Tuesday 22 October 2013

Motivation in the modern world


Perhaps the deepest problem in the modern world is lack of motivation.

It is lack of motivation which can be argued to lie behind the more obvious short-termist hedonism and expedient cowardice which dominates modern public life.

It is the lack of motivation which leads all of the developed world to choose sub-replacement fertility; we lack even the motivation necessary to reproduce ourselves.


What is needed is a motivation which is less short-termist and pleasure orientated - which is prepared to suffer and strive for Goodness.

But motivation is a means, not an end; one cannot be 'motivated' in a vacuum or without an object - and modern culture is a vacuum.

One can only be motivated towards some-thing or -things - and the object of motivation must seem worthwhile in order to overcome the distractions, short-termist pleasures, and expedient pressures of modern life.


The average answer to this need for motivation - for most people most of the time - is religion (including, but not necessarily, Christianity); and it is the absence of religion that is demotivating the developed world.

It is the lack of religion which renders us demotivated into sub-fertility; and devout, traditional religion is the only known antidote to sub-fertility in modern societies.


So how does motivation work to overcome the short-termist, hedonistic, expedient?

Well, the wrong answer is that it allows people to 'defer satisfactions'.

Not True. False.

In reality the only thing which enables us to overcome a passion is a stronger passion; the only way to overcome a pleasurable temptation is the even-greater happiness to be gained by living in accordance with longer term goals of extreme happiness.

Thus religious passion trumps worldly passions, and the here-and-now deeply-joyous hope of eternal happiness beats-back the relatively feeble temptations of pleasurable distractions.


So, potentially, long termism is ultimately not a state of worldly self-denial, sacrificing here-and-now happiness in pursuit of remote-happiness in a hoped-for life to come; rather long-termism is a consequence of the greater here-and-now and currently-experienced happiness, consequent upon living a strategic worldly life in anticipation of the joyous life to come.

It is a greater short-term pleasure of living a religiously motivated life which renders controllable the lesser short-termist pleasures of a life devoted merely to avoiding suffering and passing the time as pleasantly as possible.

It is the current satisfaction of working strategically towards a truly satisfying goal that leads to happiness; while chasing after instant pleasure, detached from any valued objective, is a recipe for jadedness, aggressive pursuit of ever feebler satisfactions, and self-disgust.



Al. said...

Dr Charlton,

When you write

[...] traditional religion is the only known antidote to sub-fertility in modern societies.

do you have an example of a society as a whole in mind where this happened?

Bruce Charlton said...

@Al. - If you mean a whole nation, no I don't know of one. But Israel is not far off.