and, without further ado, all your wishes would be granted. If that is the case, you should give up on Adler. You should give up the mistaken images of Adler that you have embraced and know the real Adler.

YOUTH: No, you’re wrong! In the first place, I have never expected Adler to be magical or anything like that. And second, as I think you yourself once said, ‘Any person can be happy from this moment onward.’

PHILOSOPHER: Yes, I certainly did say that.

YOUTH: But aren’t such words a perfect example of magic? You’re warning people, ‘Don’t be fooled by that counterfeit money,’ while pushing other counterfeit money. It’s a classic swindler’s trick!

PHILOSOPHER: Any person can be happy from this moment onward. This is an undeniable fact, not magic or anything of the sort. You, and everyone else, can take steps towards happiness. But happiness is not something one can enjoy by staying where one is. One has to keep walking along the path one has embarked on. It is necessary to be clear on this point.

You took the first step. You took a big step. Now, however, not only have you lost courage and let your feet come to a halt, you are trying to turn back. Do you know why?

YOUTH: You’re saying I don’t have patience.

PHILOSOPHER: No. You have not yet made the biggest choice in life. That’s all.

YOUTH: The biggest choice in life! What do I have to choose?

PHILOSOPHER: I said it earlier. It is ‘love’.

YOUTH: Hah! You expect me to get that? Please don’t try to escape into abstraction!

PHILOSOPHER: I am serious. The issues you are now experiencing all stem from the single word ‘love’. The issues you have with education, and also the issue of which life you should lead.

YOUTH: All right. This seems like something worth refuting. Now, before we get into a fully-fledged discussion, there is one thing I’d like to say. There is no doubt in my mind that you are a modern-day Socrates. However, it is not his thought that I am referring to, but his crime.


YOUTH: Look, apparently Socrates was sentenced to death on the suspicion of having tempted and corrupted the youth of the ancient Greek city-state of Athens, right? He restrained his disciples, who were appealing to him to escape from prison, and then drank a poison tea and took leave of this world. It’s interesting, isn’t it? If you ask me, you who espouse the ideas of Adler here in this ancient capital are guilty of exactly the same crime. In other words, you are tempting and corrupting naïve youth with deceitful words!

PHILOSOPHER: You are saying that you were taken in and corrupted by Adler?

YOUTH: That is precisely why I resolved to visit once more to part ways with you. I don’t want to create any more victims. Philosophically speaking, I must snuff the life out of you.

PHILOSOPHER: Well, then, it’s going to be a long night.

YOUTH: But let’s settle this tonight, before daybreak. There is no need for me to keep calling on you after this. Will I climb the stairway of understanding? Or will I tear down that stairway of yours and abandon Adler, once and for all? It’ll be one or the other; there’s no in-between.

PHILOSOPHER: All right. This may be our last dialogue … No, it seems we will have to make it our last, no matter what.

Little had changed in the philosopher’s study since the youth’s visit there three years before. A partially written manuscript lay in a loose bundle on the well-used desk. On top of it, perhaps to prevent papers from being blown about by the wind, lay an old-fashioned fountain pen ornamented with gold inlay. It all felt familiar to the youth; it was almost as if he were in his own room. He noticed several books he owned, including one he had just read a week earlier. Gazing wistfully at the bookshelf, which took up an entire wall, the youth let out a great sigh. I mustn’t get too comfortable here. I’ve got to keep moving forward.


YOUTH: Before coming to the decision to visit you once more today, that is to say, before making the firm resolution to abandon Adler, I went through a great deal of distress. It troubled me more than you can imagine. That’s how attractive Adler’s ideas were to me. But the fact is that at the same time as I was attracted to them, I was harbouring doubts all along. And those doubts concern the name ‘Adlerian psychology’ itself.

PHILOSOPHER: Hmm. What do you mean?

YOUTH: As the name ‘Adlerian psychology’ indicates, Adler’s ideas are regarded as psychology. And, as far as I am aware, psychology is essentially a science. When it comes to the opinions put forth by Adler, however, there are aspects that strike me as decidedly unscientific. Of course, as this is an area of study that deals with the psyche, it might not be completely expressible in mathematical form. That I understand perfectly well. But the problem, you see, is that Adler talks about people in terms of ‘ideals’. He’s offering up the same kind of cloying sermons that Christians do when they preach about neighbourly love. Which brings me to my first question: do you think of Adlerian psychology as a ‘science’?

PHILOSOPHER: If you are speaking of a strict definition of science, that is to say, a science that has falsifiability, then no, it is not. Adler declared his psychology to be a ‘science’, but when he began talking about his concept of ‘social feeling’, many of his colleagues parted ways with him. Their judgement was much like yours: ‘That sort of thing isn’t science.’

YOUTH: Right. That’s a natural response for anyone who is interested in psychology as a science.

PHILOSOPHER: This is an ongoing area of debate, but Freud’s psychoanalysis, Jung’s analytical psychology and Adler’s individual psychology all have aspects that come into conflict with such a definition of science in that they do not have falsifiability. This is a fact.

YOUTH: Okay, I see. I’ve brought my notebook with me today. I’m going to get this down in writing. That strictly speaking … it is not science! Now to my next question: three years ago, you referred to Adler’s ideas as ‘another philosophy’, did you not?

PHILOSOPHER: You are correct, I did. I think of Adlerian psychology as a way of thinking that follows in the same vein as Greek philosophy and is itself a philosophy. I think the same way about Adler himself. Before regarding him as a psychologist, I see him as a philosopher. He is a philosopher who put his expertise to practical use in clinical settings. This is my perception.

YOUTH: All right. So, here’s my main point. I thought hard about Adler’s ideas, and I really put them into practice. I wasn’t sceptical about them. Rather, it was as if those ideas filled me with a feverish passion, and I believed in them with all my heart. The thing is, whenever I have tried to practise Adler’s ideas in an educational setting, the opposition has been overwhelming. I have been opposed not only by the students, but by the other teachers around me. But if you think about it, that makes sense. Because I was presenting an approach to education based on a value system that is completely different from theirs and attempting to put it into practice there for the first time. And then, I happened to recall a certain group of people, and I superimposed their circumstances onto mine. Do you know who I am talking about?

PHILOSOPHER: Well, no, I don’t. Who could it be?

YOUTH: The Catholic missionaries who forayed into the heathen lands during the Age of Discovery.


YOUTH: Africa, Asia and the Americas. Those Catholic missionaries journeyed into strange lands where the languages, cultures and even gods were different, and they went around espousing the teachings they believed in. Just like me, who took my post to espouse the ideas of Adler. The missionaries, too, though they often succeeded in propagating their faith, also experienced oppression and were sometimes even executed by barbaric methods. One would think it common sense that such people would simply be turned away. But if so, how on earth could these missionaries have succeeded in preaching a new ‘god’ to the inhabitants of the places they visited, and making them give up their native beliefs? It must have been work of considerable difficulty. Craving to know more, I ran to the library.

PHILOSOPHER: But that’s …

YOUTH: Hey, I’m not finished, okay? So, while I was poring over various writings on the missionaries of the Age of Discovery, another interesting thought occurred to me: when it comes down to it, isn’t Adler’s philosophy a religion?

PHILOSOPHER: Interesting …

YOUTH: Because it’s true, isn’t it? The ideals Adler talks about are not science. And to the extent that they are not science, in the end it is just a question of one’s level of faith, of either believing or not believing. So, again, it is just about one’s feeling. It is true that from our point of view, people who don’t know Adler may seem like savage primitives who believe in false gods. We feel that we must teach them the real ‘truth’ and save them, as quickly as possible. However, it may be that from their vantage point, we are the ones who are primitive worshippers of wicked gods. Maybe we are the ones who need to be saved. Am I wrong?

PHILOSOPHER: No, you are quite right.

YOUTH: Then, tell me: What is the difference between the philosophy of Adler and religion?

PHILOSOPHER: The difference between religion and philosophy; this is an important theme. If you just rule out the existence of ‘god’ and think about it then the discussion will be easier to understand.

YOUTH: Ah. What do you mean?

PHILOSOPHER: With religion, philosophy and science, too, the point of departure is the same. Where do we come from? Where are we? And how should we live? Religion, philosophy and science all start from these questions. In ancient Greece, there was no division between philosophy and science, and the Latin root of the word ‘science’ is scientia, which simply means ‘knowledge’.

YOUTH: Fine, that’s how science was back then. But I am asking about philosophy and religion. What is the difference between them?

PHILOSOPHER: It would probably be better to clarify their points of commonality first. Unlike science, which limits itself to objective fact-finding, philosophy and religion also deal with human ideas of ‘truth’, ‘good’ and ‘beauty’. This is an extremely important point.

YOUTH: I know. It is philosophy and religion that delve into the human psyche. But where, then, are the boundary lines and points of difference between the two? Is it just that single question of whether god exists?

