X-Message-Number: 12344
Date: Sun, 29 Aug 1999 14:14:16 EDT
Subject: more on motivation

In connection with some good questions from Shakehip, Thomas Donaldson wrote:

>To say that we want pleasure means very little, since pleasure is what we 
get when >we get what we want, and no other good definition exists. 

No. A short reply is probably of little use, but still:

What we "want" is not necessarily pleasure, and the definition of "pleasure" 
is not in words but in biology. Pleasure is a (still unknown) 
anatomical/physiological configuration (or set of such) of or in what I call 
the "self circuit," the portion(s) or aspect(s) of the brain or its functions 
that underlies feeling and awareness. 

What we "want" at the most basic level is to gain or retain feel-good, to 
lose or prevent feel-bad. What we "ought" to want (what ought to motivate us) 
is the same, or whatever will lead to that, or to feel-good expressed at a 
higher level to include such things as problem-solving, music appreciation, 
and so on, if conflicts can be resolved.  

But what we "want" as expressed in action, or at certain levels of mentation, 
is often quite different. Habits, training, even mere slogans can substitute 
for more appropriate motivation at the level of overt response. This is 100% 
obvious. Contrary to what Thomas said, when we get what we (think we) want, 
we don't necessarily feel pleasure. Mere means can in effect become ends, 
with the ends forgotten. Total confusion is more the rule than the exception, 
but we are beginning to acquire the tools to end the confusion.   

>People have put up with a very great deal in order to continue living, often 
in >situations that almost no one would describe as pleasurable. (Yes, some 
people >LIKE living in severe pain and all the rest, but few cryonicists fit 
that description. >They want to live because their desire for life is 
fundamental to their selfhood)

Not exactly. The survival instinct is highly overrated in modern conditions, 
but on the biological level, in lower organisms, it is congruent with 
pleasure/pain. The activities that tend to provide pleasure or avoid pain 
(approaching good smells, retreating from bad smells etc.) are the same ones 
that promote survival and procreation.  

Humans have developed many levels of means and ends, with intricate 
interrelationships. Again, evolutionary pressures have assured that most 
people, most of the time, will not willlingly accept death even if the future 
looks totally black. Suicide usually requires courage. At the same time, 
martyrdom beckons to some, because a fanaticism syndrome has become the 
effective center of motivation at the conscious level. (Of course, only the 
enemy are fanatics; we are patriots or upholders of honor and virtue-and 
resolving that issue is another long story.) 

Unless you are confused, you just don't understand the situation. Ergo, keep 
your options open-stick around, and have some fun while you're doing it. 
That's cryonics.

Robert Ettinger
Cryonics Institute
Immortalist Society

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