Understanding Human Nature
Alfred Adler

Understanding Human Nature

This book is one of the early attempts to understand human nature in the framework of inquiry rather than philosophy, religion, or metaphysics. Adler explains how the feeling of inferiority leads to the goal of superiority; and how the individual’s endeavor to fulfill this goal, modified by the social feeling, gives rise to various traits. In a few paragraphs, he points out how studying these traits and behavior patterns and diagnosing them in individuals, resembles education. You first detect the errors, then you try to address them.


Adler's writing correlates with Viktor Frankl’s and, to a certain extent, Stoicism. In Understanding Human Nature, Adler talks about self-reliance and how our personalities take form depending on our reactions towards life.

Favorite Quotes

"We have been at some length to show how we can understand the personality of the individual only when we see him in his context, and judge him in his particular situation in the world. By situation we mean his place in the cosmos, and his attitude toward his environment and the problems of life, such as the challenges of occupation, contact, and union with his fellow men, which are inherent in his being."
"We have been able to determine that the impressions which storm in upon every individual from the earliest days of his infancy influence his attitude throughout his whole life. One can determine how a child stands in relation to life a few months after his birth. It is impossible to confuse the behavior of two infants after these months because they have already demonstrated a well-defined pattern which becomes clearer as they develop. Variations from the pattern do not occur. The child's psychic activity becomes increasingly permeated by his social relationships."
"We limit ourselves to normal cases of mutual influence, we find that those people are most capable of being influenced who are most amenable to reason and logic, those whose social feeling has been least distorted. On the contrary, those who thirst for superiority and desire domination are very difficult to influence. Observation teaches us this fact every day."

Other recommended books