PHILOSOPHER: No. The most important point of difference is the presence or absence of ‘story’. Religion explains the world by means of stories. You could say that gods are the protagonists of the grand stories that religions use to explain the world. By contrast, philosophy rejects stories. It tries to explain the world by means of abstract concepts that have no protagonists.

YOUTH: Philosophy rejects stories?

PHILOSOPHER: Or, think of it this way: in our search for truth, we are walking on a long pole that extends into the darkness. Doubting our common sense and engaging in continual self-questioning, we just continue to walk on that pole without any idea of how far it may go. And then, from out of the darkness one hears a voice inside saying, ‘Nothing further lies ahead. Here is truth.’

YOUTH: Huh …

PHILOSOPHER: So, some people stop listening to their internal voice and stop walking. They jump down from the pole. Do they find truth there? I don’t know. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. But stopping in one’s steps and jumping off the pole midway is what I call religion. With philosophy, one keeps walking without end. It doesn’t matter if gods are there or not.

YOUTH: Then, this walking-without-end philosophy doesn’t have any answers?

PHILOSOPHER: In the original Greek, philosophia has the meaning ‘love of wisdom’. In other words, philosophy is the ‘study of the love of wisdom’, and philosophers are ‘lovers of wisdom’. Conversely, one could say that if a person were to become a complete ‘wise man’ who knows all there is to know, that person would no longer be a lover of wisdom (philosopher). In the words of Kant, the giant of modern philosophy, ‘We cannot learn philosophy. We can only learn to philosophise.’

YOUTH: To philosophise?

PHILOSOPHER: That’s right. Philosophy is more of a living attitude than a field of study. Religion may convey all under the name of god. It may convey an all-knowing, almighty god and the teachings handed down by that god. This is a way of thinking that conflicts fundamentally with philosophy.

And with someone who purports to know everything, or someone who has stopped in their path of knowing and thinking, regardless of their belief in the existence or nonexistence of god, or even the presence or absence of their faith, they are venturing into religion. That is my view on the matter.

YOUTH: In other words, you still don’t know the answers?

PHILOSOPHER: No, I do not. The instant we feel that we know about a subject, we want to seek beyond it. I will always think about myself, other people and the world. Therefore, I will ‘not know’ without end.

YOUTH: Heh-heh. That answer is philosophical, too.

PHILOSOPHER: Socrates, in his dialogues with the self-described wise men known as the Sophists, arrived at the following conclusion: I (Socrates) know that ‘my knowledge is not complete’. I know my own ignorance. The Sophists, on the other hand, those would-be wise men, intend to understand everything and know nothing of their own ignorance. In this respect—my knowledge of my own ignorance—I am more of a wise man than they are. This is the context of Socrates’ famous statement, ‘I know that I know nothing.’

YOUTH: Then, what can you, who have no answers and are ignorant, impart to me?

PHILOSOPHER: I will not impart. Let’s think and walk together.

YOUTH: Ah, to the end of the pole? Without jumping off?

PHILOSOPHER: That’s right. Keep inquiring and keep walking, without limit.

YOUTH: You’re so confident, even though you say that sophistry won’t hold water. All right. I’m going to shake you down off that pole!


PHILOSOPHER: Well, where should we begin?

YOUTH: The problem that requires my urgent attention right now is education, after all. So, I’ll expose Adler’s contradictions with a focus on education. Because there are all manner of aspects of Adler’s ideas that, at their roots, are incompatible with education.

PHILOSOPHER: I see. That sounds interesting.

YOUTH: In Adlerian psychology, there is a way of thinking called ‘separation of tasks’, right? All sorts of things and events in life are regarded from the viewpoint of ‘Whose task is this?’ and divided into ‘one’s own tasks’ and ‘other people’s tasks’. Say, for example, that my boss doesn’t like me. Naturally, it doesn’t feel good. It would be normal to make some effort to be liked and approved of by him somehow.

But Adler judges that to be wrong. What kind of judgement do other people (in this case, my boss) pass on my speech and conduct, and on me as a person? That is the boss’s task (other people’s tasks) and is not something I can control. No matter how much I try to be liked by him, my boss might just continue to dislike me.

On this point, Adler says, ‘You are not living to satisfy other people’s expectations.’ And further, ‘Other people are not living to satisfy your expectations.’ Don’t be afraid of other people looking at you, don’t pay attention to other people’s judgement and don’t seek recognition from other people. Just choose the path that is best for you and that you believe in. Furthermore, you must not intervene in other people’s tasks, and you must not allow others to intervene in your tasks, either. To those who are new to Adlerian psychology, this is a concept that has a great impact.

PHILOSOPHER: True. Being able to carry out the ‘separation of tasks’ dramatically reduces one’s interpersonal relationship problems.

YOUTH: You also said that there is an easy way to determine who has which task. I should think, ‘Who ultimately is going to receive the end result brought about by that choice?’ I’m not getting it wrong, am I?

PHILOSOPHER: No, you are not.

YOUTH: The example you used then was that of studying for a child. A child who does not study. His parents are anxious about his future and yell at him to hit the books. But who is going to receive the end result brought about by not studying—that is to say, that he won’t be able to get into the desired school or that it will be more difficult for him to find a job? No matter how you look at it, it’s the child himself, not the parents. In other words, studying is the child’s task and is not an issue in which the parents should intervene. Am I doing okay so far?


YOUTH: Now, this is where a major doubt arises. Studying is the child’s task. One must not intervene in the child’s tasks. But if so, then what is this thing we call ‘education’? What is this occupation we are engaging in as educators? Because if one abides by your line of reasoning, we educators who push children to study are just a gang of trespassers who intrude on their tasks! Now, how can you answer that?

PHILOSOPHER: Okay, well, this is a question that comes up on occasion when I discuss Adler with educators. Studying is certainly the child’s task. No one is permitted to intervene there, not even the parents. If the ‘separation of tasks’ Adler speaks of is interpreted in a one-dimensional way, all forms of education become interventions into other people’s tasks, and thus reprehensible conduct. In Adler’s time, however, there was no psychologist more concerned with education. To Adler, education was not simply a core task—it was also the greatest hope.

YOUTH: Hmm. Can you be more concrete?

PHILOSOPHER: For example, in Adlerian psychology, counselling is thought of not as ‘treatment’, but as a place for ‘re-education’.

YOUTH: Re-education?

PHILOSOPHER: That’s right. Counselling and childhood education are essentially the same. The counsellor is an educator, and the educator is a counsellor. It is fine to think of it in this way.

YOUTH: Ha-ha, I didn’t know that. I had no idea I was a counsellor! What on earth is that supposed to mean?

PHILOSOPHER: This is an important point. Let’s straighten things out as we continue the discussion. First, what is the intended objective of education, both at home and at school? What is your view on this?

YOUTH: It’s not something I can convey in just a few words. The cultivation of knowledge through scholarship, the attainment of social skills, the development of human beings who respect justice and who are sound in mind and body …

PHILOSOPHER: Yes. All these are important, but let’s look at the bigger picture. What does one want children to become as a result of one’s providing them with an education?

YOUTH: One wants them to become independent adults?

PHILOSOPHER: Right. The objective of education, in a word, is ‘self-reliance’.

YOUTH: Self-reliance … Well, I guess you could put it that way.

PHILOSOPHER: In Adlerian psychology, all people are regarded as beings who live their lives with the desire to escape from their helpless conditions and improve themselves. That is to say, in the ‘pursuit of superiority’. The toddling baby learns how to stand on two legs, acquires language and becomes able to communicate with the people around him. In other words, what all people are seeking is ‘freedom’, from their helpless and unfree conditions, and ‘self-reliance’. These are fundamental desires.

YOUTH: So, education is what promotes this self-reliance?

PHILOSOPHER: Exactly. And for children to both grow physically and become socially self-reliant, there are all manner of things that they need to know. They need the social skills and the sense of justice you mentioned, and they probably need knowledge and other things, too. And, of course, the things they do not know must be taught to them by other people who do. The people around them must give their assistance. Education is not intervention but assistance towards self-reliance.

YOUTH: It sounds to me like you’re desperately trying to rephrase things!

PHILOSOPHER: For example, how would it be if one were thrown into society without knowing any traffic rules; without knowing the meaning of red lights and green lights? Or, if one had no car-driving skills and found oneself behind the wheel? Naturally, there are rules to be learned here and skills to be attained. This is an issue of life and death and, moreover, of putting other people’s lives in danger as well. One could also put it the other way around and say that if there were no other people left on Earth and you were the only person alive there would not be anything you would have to know, and education would not be necessary, either. You would not have any need for knowledge.

YOUTH: It’s because of other people and society that there is knowledge that should be studied?

