The Importance of Desires

Our desires are of utmost importance; for desire is the most significant factor in determining outcomes. The key insight behind this has to do with the ideas that pop into our heads. Where do they come from? Can we claim responsibility for them if they seemingly come about magically? I mean, in building a car there are steps we can take that will result in a car. With thinking we can try all sorts of strategies and still nothing is guaranteed. The only coordination then that remains is that of desire to outcome: the more we want something the more likely we are to attain it.

There is, however, one other important factor, which may or may not be positively correlated with desire. This factor is the ability to “ask the right questions.” If we want to get from point A to point Z, but totally ignore B through Y, we are most likely not going to get far. To start, we must ask why we desire what we desire. If we desire a large home in the country we must think about why. If we desire economic equality we must ask why? Is it the thing itself that we want or instead the feeling associated with attaining the thing? The answer is the latter. We ultimately want to be happy and certain things tend to make us happy, but still it is the feeling of happiness we are ultimately after and not actually the things.

This has giant implications for public debate and policy development. Currently the dominant mode of thinking is not one that views the ultimate purpose as that of achieving the greatest level of happiness. Instead we have people totally focused on achieving particular things. What we need is a change in thinking toward treating the achievement of things as a means toward an end (the only legitimate end being a higher level of net per capita happiness). So the key is in thinking how certain policies will increase happiness. And on the personal level, how will particular things make one happy? And further, why will a particular thing make one happy? We need to really think about why anything elicits happiness within us. Deep thought on this question should get one quite far down the right path.


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