Note: Page numbers enclosed in parentheses are citations from The Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler: A systematic presentation in selections from his writings. (H. L. and R. R. Ansbacher, Eds.). © 1964, Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. Used by permission of Perseus Books Group.
Soft determinism expresses the view that individuals are neither produced by heredity nor shaped by environmental press. Rather, "genetic possibility and environmental opportunity" (Powers and Griffith, 1987, p. 164) are understood as elements of the situation in which the individual creates his or her own unique style of living. For Adler, the important question was, "What meaning does the individual give to the particularities of his or her situation?" Therefore, soft determinism can be thought of as self-determinism. [See Creative Power.]
It is neither heredity nor environment which determines [the individual's] relationship to the outside. Heredity only endows him with certain abilities. Environment only gives him certain impressions. These abilities and impressions . . . [and] the interpretations he makes of [his] experiences are the bricks which he uses in his own "creative" way in building up his attitude toward life (p. 206).
What matters ultimately is what the child, the individual, does with the equipment he inherits (p. 206).
There are no reasons for the development of character; rather, a child can make use of experiences for his goal and turn them into reasons (p. 209).
It is not the child's experiences which dictate his actions; it is the conclusions he draws from his experiences (p. 209).
Heredity and environmental factors play a part only in the sense of providing a certain probability (p. 164).
Meanings are not determined by situations, but we determine ourselves by the meanings we give to situations (Adler, 1980, p. 14).
We are self-determined by the meaning we give to our experiences (Adler, 1980, p. 14).
© Griffith, J., & Powers, R. L. (2007). The Lexicon of Adlerian Psychology: 106 terms Associated with the Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler (2nd ed.). Port Townsend, WA: Adlerian Psychology Associates (p. 97).
Definitions of concepts are used by permission of Jane Griffith. A comprehensive list of concepts and definitions can be found in The Lexicon of Adlerian Psychology: 106 Terms Associated with the Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler by Jane Griffith and Robert L. Powers, available for purchase on Amazon.com.
Adler, A. (1980). What life should mean to you. (A. Porter, Ed.). New York: Perigee/G. P. Putnam. (Original work published 1931)
Powers, R. L., & Griffith, J. (1987). Understanding life-style: The psycho-clarity process. Port Townsend, WA: Adlerian Psychology Associates.