PHILOSOPHER: Yes! ‘Knowledge’ here refers not only to scholarly studies but includes the knowledge that people need to live happily. In short, how one should live within a community. How one should interact with others. How one can locate one’s proper place in that community. To know ‘me’ and to know ‘you’. To know the true nature of a person, and to understand the way in which a person ought to live. Adler referred to such knowledge as ‘human knowledge’.

YOUTH: Human knowledge? I’ve never heard that term before.

PHILOSOPHER: I don’t suppose you would have. This human knowledge is not the kind of knowledge that is gained from books—it is something that can only be learned by actually being engaged in relationships with other people. In that sense, one could say that the school, in which one is surrounded by large numbers of other people, is a more meaningful place of education than the home.

YOUTH: So, you’re saying that the key to education is this thing you call human knowledge?

PHILOSOPHER: That’s right. It’s the same with counselling. The counsellor assists the client in gaining self-reliance. And they think together about the human knowledge that is necessary for self-reliance. Do you recall the objectives put forth by Adlerian psychology that we were discussing last time? The behavioural objectives and the psychological objectives?

YOUTH: Yes, I remember them. There are the following two objectives for behaviour:

1. To be self-reliant

2. To live in harmony with society

And there are the following two objectives for the psychology that supports these behaviours:

1. The consciousness that I have the ability

2. The consciousness that people are my comrades

So, briefly put, you are saying that these four things are valuable, not only in counselling, but in an actual education setting?

PHILOSOPHER: And they are no less valuable to us adults, with our general feelings of how hard life is. Because there are so many adults suffering in social settings who are unable to attain these objectives.

If one has left behind the objective of self-reliance, whether in education, counselling or job coaching, very quickly one will end up forcing things.

We must be aware of the roles we are playing, whether we are letting education fall into a kind of trap of compulsory ‘intervention’ or limiting ourselves to a self-reliance-stimulating ‘assistance’. It is something that depends on the approach of the person performing the education or counselling or coaching.

YOUTH: It would certainly seem so. I get it, and I agree with these lofty ideals; I really do. But, look, you’ve already tried that trick on me, and it won’t work anymore! Whatever we talk about, it always turns into abstract idealism in the end. It just turns into me listening to these big, feel-good words of yours and thinking I understand.

But my issues aren’t abstract ones—they’re actually quite concrete. Instead of all these empty theories, let’s hear a grounded, practical theory. Concretely, what sort of step can I take as an educator? That most important, concrete first step—you’ve been dodging that point all along, haven’t you? What you’re talking about is such a faraway thing. It’s as if you’re always going on about some landscape far in the distance and trying not to look at the mud at your feet!

Three years earlier, the youth had been filled with astonishment and doubt on hearing the ideas of Adler conveyed by the philosopher, and he had expressed his opposition to them with the fiercest emotion. It was different this time, though. He had a sufficient understanding now of the frameworks of Adlerian psychology, and moreover he had gained actual experience in society. One might even say that, in the sense that he had on-the-job experience, he was the one who had learned more. This time, the youth had a clear plan. Focus not on the abstract, but on the concrete. Not on theory, but on actual practice. And not on ideals, but on reality. That is what I want to know, and also where Adler’s weaknesses lie.


PHILOSOPHER: Concretely, then, where should we begin? When education, coaching and assistance adopt self-reliance as their objective, where is the point of entry? To be sure, this may be an area of concern. But there are clear guidelines here.

YOUTH: I’m all ears.

PHILOSOPHER: There is only one answer. It is ‘respect’.

YOUTH: Respect?

PHILOSOPHER: Yes. No other point of entry is possible in education.

YOUTH: Another surprising answer! So, in other words, what you’re saying is: respect your parents, respect your teachers and respect your boss?

PHILOSOPHER: No. First of all, for example, in a class you have respect for the children. Everything starts from there.

YOUTH: I do? For these kids who can’t be quiet and listen to someone for even five minutes?

PHILOSOPHER: Yes. It could be a relationship between parent and child, or within a company organisation, but it doesn’t matter—in any kind of interpersonal relationship, it is the same. Initially, the parent respects the child and the boss respects his subordinates. The roles are such that the person standing on the ‘teaching side’ has respect for the person standing on the ‘being taught side’. Without respect, no good interpersonal relationships can come about, and without good relations, one’s words will not reach anyone.

YOUTH: You’re saying I should respect each and every problem child?

PHILOSOPHER: Yes. Because at the root of it is ‘respect for people’. One’s respect is not limited to specific others, but extends to other people of all kinds, from family and friends to unknown passers-by, and even to people in other countries whom one will never meet as long as one lives.

YOUTH: Ah, another lecture on morality! Or else it’s religion. Well, I’ve got to say, you’re giving me a good opportunity. It’s true that morality is included in the curriculum in school education; that it has such a position. I concede that there are many people who believe in those values.

But consider this. Why is it even necessary to talk sense into children about morality? It’s because children are immoral beings by nature, as are all humans. Heck, what is ‘respect for people’ anyway? Look, for both you and me, at the very depths of our souls, there drifts the repulsively putrid stink of immorality!

You preach on what is moral to immoral people. I am seeking morality. This truly is intervention, nothing less than force. The things you say are full of contradictions. I’ll say it again: your idealism will have no effect at all in an actual situation. And besides, how can you expect me to respect these problem children?

PHILOSOPHER: Then, I will say it again, too. I am not preaching morality. And next, the other point is that especially with people like you, I have to get you to know, and to actually practise, respect.

YOUTH: Well, enough of that already! I don’t want to hear empty theories that reek of religion. I’m asking you for concrete examples that are practicable tomorrow.

PHILOSOPHER: What is respect? Here is a definition: ‘Respect denotes the ability to see a person as he is; to be aware of his unique individuality.’ These are the words of the social psychologist Erich Fromm, who moved from Germany to America to escape Nazi persecution around the same time as Adler.

YOUTH: The ability to be aware of his unique individuality?

PHILOSOPHER: Yes. One sees that person, who is irreplaceable and utterly unique in the world, just as he is. Moreover, Fromm adds, ‘Respect means the concern that the other person should grow and unfold as he is.’

YOUTH: I don’t understand.

PHILOSOPHER: Not trying to change or manipulate the other person who is right there in front of you. Accepting that person as he is without setting any conditions. There is no greater respect than this. Then, on being accepted by another person ‘as one is’, one is likely to gain a great courage. And respect may also be regarded as the starting point of encouragement.

YOUTH: No way! That is not the respect that I know. Respect is a kind of emotion akin to yearning, a sort of imploring that one can rise to the occasion.

PHILOSOPHER: No. That is not respect, but fear, subordination and faith. It is a state in which one fears power and authority and worships false images without seeing anything of the other person.

The Latin respicio, which is the root of ‘respect’, has the connotation of ‘seeing’. First of all, one sees the person as he is. You have not seen anything yet, and neither have you tried to see. Place value on the person being that person without pushing your own value system on them. And further, assist in their growth or unfolding. That is precisely what respect is. In the attitude of trying to manipulate or correct another person, there is no respect whatsoever.

YOUTH: So, if I accept them as they are, will these problem children change?

PHILOSOPHER: That is not something you can control. Maybe they will change, and maybe they will not. But as a result of your respect, each of the students will accept themselves for being who they are and regain the courage to be self-reliant. There is no doubting this. Whether they use their regained courage is up to each student.

YOUTH: So that’s the separation of tasks?

PHILOSOPHER: That’s right. You can lead them to water, but you can’t make them drink. No matter how gifted you are as an educator, there is no guarantee that they will change. But it is precisely because there is no such guarantee that one has unconditional respect. First you have to start. Without setting any conditions whatsoever, and regardless of what the anticipated results might be, it is you who takes the first step.

YOUTH: But nothing will change that way.

PHILOSOPHER: In this world, no matter how powerful one is, there are two things that cannot be forced.

YOUTH: What are they?

PHILOSOPHER: ‘Respect’ and ‘love’. For example, let’s say the person at the top of a company organisation is an authoritarian despot. The employees will follow his orders, certainly. And they will probably display obedient behaviour. But that is submission based on fear, without an iota of respect. He can shout, ‘Respect me,’ but none of them will comply. In their hearts, they will just grow more and more distant from him.

YOUTH: Yes, I’m sure they will.

PHILOSOPHER: On top of that, if no mutual respect exists, then there is no relationship as human beings, either. An organisation like that is just assembling groups of humans to function as its nuts and bolts and gears. It can carry out machine-like labour, but no one else can do the human work.

YOUTH: Okay, enough roundabout talk, already! So, basically what you’re saying is that I’m not respected by my students, and that’s why the classroom gets out of control?

