Towards the Psychology of the Possible: the Anthropological, the Deterministic, the Axiological and the Existential Context



This paper considers the role of the category of the possible in four contexts. In the anthropological context the idea of the possible is viewed as a specific feature of human psychology, unlike the minds of other living species. The human being is conceived as a possible, rather than factual, being, as a possibility of oneself. In the context of the vol. of determinism one’s orientation toward the possible is treated as a mechanism of motivation and activity regulation, based on reflective awareness and goal setting. Our consciousness singles out those specific possibilities from the domain of the possible which possess a definite value, attractiveness or meaning for us, and due to this they are considered as potential options for action. Actually, only few are embodied in one’s activity after passing one more selection: they are accepted as the ought, the goals, for the implementation of which we accept responsibility. In the axiological aspect, possibilities appear as the good, or value, a component of quality of life and well-being. Empirical data are presented on the associations between the idea of the existing possibilities and numerous indicators of subjective and psychological well-being. Finally, in the existential context, possibilities appear as existential options, consciously chosen and implemented by the person. An action in the realm of the possible suggests the acceptance of responsibility, self-reflection and the conscious acceptance of the price. While switching on the reflective self-awareness, we become aware of the available possibilities, weight up and reflect on the consequences which the given actions may entail, and on the price we shall have to pay for these or those choices, accept the risk and the responsibility for the choice. Freedom appears in this context as conscious opportunity. The realm of the possible is thus the realm of our responsibility and our freedom.

General Information

Keywords: the possible, the necessary, determinism, the ought, potentialities, goal setting, consciousness, freedom, responsibility

Article type: scientific article


Funding. The article was prepared in the course of work within the framework of the Basic Research Program of the National Research University Higher School of Economics (HSE University).

Received: 01.03.2022


For citation: Leontiev D.A. Towards the Psychology of the Possible: the Anthropological, the Deterministic, the Axiological and the Existential Context. Vestnik of Saint Petersburg University. Psychology, 2022. Vol. 12, no. 2, pp. 111–121. DOI: 10.21638/spbu16.2022.201. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)


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Information About the Authors

Dmitriy A. Leontiev, Doctor of Psychology, Leading Research Fellow, The Laboratory for Comparative Research in Quality of Life, National Research Tomsk State University, Head of International Laboratory of Positive Psychology of Personality and Motivation; Professor of Faculty of Social Sciences, School of Psychology, HSE University, Moscow, Tomsk, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail: