Thursday, June 15, 2006

schmotive

Here's a question for you ... This is not rhetorical. Respond. That's what the comments section is for ...

Why is motive important?

I'm not referring to the TV use of motive, as in, "She doesn't have a _____, but I'm sure she's guilty. You can see it in her eyes." Or "Everybody who knew him had a ________; he was an asshole."

I'm talking about the reason anybody chooses to do anything at all; for example, the reason why ...

... Alisha K. had eight kids

... Candace left town so suddenly

.... Rob spends four hours at the gym seven days a week

We observe behaviors like these and we wonder why. That's natural human curiosity, right? And it's fun too. Well, I don't know about you but I could spend hours inventing explanations for the wide variety of odd behaviors that swirl around us on a daily basis.

Of course, when we scrutinize the motives of people close to us, we could be asking for serious trouble. For example, if you find yourself wondering why your cousin Donnie sent a dozen roses to rich Aunt Lily when her Pekingese died, you could end up hating him for being an ass-kiss and money grubber when, if you'd just take the time to talk to him about it, you'd find out that Lily had done the same for Donnie's dearly departed wife when her pet python croaked.

And when we overanalyze our own motives, it can be hard to get out of bed. As in ...

"Am I getting up early so I can get to work early? Because I want to be seen as a good worker? No. Because I want to get a lot of work done? Yes. But ... uch ... that's so gross. Is that who I am? Is that who I've become? A 'hard worker?' No, I'm going to stay in bed. I can't be that person ... But what if I get fired for being a slacker. I need money. I can't do without money. How could I afford to ... but am I too materialistic? ... " and so on.

I have a friend who, last time we spoke about this, wants to have kids but he doesn't like his reason for wanting kids so he doesn't want to have kids. His reason? To have miniature versions of himself wandering around. Of course, on the face of it, this can be seen as pretty self-absorbed and self-important of him.

But if you look a little deeper, he's expressing something that underlies motive - instinct. What he's expressing with words is something that all the less talkative creatures of this world express with action - the action of making hay and making babies! The action of passing on genetic material from one generation to the next.

Now we could get into it about how human beings are the one species on the planet that has the ability to make choices and act responsibly - in other words, transcend instinct - but that's a discussion for another day.

Or ... maybe not.

Maybe that's where the problem lies? Maybe that's why we consider motive so important.

Ah! Time's up. More tomorrow. bye bye.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Chadwick said...

Robert Ornstein, noted cognitive psychologist and deep thinker, says that evolutionarily speaking, we are still primitive man living on the savannah. It has only been 10,000 years since we were that. Evolution, and thus instinct, is a process that takes millions of years. He goes on to say that a great deal of our human strife is caused by the fact that we are responding to primitive instincts that no longer fit our environment. He believes the next phase in human evolution is conscious evolution, whereby we learn to recognize our outmoded instincts, acknowledge them for what they are, then respond to life according to choice rather than biological imperative.

I agree with him.

8:21 AM

 
Anonymous chadwick said...

Robert Ornstein, noted cognitive psychologist and deep thinker, says that evolutionarily speaking, we are still primitive man living on the savannah. It has only been 10,000 years since we were that. Evolution, and thus instinct, is a process that takes millions of years. He goes on to say that a great deal of our human strife is caused by the fact that we are responding to primitive instincts that no longer fit our environment. He believes the next phase in human evolution is conscious evolution, whereby we learn to recognize our outmoded instincts, acknowledge them for what they are, then respond to life according to choice rather than biological imperative.

I agree with him.

8:21 AM

 
Blogger bryan h. said...

with the understanding that there does seem to be a general consensus on the importance of "motive" (or, in the realm of the arts and entertainment, "intent"), for me, it does not matter.

i'm willing to hear arguments to the contrary, but i think any argument for motive or intent is superceded by effect. (except for those instances where we give credit to someone for their "heart being in the right place," which generally means they've created some kind of innocuous fiasco.)

i mean, should i necessarily care why candace left town? does it change that she's gone? should it matter to me that the motive for the iraq war is (sometimes) to free the iraqi people from oppression, when the effect is that the war has killed 60,000 (?) of them? and what about fluid, or even conflicting, motives or intents? what if the guy did send the flowers out of sincere concern and compassion, but it wasn't lost on him that this might improve his standing when it comes time for the aunt to make out her will? if the author of the most recent state of the union address told me their intent was to write something as significant as the gettysberg address and as inspiring as the kennedy innaugural address, am i then obligated to view it as those things?

i do think there's a place for explanation. if i cared about candace, i might want to know why she left so suddenly; if i cared about the project i'm working on, i might want to know why census projections show a decline in the number of anglos living in llano county between 2005 and 2010, etc. i just find motive too slippery.

-bryan

3:49 PM

 

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