PHILOSOPHER: If there is fear even for a short time, it is unlikely for there to be any respect. It’s only natural that the class will get out of control. You just stood by idly as it developed, and now you resort to authoritarian measures. You use power and fear to try to make them do your bidding. Maybe you can expect that to be effective for a while. Maybe you’ll feel relieved that they really seem to be listening to you now. However …

YOUTH: They’re not hearing a single word that comes out of my mouth.

PHILOSOPHER: That’s right. The children are not obeying you, they are only submitting to authority. They do not entertain the slightest thought of understanding you. They just cover their ears and shut their eyes and wait for the storm of your rage to pass.

YOUTH: Heh-heh, you’ve really hit the nail on the head.

PHILOSOPHER: You fall into this vicious cycle because you fail to take the initial step of respecting the students yourself, of respecting them unconditionally.

YOUTH: So, because I failed to take that step, there is nothing I can do that will get through to them?

PHILOSOPHER: That’s right. You have been shouting to an empty room. There’s no way they can hear you.

YOUTH: Okay, fine, I get that. There are still so many points I need to refute, but I’ll accept this for the time being. Now, supposing that your approach is the right one—that relationships are built on the basis of respect. How, then, does one show respect, anyway? You’re not telling me to put on a pleasant smile and say, ‘Hey, I respect you,’ are you?

PHILOSOPHER: Respect is not something that comes about with words. And whenever an adult tries to cosy up to them in such a way, the children quickly detect the lie or calculation. The moment they think, ‘This person is lying,’ respect isn’t possible anymore.

YOUTH: Okay, okay. You’ve hit the nail on the head again. But what are you suggesting I should do, anyway? Because there’s actually a major contradiction in the way you’re talking about respect right now.

PHILOSOPHER: Oh? What contradiction is that?

Start from respect, the philosopher was saying. And that it is not only the foundation of education that is built through respect, but the base of all interpersonal relationships. Certainly, one doesn’t pay much attention to the words of people one doesn’t respect. There were aspects of the philosopher’s arguments that the youth could agree with. But the argument that one had to respect all other people—that even the problem children in his classroom, and the villains at large in society, were all worthy of respect—that was something he opposed vehemently. But this guy’s dug his own grave. He’s made a contradiction that can’t be overlooked. So, this is a job I have to do, after all. I’ve got to bury this Socrates in his cave. The youth slowly licked his lips and then continued at full speed.


YOUTH: Don’t you see? Earlier, you said, ‘Respect can never be forced.’ Sure, that is probably the case. That I can agree with wholeheartedly. But then, in the same breath, you tell me to respect the students. Ha-ha, isn’t it funny—you’re trying to force me to do something that apparently can’t be forced. If you don’t call that a contradiction, then what is?

PHILOSOPHER: It is true that if you pick out just those statements on their own, they might sound contradictory. But look at it this way. Respect is a ball that comes back to you only from the person to whom you pass it. It’s just like throwing a ball at a wall. If you throw it, it might come back to you. But nothing is going to happen if you just face the wall and shout, ‘Give me the ball.’

YOUTH: No way, I’m not going to let you get away with half-baked metaphors. Give me a proper answer. If I’m the one throwing that ball of respect, where does it come from? The ball doesn’t just come out of nowhere!

PHILOSOPHER: All right. This is an important point about understanding and practising Adlerian psychology. Do you recall the term ‘social feeling’?

YOUTH: Of course. Though I wouldn’t say I understand it completely.

PHILOSOPHER: Yes, it’s a rather difficult concept. Let’s consider it more thoroughly another time. For the time being, though, I would like you to recall Adler’s use of the term ‘social interest’ when translating the original German term for ‘social feeling’ into English. This ‘social interest’ means our concern for society or, more simply, our concern for the other people who make up society.

YOUTH: So, it’s different in the original German?

PHILOSOPHER: Yes. The German term is Gemeinschaftsgefühl, which combines Gemeinschaft, meaning ‘social relations’ or ‘community’, with Gefühl (‘sense’ or ‘feeling’), which I translate as ‘social feeling’. If one were to give it an English translation that is more faithful to the original German, one might call it ‘community feeling’ or ‘community sense’.

YOUTH: Well, I am not particularly interested in such academic talk, but what about it?

PHILOSOPHER: Think about it for a moment. Why, when Adler introduced this idea of ‘social feeling’ to the English-speaking world, did he choose ‘social interest’ instead of ‘social feeling’, which is closer to the German? There is an important hidden motive here.

Do you remember how I said that when Adler first put forward the concept of ‘social feeling’ during his Vienna period, many of his colleagues parted ways with him? That he was opposed and ostracised by people who said that such stuff wasn’t science, and that he had introduced the problem of ‘value’ into the otherwise scientific field of psychology?

YOUTH: Yes, I remember that.

PHILOSOPHER: It is likely that through this experience, Adler understood sufficiently well the difficulty of getting people to understand ‘social feeling’. So, when it came time to introduce the concept to the English-speaking world, he replaced ‘social feeling’ with behavioural guidelines that were based on actual practice. He replaced the abstract idea with something concrete. And these concrete behavioural guidelines may be summarised with the words ‘concern for others’.

YOUTH: Behavioural guidelines?

PHILOSOPHER: Yes. To get away from one’s attachment to oneself, and to have concern for other people. If one progresses in accordance with these guidelines, one arrives at ‘social feeling’ as a matter of course.

YOUTH: I haven’t the faintest idea what you’re talking about now! Your argument has already become abstract, again. The very idea of there being ‘behavioural guidelines’ for having concern for other people. Speaking concretely, what should one do, and how?

PHILOSOPHER: Here, it would do well to recall that quote from Erich Fromm: ‘Respect means the concern that the other person should grow and unfold as he is.’ Without negating anything, or forcing anything, one accepts and values the person as he is. In other words, one protects, and one has concern for, another person’s dignity. Do you see where that concrete first step lies?

YOUTH: No. Where?

PHILOSOPHER: This is a quite logical conclusion. It lies in having concern for other people’s concerns.

YOUTH: Other people’s concerns?

PHILOSOPHER: For example, the children enjoy playing in a way that is completely beyond your understanding. They get absorbed with utterly inane, childish toys. Sometimes, they read books that are offensive to public order and morals and indulge in video games. You know what I am referring to, yes?

YOUTH: Sure. I see such things almost every day.

PHILOSOPHER: There are many parents and educators who disapprove and try to give them things that are more ‘useful’ or ‘worthwhile’. They advise against such activities, confiscate the books and toys and allow the children only what has been determined to have value.

The parent does this ‘for the child’s sake’, of course. Even so, one must regard this as an act that is completely lacking in respect and that only increases the parent’s distance from the child. Because it is negating the child’s natural concerns.

YOUTH: Okay, so I should recommend vulgar pastimes?

PHILOSOPHER: One does not recommend anything from where one stands. One only has concern for the children’s concerns. Try to understand just how vulgar their pastimes are from your point of view and what they really are, first of all. Try them yourself, and even play together on occasion. Rather than simply playing with them, enjoy the activity yourself. If you do, the children may at last have the real feeling that they are being recognised; that they are not being treated as children; that they are being given respect as individual human beings.

YOUTH: But that’s …

PHILOSOPHER: Nor is this limited to children. It is the concrete first step of the respect that is sought in all interpersonal relationships. Whether in interpersonal relationships at one’s workplace, in relationships between lovers, in international relationships or what have you, we need to have more concern for other people’s concerns.

YOUTH: That’s impossible! Maybe you aren’t aware of this, but those children’s concerns include things that are just too depraved! Things that are indecent, grotesque and offensive. Isn’t it our role as adults to show them the right path?

PHILOSOPHER: No, it is not. Regarding ‘social feeling’, Adler liked to use the following expression: what we need is ‘Seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another and feeling with the heart of another.’


PHILOSOPHER: Right now, you are trying to see with your own eyes, listen with your own ears and feel with your own heart. That is why you refer to the children’s concerns using such words as ‘depraved’ and ‘offensive’. The children do not think of them as depraved. Then, what are they seeing? One starts by understanding that first.

YOUTH: No, I can’t! That’s just beyond me.



YOUTH: You may have forgotten it, but I remember it well. Three years ago, you made an assertion that went something like this: we do not live in an objective world, but in a subjective world that we have given meaning to. The issue that we must focus on is not how the world is, but how we see the world. And also, we cannot escape our subjectivity.

PHILOSOPHER: Yes, that’s right.

YOUTH: Then, tell me this: how is it possible that we who cannot escape subjectivity could have the eyes of another or the ears of another or even the heart of another? If only you would stop playing around with words!

PHILOSOPHER: This is a crucial point. It is true that one cannot escape subjectivity. And one cannot become another person, of course. However, one can imagine what appears in other people’s eyes, and one can imagine the sounds their ears hear.

Adler proposes the following: first of all, think, ‘What if I had the same kind of heart and life as this person?’ If one does that, one should be able to understand that ‘I would probably be faced with the same sort of task as this person.’ And from that point, one should be able to imagine further, that ‘I would probably deal with it in the same sort of way.’

