Saturday, April 10, 2010
need, want, desire
The normal meaning of ‘need,’ ‘want,’ and ‘desire’ are such that a person may desire, but not need. But wanting may be either needing or desiring. Needing implies both wanting and desiring; if you need S, then you want it, and you desire it. If you desire S, you want it, but may not need it. So, I regard wanting as ambiguous (it could mean need; it could mean desire). Whether “want” associates to need rather than desire or the converse depends on context. I regard need and desire as basically different. There is much that one may desire but not need. But in cases of both need and desire, it’s normal to say that one wants.
Suppose that Terri believes that Gene is “needy” in a non-economic sense. To be needy is to be “marked by want of affection, attention, or emotional support,” the M-W Unabridged online indicates. It’s not just that one needs support, but one is “marked” by the need; i.e., the want of affection, etc., seems to prevail as an unsatisfiable need.
Gene might merely want information, but the unsatisfied desire would be needy (a persistent want, rather than persistent desire such as love of learning) if the desire prevailed like a want of emotional support (i.e., the prevalently unsatisfied “desire” is really prevalently unsatisfied need).
I give philosophical importance to letting desire emerge (making desire prevail) over ambiguous want (so entangled with others’ wants!) in what one wants for their life.
That’s not to deny need (which, chronically experienced, makes one later needy). Rather, I’m interested in the individuating life as oriented relative to developing desire (in light of leading values and aspirations), realizing desire (relative to identity), and actualizing (fulfilling) realized desire (making happiness). Desire emerges beyond need. I’m interested in one’s life inasmuch as a one’s needs are met; now what?
Neediness precludes a prospect of desire. Worse yet, suppressing neediness (thus a prospect of satisfying need) represses the prospect of desire, as if one not only has little need, but also little interest in realizing desire. Boredom is a typical aspect of suppression, I believe.
Prevalently unfulfilled desire (yet as desire realized that can become fulfilled) can be wonderful motivation for actualizing what truly one’s life is about, i.e., actualizing realized desire leading to fulfillment and real happiness. (Real happiness is not basically about pleasure or satisfying need—though I’m all for maximal pleasure! And of course need must be satisfied before desire-beyond-need can be fulfilled.)
Creative love of solitude and love of truly appreciative companionship may express presistently anewable desire that embodies the value of new fulfillment. Renewed desire leads to new fulfillment (just as renewed need leads to new satisfaction).
We all want emotional support. But the needy person is one who seems prevalently dissatisfied with the support available.
Suppose that Gene is not needy, though Terri believes that he is. What might be going on? Terri misunderstands his behavior? Terri wants to see Gene as needy?
Gene may be cheerful without seeking affection, but Terri believes that the cheerfulness is solicitous. Perhaps, she can’t receive unsolicitous cheerfulness from Gene, or she can’t appreciate his cheerfulness as unsolicitous.
Genuine affection is at heart unsolicitous. Love, especially, takes pleasure in the other’s presence without needing to even let that be known—but desiring, always desiring, to show itself. Love causes easy elation, which deserves to show.
Love also desires to see the other flourish in their ownmost way. Love desires to see the other living in their ownmost way. Love desires to fulfill the other’s desire (and satisfy need).
But real desire is not need. The ordinary world doesn’t normally appreciate the difference between need and real desire. People use ‘need’ and ‘desire’ as synonyms. But there’s good reason to appreciate the difference.
Individuation, in my sense of the notion, embodies senses of purpose educing desire that motivates fulfillment, beyond need. Emotion may be individuational inasmuch as desire-fulfillment prevails over need-satisfaction (i.e., need is largely met).
Desire is also integral to important approaches to philosophy of action that I want to discuss down the road.
Some of the above assertions may read like non sequiturs because I’ve deleted long paragraphs sketching a story of Terri and Gene that were intended to contribute to the topic here, but got more complicated than useful. Fleshing out the story could be useful in a broader context. But desire to do it would follow from the broader context or venture. It’s not something I need to do or desire to do soon. But the above is just a posting. I can live with the aire of non sequitur as a neighborhood of themes for use and elaboration.
-- 10:34 PM