Results 1 to 6 of 6

Thread: Why do we do what we do?

  1. #1
    Quick! To the Volcano! High House Moon Eyreplenh's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Here, there, there's pieces of me everywhere
    Posts
    3,277
    Blog Entries
    3

    Question Why do we do what we do?

    So... I've been thinking about some things a while now, and I would like to get some different opinions. So come forth, ye younge and olde!

    Basically, it is in a way motivated by two very different and concrete things;

    1: When I lived in Trondheim, I had to cross the main thoroughfare to get to my bus-stop. This road was regulated by a light that, of natural causes, did not favour pedestrians. That didn't matter much to me, there was always a bus going so I was never in any real hurry. What it did do, was force me to stand for a few minutes by this road every time I was going somewhere, which I often was, at very different times, seven days a week. And it was always the same. The road, crammed with traffic. Every hour of every day, traffic, often jammed up a long way. I would stand there, looking at the cars, and it filled me with bad emotions, almost nausea at times. It just felt... wrong.

    2: I like hiking and running in forests and mountains, and lately there's been this wonderful area right behind my apartment, and I often go up there. When you go far enough up, all the traces of humanity are so far off the cars look like ants. The tranquility feels good. And the good feeling lasts long, really long.

    What these things spurred was an awareness of this feeling of right and wrong within me, and there is a lot of things that evoke them. I know that if I go out for a hike I will feel good (I also know that my body and mind will benefit from it, but it's this weird feeling I'm stuck on right now), but there's another option; a bag of chips and trash tv. I know what that will bring me, and I might not even want the chips nor the tv -still I will choose that last option a lot of the time!. Or between diving into a good book or hitting the refresh button on some random online newspaper, a lot of the time I will choose the option that has the worst outcome for me, even though I will feel bad about it.

    Where is the sense in this? If I had a craving for chips/crap then I could understand it, but the actions does not seem to be steered by motivation, at least not all the time. Now, I'm thinking these kind of choices take place continuosly throughout every human life, and so much of the time we choose the option that not only is bad for us, it makes us feel bad as well!

    I haven't found a lot of literature on the subject, and the searches so far has yielded scarce returns. I've read a little bit about inherent morality and a right-wrong compass, but that's not exactly what I'm looking for...

    There are so many examples; looking at pictures of a factory gushing smoke into the air makes me feel bad, an open area of greens make me feel good -yet I continue to make choices that promotes the factory before the green. Why? Even when I am conscious of the consequences of my choices. Why?

    Now, I've included a couple of examples that also are environmental in nature, but that is really besides the point. A friend pointed out that often those "bad" choices are easier and can be fulfilled instantaneously, and while that is true, some times, a lot of the times it is not. I think this branch of thinking brushes up against religion, in a way, and (sadly) against some of the trash literature out there (Why YOU aren't making the right choices) -but I feel there is something else there.

    For instance, with the pictures, are the reaction I had solely culturally imparted on me, or do they have a universal effect? I know that anthropologists have found that incest is the only universal taboo humans have, but what about things like this? Culture and socialisation instils in us a clear (at least it should) knowledge about things that are right and wrong, but there is a distinction between knowing and feeling that something is wrong, right?

    I don't know yet, but it seems as though there might be some potential here, if these kinds of things exist as more than some sentimental emotions coming to me when I'm deep in exhaustion, that people, being made more aware of what their choices do to them...

    (Being more aware of what their choices implicates, now there's a sentence that makes me think about the popular psychology section in the library, but I'm having a little trouble formulating my thoughts at the moment. In fact, I'll head to the mountains for a while )
    High Marshal of Decadence


    And all I loved, I loved alone

  2. #2
    major major major major dark fuschia's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    Australia
    Posts
    3,489
    Blog Entries
    3

    Default Re: Why do we do what we do?