YOUTH: The same kind of heart and life?

PHILOSOPHER: Say, for example, that there is a student who never even tries to study. Questioning the student by saying ‘Why don’t you study?’ is an attitude completely lacking in respect. Instead, start by thinking, ‘What if I had the same heart as him? What if I had the same life as him?’ In other words, one thinks what it would be like if one were the same age as the student, lived in the same household and had the same friends and the same interests and concerns. If one does so, one should then be able to imagine what sort of attitude that self would adopt upon being faced with the task of one’s studies or why that self would refuse to study. Do you know what this sort of attitude is called?

YOUTH: Imagination?

PHILOSOPHER: No. This is what we call ‘empathy’.

YOUTH: Empathy? That’s what you call thinking about what it would be like to have the same kind of heart and the same kind of life?

PHILOSOPHER: Yes. What is generally thought of as empathy, that is to say, agreeing with another person’s opinion and sharing their feelings, is just sympathy, not empathy. Empathy is a skill, an attitude that one has when walking side by side with another.

YOUTH: A skill! Empathy is a skill?

PHILOSOPHER: That’s right. And since it is a skill, it is something that you, too, can attain.

YOUTH: Oh, well, isn’t this interesting? Okay, then, I want you to explain it as a skill. How can one know the other person’s ‘heart and life’ or whatever you call it, anyway? By doing counselling for each person, one by one? Hah, there’s no way you could learn such things!

PHILOSOPHER: That’s exactly why one has concern for other people’s concerns. One must not just observe from a distance. One must dive in oneself. You are just standing in a high place without ever diving in and making remarks such as ‘There’s no way to do this’ or ‘There’s such a barrier.’ There is no respect in that and no empathy, either.

YOUTH: No way; you’re wrong! That’s totally wrong!

PHILOSOPHER: What is wrong about it?


YOUTH: Sure, if I were to run around chasing after a ball together with my students, they might like me more. It might make a good impression on them and give them a feeling of closeness. But if I come down to the level of being a friend to those kids, educating them will be even harder.

Sad to say, those children are not angels. They’re little demons who, the second I go the slightest bit easy on them, will take advantage of me and get too big for their britches, and then they’ll be totally out of control. You’re frolicking about in a fantasy with angels who don’t even exist in this world!

PHILOSOPHER: I brought up two children myself. And there are many young people who come to this study for counselling who weren’t able to adapt to school education. As you say, children are not angels. They are human beings.

However, precisely because they are human beings, one must pay them the highest level of respect. One does not look down at them, and neither does one look up at them or flatter them. One interacts with them as equals and has empathy for their interests and concerns.

YOUTH: I’m sorry but that reason for paying them respect doesn’t sit right with me. Basically, what you mean by respecting them is just stroking their egos, right? That’s exactly the sort of idea that is degrading to children.

PHILOSOPHER: It seems that you understand only half of what I have been talking about. I am not seeking a one-way respect from you. Rather, I want you to teach respect to your students.

YOUTH: To teach them respect?

PHILOSOPHER: That’s right. By way of your own personal practice of it, show what it is to have respect. Show the way to build the respect that is the cornerstone of an interpersonal relationship and get them to see what a respect-based relationship can be. As Adler tells us, ‘Cowardice is contagious. And courage is contagious, too.’ Naturally, respect also becomes contagious.

YOUTH: Courage and respect are contagious?

PHILOSOPHER: Yes. It begins with you. Even if there is no one who understands or supports you, first you must carry the torch, and show courage and show respect. Your torch will brighten only a few metres around you at most. It might seem like you’re on a lonesome night road, all on your own. But the light you carry will reach the eyes of someone hundreds of metres away. They will know then that a person is there, a light is there and a path is there, if they go to it. Eventually, dozens and then hundreds of lights will gather around you. Lights radiated by dozens and hundreds of your comrades.

YOUTH: What kind of allegory is that? I’m guessing what you’re saying is this: the role that we educators are assigned is to respect the children, show them what respect is and get them to learn respect. Have I got that right?

PHILOSOPHER: Yes. That is where the first step lies, not only in education, but in all manner of interpersonal relationships.

YOUTH: No way, I don’t care how many children you’ve raised or how many people you’ve given counselling to here, because you’re a philosopher who’s been shut up in his study. You don’t know a thing about society or school in the real, modern-day world!

Look, what people want from school education, and what people want in capitalist society, is not this stuff about personal character, or some obscure ‘human knowledge’ or whatever. Parents and guardians, and society, are looking for real results. And if you’re talking about the place where education happens, then the thing we’re looking for is scholastic improvement.

PHILOSOPHER: Yes, I suppose so.

YOUTH: No matter how much their students might like them, educators who don’t raise scholastic achievement will be branded as unfit to be teachers. It sounds just like a money-losing venture made up of a group of friends. And on the other hand, the educator who contributes to scholastic improvement with all his students completely under his thumb will be showered with acclaim.

But we haven’t even got to the main issue, yet. Even the students who have been thoroughly and continuously rebuked will later say, ‘Thank you very much for coaching me so rigorously back then,’ and convey their gratitude. They recognise that it is because of the strict treatment that they kept up their studies and that my strictness was really a ‘loving whip’, as it were, and they go so far as to thank me. How can you explain this reality?

PHILOSOPHER: Naturally, I would say that such a story is quite possible. Actually, one might even regard it as a perfect case model for re-learning the theories of Adlerian psychology.

YOUTH: Oh, so you are saying it is explainable?

PHILOSOPHER: Keeping in mind the discussion we engaged in three years ago, let us enter into a slightly deeper place within Adlerian psychology. There are many realisations to be had therein.

‘Social feeling’—a key concept of Adlerian psychology, and the most difficult one to grasp. The philosopher speaks of it as ‘seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another and feeling with the heart of another’. And that it requires the skill called empathy, the first step of which is to have concern for other people’s concerns. It made sense, in theory. But was it the educator’s job to become someone who truly understands children? Wasn’t that just the philosopher playing with language again? The youth glared pointedly at this philosopher who could bring up such words as ‘re-learning’.


YOUTH: Let’s hear it. What am I supposed to re-learn about Adler?

PHILOSOPHER: When you look at your speech and conduct, and at other people’s speech and conduct, think about the goals that are hidden in them. This is a basic way of thinking in Adlerian psychology.

YOUTH: I know—it’s ‘teleology’, right?

PHILOSOPHER: Would you give a simple explanation of it?

YOUTH: I will try. Regardless of what may have occurred in the past, nothing is determined by it. It does not matter if there are past traumas, either. Because human beings are not driven by past ‘causes’ but live according to present ‘goals’. Suppose, for example, the person who says, ‘My home environment was bad and that’s why I have a dark personality.’ This is a life lie. The truth is that person first has the goal of ‘I don’t want to get hurt by getting involved with other people,’ and in order to realise that goal, they choose a ‘dark personality’ that doesn’t get involved with anyone. Then, as an excuse for having themselves chosen such a personality, they bring up their past home environment. It’s something like that, right?

PHILOSOPHER: Yes. Please continue.

YOUTH: In other words, we are not creatures who are determined by past events. Rather, we determine our own lives according to the meaning we give to those events.

PHILOSOPHER: That’s right.

YOUTH: And then, you said something like this: no matter what has occurred in your life until now, it has no bearing at all on how you live your life from now on. And that you, living here and now, are the one who decides your own life. So, did I get anything wrong?

PHILOSOPHER: Thank you. No, you did not get anything wrong. We humans are not so fragile as to simply be at the mercy of past traumas. Adler’s ideas are based on the strong belief in human dignity and human potential that human beings can determine themselves at any time.

YOUTH: Yes, I know that. It’s just that I cannot get past the strength of the causes. It’s hard to speak of everything as just being goals. Because, for example, even if I had the goal of ‘not wanting to be involved with other people’, there would have to be causes somewhere that gave rise to those goals. To me, that teleology is not an almighty truth, even if it is a revolutionary viewpoint.

PHILOSOPHER: That is fine. Something might change through this dialogue here tonight, and something might not. Because that is for you to decide, and I will not force you. Now, please hear this as one way of thinking.

We are beings who are capable of determining ourselves at any time. We are beings who can choose new selves. Yet it is not so easy to change oneself. One might have a strong wish to change but be unable to. Why is this? Can you tell me your opinion?

YOUTH: Because one doesn’t really want to change?

PHILOSOPHER: That about sums it up. And this is also connected to the question ‘What is change?’ If we go out on a limb and use an extreme expression, carrying out change is ‘death itself’.

YOUTH: Death itself?

