Thursday, 21 May 2015

Basic Motivations

Poul Anderson, Starfarers (New York, 1999).

Sundaram discusses the basic motivations for human activities. The activities that he cites are science and exploration although, of course, everyday activities must be accounted for first. The most fundamental activity is survival, staying alive, earning a living. Americans call this "making a buck" - although there was a long period before "bucks"/money existed. Further, technology promises, and Anderson in several works shows that there can be, an even longer post-money period.

The two basic motivations identified by Sundaram are "...hope of gain..." and " make sense of the universe..." (p. 241). Here, Sundaram makes the common mistake of assuming that his own social situation is the most fundamental. Only when people have filled their bellies are they able to look around them for either gain or sense. How we earn a living continues to affect everything else. When hunting and gathering were replaced by herding and growing, it then became possible for some men to own not only herds but also slaves to tend the herds. Social relationships and consequently also ideas and values had changed. Slavery, previously inconceivable, now seemed natural.

Sundaram's examples of gain are wealth, power, fame, freedom and security. He observes that making sense was originally expressed in myth and religion. To these have been added art, philosophy and science. The Tahirians have the same motivations but in different degrees and more for the group. The aliens in Anderson's The Byworlder practiced science and exploration more for aesthetics than for curiosity.

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