    This topic is so interesting to me EP. I have all the ansers of course, you have come to the right place. j/k

    Here you are talking about two very interesting topics which have long been favourites of both myself and the Catholic church:
    1. Original Sin
    2. Morals

    First I'll discuss Original sin, even though you may not be interested in the religious side of it, it is still a very apt allegory of the human condition. The phrase "Original sin" is often misunderstood to be reffering only to that sin of Eve, whereby she ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge. This is indeed where the name comes from, but that isn't what it refers to. It is used to describe the inborn tendency of any human to separate themselves, willfully, from what is good. Pretty much what you have described here. To resist what is good, whether it be out of pride, laziness, greed, you name it, in the FULL awareness that we are rejecting something far higher for something cheaper and ultimately not nearly as fulfilling.

    Here of course things get blurry, because people choose to deal with this condition in different ways. Some decide it's best just to get on with it and forget about any ideas of goodness and perfection, while others convince themselves they have already attained goodness and perfection, and others yet again go off in search of goodness and perfection in full humility.

    I mention pefection because that's another aspect of Original sin which you have also described. That feeling we can't shake that things should somehow be better than they are, that nothing is as it should be. You reject the horror of traffic because part of you tells you that it's not how it should be, those people were meant, surely, for far better things than such stress and misery. This is the part of the human condition that is out of our control. Even if we can overcome that urge within us to resist good, even if we build up the strength to choose a peaceful walk over a nasty tv program with junk food, it doesn't change the nature of the world, the terrible truth of the world. That DEATH and DECAY and SUFFERING exist just as surely as the BEAUTY and LIFE and GOODNESS.

    Within the philosophy of church, death and decay actually only exist BECAUSE we choose to reject goodness, and that by choosing goodness again, we can attain perfection and defeat death and decay, but that is a religious belief, so it may not be so useful to you, so I will leave that thought there and move on to morals.

    You have asked some very interesting questions about what makes our ideas of wrong and right universal. For instance, if the only completely universally recognised crime is incest, how can you trust anything as wrong or right? Does everyone have the same "feelings" as you. I think thats what you are getting at right?

    I think everyone does have the same feelings, and that these feelings cannot be mistaken, and like you say, the funny thing is that something really does make us resist goodness. Lets call this evil. It is the only thing a human can know for sure, the difference between good and evil. It is not subject to the impefection of the world, it comes from within. I know this because I think that's where my feelings come from, and I assume that its the same for everyone else.

    If we make this assumption that our knowledge of good and evil comes from within though, we have to wonder why everyone has such different ideas of right and wrong. Why, some people don't even believe evil exists, while others don't believe in either good or evil. Does that mean they don't have that inner knowledge of good and evil? I think they do have it, because one will notice that even those who don't believe in evil will often find the idea of evil wrong, which means SOMETHING within them is compelling them to make this judgement. Also those who don't believe in good, will still come to the conclusion that one thing is better than another, whether it be that family is more important than money, or science more important than art. So they just have the idea of good by another name. So I am fairly convinced that everyone has this inner tendency to recognise good and evil, whether or not they will fully admit it.

    No, I think the difference lies in our reasoning, the choices we make on how to act upon this knowledge of good and evil. For instance our reasoning can be flawed because we are decieved, or because we are full of pride and refuse to acknowledge our failings, or because we rationalise things to make our conscience easier to ignore out of laziness or fear, or maybe even because we just aren't that bright.

    In some of these cases, we may do an evil thing, but our responsibility is lessened because of our ignorance. So we may have acted evilly, but not immorally. This is a tragedy indeed, but it also explains some of the huge differences we see in what people claim as their "conscience" or ideals of wrong and right, which are of course very far from universal.

    This can even go to another level, to that of ethics, which is where a society will embrace a set or rules based on the social or collective conscience. These ethics are very valuable and important to smooth running of society, and are a manifestation of our desire to rise above our condition of imperfection. Ask anyone and they will tell you they want to end poverty and social injustice. So our ethics therefore arise from our morals, which arise from our sense of good and evil. Therefore, it is usually immoral to go against ethics... even though ethics differ from country to country. But because of the imperfection that exists in our interpretation of good and evil, sometimes it can be immoral to go along with ethics. This is why social liberty is so important. Enforcing someone to conform to the ethics of a society may endanger their soul.