PHILOSOPHER: Suppose, for example, that you are in distress over your life right now. Let’s say that you are wishing you could change yourself. But changing yourself means giving up on yourself until now, denying yourself until now and never again showing the face of yourself until now, as if you were sending it to its grave, in effect. Because once you have done that, you will be reborn as your new self at last.

Now, regardless of how dissatisfied you may be with your current situation, can you choose death? Can you throw yourself into the bottomless darkness? This is not such an easy thing to talk about. That is why people do not try to change and why they want to feel okay with things as they are, no matter how tough life gets. And they end up living in search of ‘okay as I am’ ingredients in order to affirm their current situation.


PHILOSOPHER: So, when a person is actively trying to affirm ‘myself now’, what kind of tone do you think it will give to that person’s past?

YOUTH: Um, in other words …

PHILOSOPHER: There is only one answer. In short, it would be to sum up their past by saying, ‘I’ve been through a lot, but I’m fine with it.’

YOUTH: In order to affirm now, one also affirms the past that was unhappy.

PHILOSOPHER: Yes. The people you mentioned earlier, who convey their gratitude by saying, ‘Thank you very much for rebuking me so harshly back then.’ They are all actively trying to affirm ‘myself now’. As a result, their entire past turns into good memories. They are not going to recognise their authoritarian education with only those words of gratitude they conveyed to you.

YOUTH: Since they want to feel, ‘I’m fine with this,’ their past turns into good memories. It’s intriguing. As an academic psychology, it is a very interesting line of inquiry. I cannot agree with your interpretations, however. Why, you ask? I am proof. Because I do not fit in this model at all! To this day, I am resentful of all the strict and unreasonable teachers I had in my years in middle school and high school, and, right or wrong, I am not grateful to them. There is no way that my school life, which was like prison time to me, could ever turn into good memories.

PHILOSOPHER: That must be because you are not satisfied with ‘myself now’.

YOUTH: What did you say?

PHILOSOPHER: To put it more bluntly, in order to justify a ‘myself now’ that is far from ideal, you are painting your entire past the same shade of grey. You are trying to think of it as ‘that school’s fault’ or ‘because that teacher was there’. And then, you are trying to live in possibility: ‘If it had been the ideal school and I’d met the ideal teacher, I never would have ended up this way.’

YOUTH: That’s … that’s way beyond rude! What grounds do you have to make such assumptions?

PHILOSOPHER: Can you really say for sure that I am making assumptions? Because the question is not whether something happened in the past, but what meaning ‘myself now’ gives to that past.

YOUTH: Retract that! What do you know about me?

PHILOSOPHER: Look, in our world, ‘the past’ in the real sense of the word does not exist. It is just painted in an endless array of colours of ‘now’, each with its own interpretations.

YOUTH: In this world, the past does not exist?

PHILOSOPHER: That’s right. The past is not something that cannot be regained. Rather, it simply and purely does not exist. Until one takes it that far, one cannot get any closer to the essence of teleology.

YOUTH: Argh, this is exasperating! You make assumptions, and next you say, ‘the past does not exist’? You’re tossing out hole-filled falsehoods left and right, and then you’re trying to blow smoke. I’m going to have fun dredging the muck out of all those holes and throwing it right back at you!


PHILOSOPHER: It is true that this argument is difficult to accept. But if you calmly lay out all the facts, I am sure you will agree. Because there is no other path here.

YOUTH: Well, it seems to me that the heat of your passion for ideas has burned a hole in your head. If you say the past doesn’t exist, then how do you explain history? Maybe your beloved Socrates and Plato didn’t exist? Look, that’s what you’re implying, so you’re going to be ridiculed as unscientific.

PHILOSOPHER: History is a grand story that is continually manipulated by the powers that be of the time. It is always manipulated with great skill on the basis of the logic of the powerful that says, ‘It is I who am just.’ All chronologies and history books are apocrypha compiled for the purpose of proving the legitimacy of those currently in power.

In history, it is always the ‘now’ that is the most correct, and whenever one authority is overthrown, a new ruler will rewrite the past again. But they will do so only for the purpose of explaining their own legitimacy. So ‘the past’, in the most basic sense of the word, does not exist.

YOUTH: But …

PHILOSOPHER: For example, suppose an armed group of a certain country is planning a coup d’état. If they are suppressed and the attempt ends in failure, they will be defamed in the history books as traitors. On the other hand, if the coup d’état succeeds and the government is overthrown, their names will be remembered in history as heroes who took a stand against tyranny.

YOUTH: Because history is something that is always rewritten by the victor?

PHILOSOPHER: It is the same with us as individuals. Every person is a compiler of a story of ‘me’ who rewrites his or her own past as desired to prove the legitimacy of ‘me now’.

YOUTH: No! It’s different with the individual. The individual’s past, and memory, is the domain of neuroscience. Stay out of it! An outdated philosopher like you has no business there.

PHILOSOPHER: With regard to memory, think of it like this: from the innumerable events that have happened in a person’s past, that person chooses only those events that are compatible with the present goals, gives meaning to them and turns them into memories. And conversely, events that run counter to the present goals are erased.


PHILOSOPHER: Okay, I’ll give you an example from my counselling. Once, a man I was counselling recalled an incident from his childhood in which a dog attacked him and bit his leg. Apparently, his mother had often told him, ‘If you see a stray dog, stay completely still. Because if you run, it will chase you.’ There used to be a lot of stray dogs roaming the streets, you see. So, one day he came across a stray dog on the side of the road. A friend who had been walking with him ran away, but he obeyed his mother’s instructions and stayed rooted to the spot. And the stray dog attacked him and bit his leg.

YOUTH: Are you saying that memory was a lie that he fabricated?

PHILOSOPHER: It was not a lie. It is probably true that he was bitten. There had to be a continuation to that episode, however. Through several sessions of counselling, the continuation of the story came back to him. While he was crouching down in pain after getting bitten by the dog, a man who happened to be riding by on a bicycle stopped, helped him get up and took him straight to the hospital.

In the early stage of counselling, his lifestyle, or worldview, had been that ‘the world is a perilous place, and people are my enemies’. To this man, the memory of having been bitten by a dog was an event signifying that this world is a place full of danger. However, once he had begun, little by little, to be able to think, ‘The world is a safe place, and people are my comrades,’ episodes that supported that way of thinking started coming back to him.


PHILOSOPHER: Was one bitten by a dog? Or was one helped by another person? The reason Adlerian psychology is considered a ‘psychology of use’ is this aspect of ‘being able to choose one’s own life’. The past does not decide ‘now’. It is your ‘now’ that decides the past.


YOUTH: So, we choose our own lives and our own pasts?

PHILOSOPHER: Yes. There probably isn’t anyone who leads a problem-free life. Every person has sad experiences and setbacks and suffers unbearable treatment and great disappointment. Then, why do some people refer to tragedies as ‘lessons’ or ‘memories’, while others remain shackled to such events and regard them as inviolable traumas?

This is not being shackled to the past. That past coloured by unhappiness is something one needs. Though it may be putting it harshly, it could be said that one is getting drunk on the cheap wine of tragedy and trying to forget the bitterness of an unfortunate ‘now’.

YOUTH: Enough! You’ve got some nerve. ‘Cheap wine of tragedy?’ What you’re saying is nothing but the logic of the strong, the logic of the victor. You don’t know the pain of the downtrodden. You are insulting the downtrodden.

PHILOSOPHER: No, you are wrong. It is precisely because I believe in human potential that I am opposed to getting drunk on tragedy.

YOUTH: Look, it hasn’t been my intention to find out what kind of life you have led, but I think I’ve started to understand. Basically, without ever having a major setback or encountering overwhelming irrationality, you have crossed the threshold into a world of nebulous philosophy. That’s why you can just toss off people’s emotional scars like they’re nothing. How exceptionally blessed you’ve been!

PHILOSOPHER: It seems you are having difficulty accepting this. Well, let’s give something else a try. This is a triangular column that we use occasionally in counselling.

YOUTH: Sounds interesting. Please explain.

PHILOSOPHER: This triangular column represents our psyche. From where you are sitting right now, you should be able to see only two of the three sides. What is written on those sides?

YOUTH: One side says ‘That bad person’. The other says ‘Poor me’.

PHILOSOPHER: Right. Most of the people who come for counselling start off talking about one or the other. They tearfully complain about the unhappiness that has befallen them. Or, they speak of their hatred for the other people who torment them and the society that surrounds them.

It is not only in counselling. When speaking with family and friends, or when offering consultation, it is not an easy thing to be conscious of what one is talking about at that moment. However, by visualising it in this way, one can see clearly that what one is talking about is actually just these two things. It sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

YOUTH: To blame ‘that bad person’, or to plead ‘poor me’. Well, I guess you could put it that way …

PHILOSOPHER: But this is not the point we should be talking to each other about. No matter how much you seek agreement regarding ‘that bad person’ or complain about ‘poor me’, and whether there is someone who listens to that, even if you derive some temporary comfort, it will not lead to a true solution.

