The fundamental human drive(s)

Many philosophers and psychologists have attempted to identify a single, ultimate drive of human behaviour. Maslow devised a heirarchy of drives. These attempts have been too simplistic. We have many drives, which manifest themselves in different life circumstances to varying degrees. With modern neuroscience we can get inside the brain, examine the dopamine system and other areas, in order to work out what is really driving us.

Fundamental human drives are:

  • Experiential/Emotional: curiosity/exploration, pursuit of pleasure and avoidance of pain, escape from boredom and anxiety
  • Meaning: authenticity, order, organisation, problems-solving
  • Environmental: survival/flight or fight,  food, shelter, physical health, adaption to one’s environment.
  • Reproduction: sex, pair bonding, care for one’s offspring
  • Creativity/personal goal setting and achievement: Creating new purposes, overcoming challenges, and achieving goals with positive reinforcement/rewards
  • Social/Emotional: group bonding/acceptance/adherence to cultural imperatives, self-preservation of family and tribe, cooperation, social status (competition/dominance, envy, resentment, vengeance, anger, shame, embarrassment)

It is supposed that all these drives serve one end, the continuation of human life with increasing adaptation to the environment. However, this theory (or teleological fiction) may need to be significantly adjusted in light of modern technological advancements. It seems that humans have mastered their environment (at least those of the Western middle and upper classes) and ends other than the evolutionary are gaining ascendance.

Richard Dawkins believes the next step in evolution will involve human beings creating new purposes and goals (cf. Nietzsche’s Übermensch).

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