    For instance you are being ethical and moral when you vote. But if you have somehow reasoned (whether wisely or not) that it is immoral to vote, you mustn't vote even if it is compulsory to vote in your country and you could face arrest. Maybe voting isn't evil, but if you have decided it is, then it is certainly evil for you to take part in it.

    Also there are occasions when the ethics of a society actually encompass evil. For instance when a society accepts slavery. Unless one was completely brainwashed and had very faulty reasoning one could never accept this as goodness, and yet many have certanly accepted it as ethical in the past, thereby convincing themselves that having slaves wasn't evil. Moral responsibility from this crime against humanity probably varied from person to person depending on their intellectual faculties and motivations.

    Why does it have to be this way? Because we have to work with what we've got. Why do we want to be good? I don't know, but in a way the question is impossible to answer because it answers itself. We want to be good because.. it's just so good being good. It is an end unto itself. Why do we insist upon rejecting this desire to be good? Maybe because we don't understand the desire, and we don't fully understand goodness, so we are a bit frightened of it. We don't know why we would want it, so our stubborness says well then, we shouldn't want it, and we'll just make do with the easy thing. Why is the bad thing so often the easy thing? Maybe it isn't. Maybe we have fooled ourselves into thinking it's the easy thing. Maybe we are doing it all the hard way.
    Last edited by dark fuschia; September 18th, 2010 at 10:19.

  3. #3
    Quick! To the Volcano! High House Moon Eyreplenh's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Here, there, there's pieces of me everywhere
    Posts
    3,277
    Blog Entries
    3

    Default Re: Why do we do what we do?

    First I'll discuss Original sin, even though you may not be interested in the religious side of it
    Hehe, I might not have a faith, per se, but I am very, very interested in the religious side of it. Partly because I feel, as you also seem to do, that it is so intertwined with this question, and secondly because I never ever explored religion properly. In sum, I don't know enough about it and would like to be educated

    I mention pefection because that's another aspect of Original sin which you have also described. That feeling we can't shake that things should somehow be better than they are, that nothing is as it should be. You reject the horror of traffic because part of you tells you that it's not how it should be, those people were meant, surely, for far better things than such stress and misery. This is the part of the human condition that is out of our control. Even if we can overcome that urge within us to resist good, even if we build up the strength to choose a peaceful walk over a nasty tv program with junk food, it doesn't change the nature of the world, the terrible truth of the world. That DEATH and DECAY and SUFFERING exist just as surely as the BEAUTY and LIFE and GOODNESS.
    A variation of this/ a related theme from psychology is self-handicapping, making us worse than we are because we fear that even at our best we will not be good enough; to build upon what you said; that we choose wrong because death and decay and suffering will still exist if we choose right. And this is comforting because then we can say that, "oh, it's wrong now, but I can change" which is better than "I'm doing my best and still things are bad". This is a very interesting branch of thinking, but not actually what I was thinking of -but as I said earlier, if you feel for it, share your thoughts, they are very interesting to me. I hadn't thought of the Original sin angle at all



    Maybe before, to continue with my greens/factory part, when large parts of the world was untamed, the majority of the population stared at untouched and wild nature and they felt "wrong", felt that all that chaos would look much better with some square houses, where I now feel revulsion at factories and cars? That is what I am interested in, is this changing nature of right/wrong true, or is there an universal right and wrongness in us? Does it change?

    To take Darwins example; the universal taboo against incest makes sense, in that mating with your sister doesn't make sense if you're going to forward your society. But obviously, living a life that is unhealthy to ourselves, and maybe even unsustainable to the greather society, is not a stroke of geniuos evolutionwise either? Shouldn't there be an evolved trait in us leading us off that path? Have we come so far, made the world so uncomprehensible that this is lost to us?

    And I am not actually interested in what makes us want to be good (even though that surely rest at the bottom of this them) per se, rather, firstly, if there excists such a motivation in us (we both seem to think there does) and if that is universal, does the same things make us tick, across cultures, languages and borders. Secondly if there would be a way to increase peoples conscious of this so that choices could be made in fuller awareness.

