Private Logic/Private Meaning/Private Sense vs. Common Sense
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.
Private logic, a term Dreikurs and H. L. Ansbacher each adapted from Adler's "private intelligence" (Adler, 1969, p. 72), describes the fictional line of reasoning proceeding from private meaning, that is, meaning premised upon the person's private and unique valuation of self, others, and the world, and what life requires of him or her. Private logic, as if reasoning that disfunctional, erratic, and anti-social behavior is necessary, is the fiction of a hidden argument. Private sense in a pattern of conviction is not conscious. It is an artifact of the psychotherapeutic transaction, revealed by indirection, as if particular thoughts and ideas were operating to require self-defeating or otherwise damaging behavior.
In Adlerian therapy an individual's behavior (thought, feeling, and action) is explained to the client as if it were a conclusion required by a private logic, as client and therapist uncover the private meaning which the client has relied upon for answering such questions as: (a) What kind of a person am I? (b) What kind of a world is this? (c) What must I, as a person such as I am, do in a world such as this is in order to make a place for myself? In sum, the effort to clarify the private meaning asks, "What would have to be true to make an otherwise particular, peculiar, and socially senseless pattern of behavior, intelligible?" The Individual Psychologist thus assumes that the person is acting as if the behavior were an intelligent response in the situation, according to a private logic, answering the requirements of a private meaning.
Common sense is that understanding and evaluation of life which can be held in common with the broader community. In the psychoclarity process (Powers and Griffith, 1987) reconsideration of the usefulness of the private meaning for successful adaptation arises in an examination of the extent of the congruence of a private sense with the common sense. By making the private logic of the client explicit, client and therapist subject it to the awareness of its leading to a departure from our common sense, shared by counselee and counselor, in deference to which each is subject to correction, and neither corrects the other. Both now meet in acknowledging this common sense as the reality that alone serves as a correction to any errors.
There are some people who . . . give a private meaning to life. . . . We find . . . that such people are unable to connect themselves with their fellow man (p. 253).
The meaning [all failures] give to life is a private meaning. . . . A private meaning is, in fact, no meaning at all. Meaning is only possible in communication (p. 156).
A private meaning can never be put to the test. The mark of all true "meanings of life" is that they are common meanings, that is, meanings in which others can share and which others can accept as valid . . . . understanding is a common matter, not a private function (p. 253).
We must distinguish between "private intelligence" and "common sense," and must understand reason as being connected with common sense — sense that can be shared (p. 253).
By reason we understand, with Kant, a process which has general validity. Hence, by reasonable we understand common sense. We may define common sense as all those forms of expression and as the content of all behavior which we find beneficial to the community (p. 149).
Reason is inseparably connected with social interest (p. 149).
If the patient can abandon his dream . . . born of his vanity . . . [he will] begin to feel himself an equal among equals. . . . His courage, too will mount and his reason and "common sense" will increase and gain control where heretofore he has been under the sway of his "private sense" (p. 333).
© 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. 81).
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. (1969). The science of living. (H. L. Ansbacher, Ed.). New York: Doubleday. (Original work published 1929)
Powers, R. L., & Griffith, J. (1987). Understanding life-style: The psycho-clarity process. Port Townsend, WA: Adlerian Psychology Associates.