YOUTH: Then, what can one do?

PHILOSOPHER: The triangular column has another side that is hidden from you now. What sort of thing do you think is written on it?

YOUTH: Hey, stop messing around and just show it to me!

PHILOSOPHER: All right. Please read out loud what it says there.

The philosopher had brought out a piece of paper folded into a triangular column. From where the youth sat, only two of its three faces could be seen. On one face were the words ‘That bad person’, and on the other, ‘Poor me’. According to the philosopher, the complaints of anxious people always ended up being one or the other. And then the philosopher slowly rotated the triangular column with his thin fingers and revealed the words written on the remaining face—the words that shook the youth’s heart.


YOUTH: … !

PHILOSOPHER: Well, say it out loud.

YOUTH: ‘What should I do from now on?’

PHILOSOPHER: Yes, this is precisely the point we should be talking to each other about: ‘What should I do from now on?’ We do not need ‘that bad person’ or suchlike. Neither is ‘poor me’ necessary. No matter how loudly you complain about them, I will just ignore it.

YOUTH: You, you’re inhuman!

PHILOSOPHER: I will not ignore it out of indifference. I will ignore it because there is nothing there that we should talk to each other about. If I were to listen to stories about ‘that bad person’ or ‘poor me’ and sympathise with your plight by saying things like, ‘That must have been tough’ or ‘It’s not your fault at all,’ it is true that you might get some temporary solace. And you might even have a sense of satisfaction that it was good to get counselling or good to consult this person.

But how would that change things the next day and every day after that? Wouldn’t you just want to seek more solace the next time you are hurt? Isn’t that dependence? That is why, in Adlerian psychology, we talk to each other about ‘What should one do from now on?’

YOUTH: But if you’re saying I should think seriously about my own ‘from now on’, then first I would need to know about ‘until now’, as its precondition.

PHILOSOPHER: No. Right now, you are in front of me. It is enough to know ‘you who are in front of me’, and in principle there is no way for me to know ‘the past you’. I repeat, the past does not exist. The past you speak of is nothing more than a story skilfully compiled by ‘you now’. Please understand this point.

YOUTH: No way! You are just sticking random pieces of theory together and reproaching me to stop whining. You’re just pushing the logic of the arrogant and strong, without any regard for human weakness, without even trying to become familiar with that weakness.

PHILOSOPHER: That is not so. For example, it is not uncommon for us counsellors to simply pass this triangular column to the client. And we make the following request: ‘It does not matter what the subject is, so please turn it to show me the content of what you are going to talk about.’ At that, many people choose ‘What should I do from now on?’ of their own accord and then begin thinking about the substance of that question.

YOUTH: Of their own accord?

PHILOSOPHER: In other schools of counselling, there are shock therapy-style approaches that attempt to provoke explosions of emotion by tracing deep into the past. But there is absolutely no need to engage in such practices.

We are not prestidigitators or magicians. I repeat, there is no magic in Adlerian psychology. A constructive and scientific psychology of human knowledge that is based not on mysterious magic but on respect for people—that is Adlerian psychology.

YOUTH: Wow, you’re going out on a limb again and using the word ‘scientific’?


YOUTH: All right. I’ll swallow that. For the time being, I will swallow those words. Now, let’s get down to talking together about what is really the biggest issue for me: my ‘from now on’. My future as an educator.

This dialogue with the philosopher wasn’t going to be wrapped up so easily, the youth realised. He had to admit it—this old Socrates was a formidable opponent, especially with all the abstract theories he kept bringing up. But the youth still felt sure he would win in the end. Take the discussion out of this little study as soon as possible, and bring it to the classroom. Put it to the test in the real world. I don’t want to just criticise it haphazardly. But it’s just a bunch of pie-in-the-sky theories that are totally divorced from reality, and I want to bring it all down to earth, into people’s actual lives. The youth pulled up a chair and took a deep breath.


YOUTH: In this world, the past does not exist. One must not get drunk on the cheap wine of tragedy. The only thing we should be talking to each other about is ‘What should be done from now on?’ Okay, I’ll go along with this premise. The issue I’ll be facing from now on, I suppose, is the kind of teaching I put into practice in my school. So, I’m going to get into this area of discussion right away. You’re okay with that, right?


YOUTH: All right. Earlier you said that the concrete first step is to ‘Start from respect’, right? This is what I want to ask you about. Do you think that just by bringing respect into the classroom, that will solve everything? In other words, that the students will stop making any trouble?

PHILOSOPHER: That won’t solve things on its own. There will still be trouble.

YOUTH: Then, I’ll have to yell at them after all, won’t I? Because they’re still engaging in bad conduct and being a nuisance to other students.

PHILOSOPHER: No, you must not rebuke them.

YOUTH: So you’re saying I should just let them do bad things right under my nose and not do anything about it? But that’s no different from saying that a thief shouldn’t be caught and punished, now is it? Would Adler accept such lawlessness?

PHILOSOPHER: Adler’s view is not one that ignores laws or rules. That is, as long as they are rules that have been created through a democratic process. This is an extremely important point, both for society as a whole and for running a classroom.

YOUTH: A democratic process?

PHILOSOPHER: Yes. Think of your classroom as a democratic nation.

YOUTH: Huh! What do you mean?

PHILOSOPHER: The sovereignty of a democratic nation is with its people, right? This is the principle of ‘national sovereignty’, where ‘Sovereign power rests with the people.’ The people, who are sovereign, establish all manner of rules on the basis of mutual consent, and those rules are applied equally to all citizens. It is for that reason that they can observe the rules. Rather than simply obeying the rules, they can observe them more actively, as ‘our rules’.

On the other hand, what happens when rules are established according to someone’s solitary judgement, rather than on the basis of citizen consensus, and when, furthermore, those rules are enforced very unequally?

YOUTH: Well, you can bet the people won’t be quiet about it.

PHILOSOPHER: Then, to suppress a rebellion, the ruler would have no choice but to exercise tangible and intangible powers. This is something that concerns not only the nation, but the corporation and the family, too. An organisation in which someone is using their power to suppress has irrationality at its foundation.

YOUTH: Hmm. I see.

PHILOSOPHER: The same goes for the classroom. The sovereign of the classroom-nation is not the teacher—it’s the students. And the rules of the classroom must be established on the basis of consensus from the students, who are sovereign. Let us start with this principle in mind.

YOUTH: As usual, you’re making things so complicated. So, what you’re saying is that the students should be allowed to govern themselves? Our school already has a regular system of self-government in place, with a student council and such.

PHILOSOPHER: No, I am talking about something more fundamental. If, for example, we think of the classroom as a nation, then the students are the citizens. What would be the position of the teacher, then?

YOUTH: Well, if you’re saying the students are the citizens, I suppose the teacher would be the prime minister or president who acts as their leader.

PHILOSOPHER: But that doesn’t seem right, does it? Were you chosen by the students in an election? And if you were to call yourself a president without having gone through an election, it wouldn’t be a democratic nation. It would just be a dictatorship.

YOUTH: I guess so. Logically speaking, anyway.

PHILOSOPHER: I am not talking about logic, but about reality. The classroom is not a dictatorship that is ruled over by the teacher. It is a democratic nation in which each and every student is sovereign. Teachers who forget this principle set up a dictatorship without even realising it.

YOUTH: Ha-ha! So, you’re saying I’ve got fascistic leanings?

PHILOSOPHER: If you put it in extreme terms, yes. The fact that your classroom has got out of control is not the problem of your students individually. And you are not insufficiently qualified as a teacher. It is only that the situation there is akin to a corrupted dictatorship—that is why it is out of control. An organisation that is under the command of a dictator cannot escape corruption.

YOUTH: Stop making accusations! On what grounds can you make such criticisms?

PHILOSOPHER: The grounds are quite clear. It is on the basis of that ‘reward and punishment’, which you insist is necessary.

YOUTH: What are you talking about?

PHILOSOPHER: You’d like to talk about this, yes? The subject of praising and rebuking.

YOUTH: It’s funny that you’re the one who’s throwing down the gauntlet. Because I’ve gained a fair amount of experience of teaching, especially in classrooms. I’m going to make you take back those extremely rude accusations, you can count on it!

PHILOSOPHER: All right, let’s talk it over to our hearts’ content.


YOUTH: Adler forbids reward and punishment. He advises not to rebuke and not to praise. Why did Adler espouse such nonsense? And did he realise how much of a gap there is between the ideal and the reality? That is what I want to know.

PHILOSOPHER: I see. Just to make sure, you think of rebuking and praising as both being necessary?

YOUTH: Yes, of course I do. Even if my students might not like me because of it, I still have to rebuke them. They’ve got to correct their mistakes. Yes, let’s start with whether rebuking is right or wrong.