    Like when you pass a homeless person, why you just stride past, not offering him at least a smile? Or when you're in the store to buy yet another t-shirt, why we so often do not include a lot of facts in our reasoning. We listen to "I want another shirt" and drown out "where does it come from", "who made this", "who profits from this" and, more basely, "what is that is wrong again, with the 30 I have"?

    I am going to ask one of the profs at university if they have any tips for me to go reading, because I still feel I don't get out exactly the idea that is in my head and I do end up sounding like, I don't know, I wrote a book called "the BIGGER secret" or something
    High Marshal of Decadence


    And all I loved, I loved alone

  4. #4
    major major major major dark fuschia's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    Australia
    Posts
    3,489
    Blog Entries
    3

    Default Re: Why do we do what we do?

    hmm I think its a mistake to lay all our behaviour at evolutions door, remember evolution is just what has been natrually selected out of the randomness and we are still evolving... therefore we are still largely random

  5. #5

    Default Re: Why do we do what we do?

    Quite a long discussion there :s .

    We aren't perfect. Nothing is perfect.
    We evolved very fast over the past ten thousand years. Not physically, but culturally. Culture is more than just a painting on a wall. It is a mindset, a way of interacting as individuals in groups, a way of interacting as groups in larger groups. Traditions and laws were made for this. Meanwhile our biology hardly evolved at all. Less, even, since the culture ensure the survival of more people to even out the "mutations", come to think of it.

    What you were experiencing is a conflict between body and mind, if you ask me.
    Our body wants us to be lazy to conserve energy. It wants us to eat sugar and fat because they are high in energy.
    Meanwhile you yourself know better.

    I call it being "wholesom". Going against the urges of your body to do what you know is good in the long run. You need this to be able to control yourself to "do the right thing". And that differs from person to person, culture to culture.

    Of course, it's in your own mind that the real conflicts occur. You often don't have the time to ask yourself this question, since the culture, the system, you're living in gives you little time to think about it. The system itself has evolved certain "distractions" to keep us "drones" occupied and somewhat happy. Mortgages, television, literature, a working rhythm, etc.....

    The real conflicts are deciding what "the right thing" is, for the long term. Do you think that what (y)our culture thinks is "the right thing" for the long term coinsides with what you think it is? For instance.

    As to the pictures: Nature is inherently beautifull. The only ugly things are things made by man. (Ok, read nature as: the parts of nature we evolved around). We know that there are necessary "evils" of standing in traffic, land fills, power plants, etcetera... to support the life we live, the culture we are part of. The culture we have little to no influence on.

    I would like to reach a conclusion in this, but I'm afraid I've got to run so I'll post what I've got so far.
    I fear there might not be a conclusion though.
    "When I think I might die without seeing a hundredth of all there is to see it makes me feel," he paused, then added, "well, humble, I suppose."
    " And very angry, of course."

  6. #6
    Quick! To the Volcano! High House Moon Eyreplenh's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Here, there, there's pieces of me everywhere
    Posts
    3,277
    Blog Entries
    3

    Default Re: Why do we do what we do?

    Quote Originally Posted by Corvus Corax View Post
    What you were experiencing is a conflict between body and mind, if you ask me.
    Our body wants us to be lazy to conserve energy. It wants us to eat sugar and fat because they are high in energy.
    Meanwhile you yourself know better.



    ...I fear there might not be a conclusion though.
    Well, I think the conflict between mind and body might be part of it, although it doesn't complete the picture. It might be the body's first instinct to conserve fat and relax when it has the chance, but also, the unconscious mind rewards the body for working out and keeping in shape with hormones and funky chemicals, and that is an evolved part of us too, right?

    I fear there is no conclusion too, even more so no that my mountain is closed off by snow -my thoughts on this only remained clear as long as I was up there and winded. Probably the lack of oxygen made me delusional

    I did find out quite a bit about one aspect of it though, through the minds of deep ecology. I'd recommend everyone to check it out and read a bit about it. I'm not sure I'm ready to preach it yet, but it doesn't seem harmful in any way
    High Marshal of Decadence


    And all I loved, I loved alone

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •