TED Conversations

Morris Bates

This conversation is closed.

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?


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • 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.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.