PHILOSOPHER: All right. Why must one not rebuke a person? It is probably best to look at this according to the situation. First, consider a boy who has done something bad. It could be something dangerous or that might harm another person, or something approaching a criminal act. Why on earth did the boy do such a thing? One thing that may be considered then, is the possibility that ‘he did not know it was a bad thing’.

YOUTH: He didn’t know?

PHILOSOPHER: Right. I’ll use my own story as an example. When I was a child, I had a magnifying glass with me wherever I went. I’d find insects and plants and look at them through it. I passed the time gazing to my heart’s content at worlds that were invisible to the naked eye. I’d spend all day absorbed in observing them, like a little entomologist.

YOUTH: Yes, I had such a phase, too.

PHILOSOPHER: A little while later, though, I learned of a completely different use for the magnifying glass. I’d focus the sunlight through it onto a piece of black paper and, lo and behold, smoke would rise from the paper until at last it would begin to burn. Witnessing this miracle of science that seemed like a magic trick, I felt the excitement course through me, and I couldn’t think of it as a magnifying glass anymore.

YOUTH: It’s really something, isn’t it? I too found that more to my liking, rather than crawling around on the ground staring at bugs. A small magnifying glass may inspire one to contemplate the power of the sun and even contemplate the universe. It’s a boy’s first step into science.

PHILOSOPHER: So, I was playing in this way one hot summer’s day, by burning paper. I’d placed a sheet of black paper on the ground, and I was focusing the light with my magnifying glass as I always did, when out of the corner of my eye I caught sight of a solitary ant. It was a large and sturdy ant with a deep black exoskeleton. I was getting bored already with the black paper, so what did I do to the black ant with my magnifying glass? I don’t think I need to explain any further.

YOUTH: I get it. Well, children can be cruel.

PHILOSOPHER: Yes. Children often do exhibit this sort of brutality, of killing insects for fun. But are children really cruel? Do they walk around with some latent ‘aggressive behaviour’, as Freud calls it? I don’t think so. Children are not cruel—it’s just that they don’t know. They do not know what life is worth, or about other people’s pain.

So, there is one thing that adults should do. If they do not know, teach them. And when we teach them, we do not need words of reprimand. Please do not forget this principle. Because it is not that they were engaging in bad behaviour, but simply that they did not know.

YOUTH: You’re saying that it’s not aggression or brutality, but a crime arising from ignorance?

PHILOSOPHER: A child playing on railroad tracks might not realise that it is a dangerous thing to do. A child shouting loudly in a public place might not know he is causing a disturbance. Whatever it may be, we all start from a point of not knowing. Wouldn’t you say that it is unreasonable to sternly reproach someone, if they do not know that what they are doing is wrong?

YOUTH: Sure, if they really do not know.

PHILOSOPHER: What is needed of us adults is not to reprimand, but to teach. With words of reason, and without getting emotional or raising our voices. You are not someone who cannot do this.

YOUTH: If that were the only example, then it’d be just as you say. Because there’s no way you’re going to accept your own ant-killing brutality, right? But this isn’t a line of reasoning that I’ll ever swallow. It just feels like it’ll get stuck in the back of my throat, like some cloying malt syrup or something. Your understanding of people is too naïve.

PHILOSOPHER: What is naïve about it?

YOUTH: Kindergarteners are another matter, but when it comes to grammar schoolchildren, and even more so with middle-schoolers, they’re all fully aware of what they’re doing. They’ve known for a long time what’s prohibited and what’s considered immoral. You might say that these kids engage in problem behaviour as prisoners of conscience. They’ve got to be severely punished for their offences. So, I wish you would just dispense with this old man act of making them out to be a bunch of pure-hearted angels!

PHILOSOPHER: To be sure, there are many children who get involved in problem behaviour knowing full well that it is wrong. And that may even be the case with the majority of problem behaviour. But haven’t you ever found it odd? They’re engaging in problem behaviour not only with the knowledge that it is wrong, but with the understanding that they will be rebuked by their parents and teachers for engaging in it. It’s quite irrational.

YOUTH: It’s simplistic, that’s what it is. They would understand if they’d only calm down and think it over, but they’re incapable of that.

PHILOSOPHER: But is that really the case? Can’t you see that there is another mentality operating deep inside them?

YOUTH: So, they do it knowing that they’re going to be rebuked? Even the kids who cry when they’re rebuked?

PHILOSOPHER: It would not be a waste of effort to consider that possibility, certainly. In contemporary Adlerian psychology, we think of human problem behaviour as having five stages, each of which has its own mental state operating in the background.

YOUTH: Oh, you’re getting to the psychology stuff finally!

PHILOSOPHER: Once you comprehend the five stages of problem behaviour, you should be able to see for yourself whether rebuking is right or wrong.

YOUTH: Let’s hear it, then. And I’m going to see how much you really comprehend children and comprehend the actual educational setting!

This philosopher’s reasoning makes no sense at all! The youth had become incensed. The classroom is a small democratic nation. And the sovereign of the classroom is the students. Fine up to that point. But why is reward and punishment unnecessary? If the classroom is a nation, aren’t laws needed there? And if there are people who break laws and commit crimes, aren’t punishments needed? The youth wrote the words ‘The five stages of problem behaviour’ in his notebook and smiled to himself. I am going to ascertain if Adlerian psychology is an area of study that actually holds water in the real world, or if it’s just a bunch of empty theories.


PHILOSOPHER: Why do children get involved in problem behaviour? Adlerian psychology focuses on the ‘goals’ that lie hidden in that behaviour. That is to say, we think of the problem behaviour that children (and not only children) engage in, with all manner of goals, as having five stages.

YOUTH: Does having five stages mean it is something that gradually escalates?

PHILOSOPHER: Yes. And these stages cover all forms of human problem behaviour. As much as possible, steps must be taken at an early stage before the behaviour escalates.

YOUTH: All right. So, please begin with the first stage.

PHILOSOPHER: The first stage of problem behaviour is the ‘demand for admiration’.

YOUTH: Demand for admiration? In other words, it’s as if they’re saying, ‘Praise me’?

PHILOSOPHER: Yes. Students play the role of the ‘good child’ to their parents and teachers and to other people. A person working in an organisation strives to demonstrate his drive and obedience to his boss and senior colleagues. By doing so, he hopes to gain their praise. This is where it all starts.

YOUTH: But isn’t that a desirable thing? They’re being productive and not making trouble for anyone. They can make themselves useful to other people. I can’t find any reason to regard this as problematic.

PHILOSOPHER: Certainly, if each of their actions is treated as separate, they may appear to be good children or honour students who have no problems whatsoever. And with children who make great efforts in their schoolwork and athletics and such, or with company employees who devote themselves to their work, they are applying themselves, so one wants to praise them.

There is a great pitfall here, however. Their goal will always be to receive praise and, moreover, to gain a privileged position within the community.

YOUTH: Aha. So, since their motives aren’t pure, it’s unacceptable? What a simpleminded philosopher you are. Even if their goal is to receive praise, they’re still students pursuing their studies, aren’t they? I don’t see any problem here.

PHILOSOPHER: Then, what do you think happens when their efforts garner no praise at all from their parents and teachers, or their bosses and coworkers?

YOUTH: I suppose they become dissatisfied and maybe even resentful.

PHILOSOPHER: Right. Look, they are not doing good things. They are just being praised. And there is no point in making so much effort if they are not going to be praised by anyone or treated in a special way by anyone. So, they lose motivation right away.

They adopt a lifestyle, or worldview, in which they are essentially saying, ‘I won’t engage in proper behaviour unless there is someone who will praise me,’ and ‘I’ll engage in improper behaviour unless there is someone who will punish me.’

YOUTH: Well, I guess that’s true, but …

PHILOSOPHER: Furthermore, another characteristic of this stage is that, on account of trying to be the ‘good child’ who is full of promise, they begin to engage in cheating, deceptive tactics and other wrongdoing. Educators and leaders must ascertain the children’s goals instead of focusing only on their actions.

YOUTH: But if you don’t praise them at that point, they’ll lose their drive and turn into children who don’t do anything at all. And in some cases, they’ll start engaging in improper behaviour, won’t they?

PHILOSOPHER: No. You teach them continually that they have worth, even if they are not special. By showing them respect.

YOUTH: Concretely speaking, how do you do that?

PHILOSOPHER: Instead of focusing on whenever a child does some ‘good’ thing, turn your attention to the smaller everyday details of the words and actions of the person. And then, focus on and feel sympathy for that person’s concerns. That’s all.

YOUTH: Ah, so we’re back to that. Well, I guess I still don’t feel comfortable with what qualifies as problem behaviour. But let’s move on. What about the second stage?

PHILOSOPHER: The second stage of problem behaviour is ‘attention drawing’.

YOUTH: Attention drawing?