'Needs' versus 'Wants'

Is the mind the same as the body? What is consciousness? Can machines have it?

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Ned
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'Needs' versus 'Wants'

Post by Ned » Sat May 16, 2015 7:29 pm

I assume everyone is familiar with the old debate about our ‘needs’ versus our ‘wants’.

It is important to differentiate our needs from our wants. I define ‘Needs’ as those requirements commonly identified with survival of the individual as a healthy (both physically and mentally) self-aware biological entity living in a society of his own species.

I define ‘Wants’ as those requirements that are not essential for survival—they are mere luxuries that can enhance one’s zest for life, the flavor of one’s existence, but there would be no serious negative consequence to life and health if they were denied.

Of course, I realize that I just opened a can of worms. You pick a hundred human beings and you get a hundred different answers as to where to draw the line between needs and wants . It is impossible to come up with a sharply drawn boundary. It is also unnecessary (I remember reading about a mother who used a drug-store precision scale to divide a chocolate bar exactly equally for her two children). There are a number of things on which everyone can readily agree. We can say that food is a need and a diamond necklace is a want.

In a functioning society based on organized production, we have no difficulty describing food, housing, clothing, medical help, education, transportation and communication as needs. Luxury yachts, ten rooms per person mansions, gold serving dishes, half-million-dollar cars, etc would be described by most people as mere wants.

So, if we start out at the extremes and proceed systematically towards the middle, somewhere in a zone of not-being-quite-sure-any-more, we can draw our line arbitrarily.

We don’t have to quibble. As far as I am concerned, we can draw the line anywhere in that zone. We would have made enormous progress.

If I try to make a list of my own basic needs, I come up with the following:

Personal needs: Food, Clothes, Home, Energy, Medical help, Meaningful work, Exercise, Sleep, Rest, Privacy, Play, Beauty, Nature, Animals. Social needs: Mate, Family, Friends, Community, Transportation, Communication, Education, Entertainment, Justice, Interdependence. I am sure I missed a few but I believe that all my really essential needs are there.

If I had a life that satisfied all these needs in balance and harmony, I know I would be a contented person. And it is very important to differentiate between ‘contended’ and ‘happy’.

We often feel happy when we are excited, thrilled, having a ‘high’ of some form. This feeling ‘high’ can be stimulated by artificial means (like drugs, alcohol, sky-diving, etc.) that are not real needs.

And the consumerist capitalistic system cashes in on this artificial addiction to ‘excitement’ and ‘thrills’. Not only cashes in, but actively promoting it via TV and other media ads.

I think it is important to satisfy our needs in a good balance. Most people have a lot of some and almost nothing of others.

Many have almost no meaningful work, even though they spend most of their time at a place where they are supposed to have lots. They have practically no time for exercise, play, beauty.

Many also don’t have any really close friends; no community to speak of, hardly any time for education and entertainment. This isn’t the life most people would choose.

Our lives are shaped more by convention, social pressure, inertia and accidents than by intelligent planning.

In this sense, we are truly 'created' in god's image.

Dalek Prime
Posts: 4923
Joined: Tue Apr 14, 2015 4:48 am
Location: Living in a tree with Polly.

Re: 'Needs' versus 'Wants'

Post by Dalek Prime » Sat May 16, 2015 8:01 pm

Well put.... But I still want that pony! Ribbons not optional!!

Ned
Posts: 675
Joined: Sun Nov 24, 2013 10:56 pm
Location: Canada

Re: 'Needs' versus 'Wants'

Post by Ned » Sun May 17, 2015 3:25 pm

Understanding this difference (between needs and wants) would be a good first step toward creating a stable society that does not spend most of its energy on fighting between the needy and the 'wanty'.

I tried to address it in the "Proposal for a new social contract" thread.

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