Morris Bates

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Is the motive for action dependent upon emotion or necessity?

Why do you do something?

Expected responses typically fall into the categories of necessity or desire because, as humans, there are certain actions that we need to perform like nourishment for survival and avoiding danger to prolong life. But there are other such actions that are motivated by internal drive for such things that are necessarily vital, like involvement in higher education, exploration, charity work, intimate involvement and so on. These actions provide improvement on the quality of yours life while actions of necessity merely keep you alive for the moment and both categories of action also promote self-interest, the idea of working to better yourself.

But when you do something that comes at a cost to you but does not benefit your self-interest, this counteracts the idea that we all work in our self-interest. Why would you perform an action that benefits someone or something other than yourself and comes at a cost to you? The answer is emotion. We act out of emotion to better others and when we do, we feel as though we've done something that is greater than us. The light, fluffy feeling you get when you give your child a present for their birthday or when you ask your significant other to marry you and they say yes are a few examples of these selfless acts that could constitute desires and not needs.

So, do we really act in our own self-interest all the time? Or is emotion an exception or, possibly, an entirely different action?

  • Dec 21 2013: Rather than a question of emotion or necessity, we should consider emotion or logic (its a bit easier to conceptualize than necessity). People have learned that they can make better choices with logic, but still make a considerable amount of decisions based on emotion.
    As a student of psychology I view this question from a psychological view point. The brain has two hemispheres, one side deals with logic and reasoning skills, while the other side deals with creativity and emotion. It is the corpus collosum that connects the two hemispheres that helps information flow between them. Because of this connection humans can chose to act based on a combination of emotion and logic.
    There is no simple, straight forward answer to this question. At least not yet. I could foresee research possibly being done on seizure patients who have the corpus collosum cut, to lessen effects of seizures. Because these people have had this brain structure removed perhaps experiments with such people could give some insight into your question.
  • Dec 19 2013: Morris, your assuming the answer is emotion. And personally, I wouldn't bank on Tony Robbins being the arbiter of human nature.

    So it might not be as you state emotion at all. It maybe you do things in order to change things, which too may not be in your interest, simply put, as you won't know the outcome of that change until it happens. You may just be a catalyst.
  • Dec 11 2013: Yes, yes it is.
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    Dec 11 2013: Emotions create the necessity to alleviate them. Therefore the final straw is necessity.
  • Dec 11 2013: Check out Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and Necessity 1st after those needs are satisfied, then emotion will drive certain actions.
  • Dec 9 2013: Action is driven emotions.Emotions are driven by Tension.Tension is driven by need and desire.Nothing in this world functions one way its a two way street.Whether you do something for yourself or for others . Both ways you get something. In the first case you may get a tangible or visible benefit , but in the latter case you get the intangible and invisible benefit.

    If you bring a smile on the face of others by doing something, then don't you also feel happy and elated inside.
  • Dec 8 2013: Your definition of necessity and self preservation is really kind of ambiguous. An act of self-enjoyment or self-worthiness of most or all the actions is essentially "self-satisfaction", emotions included. For most people here in the U. S., even more so for citizens of Sweden, Switzerland and other welfare countries, the majority of people don't have to worry about survival or nutrition (in strict sense for a healthy life, not for indulgence). So most of their daily life involve the exploration, self enjoyment, compassion, excitement or political/economic activities. Now, if we re-classify all these latter activities as in our own self interest, then we could say that we devote most of our time and effort to self-interest. For some people, even suicidal or adventurous acts; contrary to danger avoidance, could be treated as "enjoyment" too.
    So, in my definition, which probably coincide with majority of people's, is that most people are acting in their own SELF-INTEREST more often, rather than the "selfless" actions.