A&O – NEEDS

 

ART & ORGANISM

 

“Frugal Repast” by Picasso.. 

 

NEEDS

.

The story of evolutionary change is the story of how organisms have met and continue to meet their needs to survive and thrive.  These needs are imposed by the pursuit of stability in a perpetually changing environment–and, of course, we change as as well.  Thus real or perceived needs at any given instant are variable—in other words, needs and our ways of coping are in perpetual flux.

We speak often of pursuing stability, but in a real world, stability is an unattainable ideal… an ideal we do NOT wish to attain.  The physiologists have a very useful term: HOMEOSTASIS–a dynamic balance of multiple variables. Read more about HOMEOSTASIS.

 

 

.

 Our ancestors, the survivors of countless past challenges, met those needs.

 

Humanist psychologist, Abraham Maslow, developed his theories of motivation on the recognition of these NEEDS, identified in his now famous “NEED HIERARCHY,” familiar in psychology.  It has clear correspondences in BIOLOGY and can provide leverage for exploring the biological functions of receptive or expressive art (by “receptive” art I intend the appreciation of objects of aesthetic interest by means of perceptual functions; by “expressive” art I intend actions that manifest ideas of aesthetic interest in a way that makes them accessible to the senses)

.

 

 

 

We must meet the most fundamental needs or die.  “MOTIVATION” describes the impulse to meet specific needs: hunger, thirst, dominance, sex…  The most fundamental need is to live, but beyond that many other needs must be met — and we  live more-or-less well, more-or-less fulfilled.

 

 

.

 

 

 

King Solomon states: “Give me neither poverty nor wealth;

provide me my allotted bread… lest I become impoverished and steal.”

Proverbs 30:8-9

.

Necessity makes an honest man a knave.

(Daniel Defoe, 1720)

.

.

Necessity hath no law. Feigned necessities, imaginary necessities…are the greatest cozenage that men can put upon the Providence of God, and make pretences to break known rules by.

(Oliver Cromwell’s Speech to Parliament, 12 September 1654)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BUT needs are not just matters of life or death.   What does it really mean–to have met our needs?  Is it a matter of the “good life” or a “life  well lived?”    Is our society a mirror of the more-or-less well-met needs of countless individuals?

 

Social scientists speak of “QUALITY of LIFE” and “SUBJECTIVE WELL-BEING.”  The scientists can assign numbers and values to these “variables” but art and literature are full of powerful examples of the dissonance between them: high quality of life, low sense if well-being. 

    Of our many NEEDS, some are real, some perceived.  The relative urgency of a particular need can more-or-less evoke the stress response, behavioral components of which include AFFECT –recognized as emotions– which energize our motives–consciously or not–to  meet our NEEDS.  Most needs are met non-consciously.  COGNITION involves memory and the organization and deployment of conscious or nonconscious motives.  These can modulate our perceptions of needs and how we meet them.

 

 

.

 

 

 

 

.

A&O notes: NEEDS

 

NEEDS must be met before any organism can prosper and thrive. A first approach to understanding a behavioral pattern (not least that of making art or making science) is to consider what needs it serves — recognizing that the same behavior can serve different needs in different people and in the same person at different times.

 

Considering biological NEEDS can lead to the deep structure of behavior.   

 

A particularly useful and influential “Hierarchy of Needs” was outlined in the 1940’s by the psychologist  Abraham H. MASLOW (1908-1970)  in “A theory of human motivation” (Psych. Rev.  50:370-396. 1943)    In 1962, Maslow was identified as one of the founders of  “Humanistic Psychology”   (You should know more about Maslow)

 

Maslow proposed that human needs are hierarchically organized (the biological correspondences to these psychological needs are outlined below):

 

 

Classic needs in psychology, with biological interpretation)

“first comes food, then morals,” Brecht . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  •  Physiology (food, drink, exercise)
  •  Safety (security, order, protection)
  •  Sociality (belonging, acceptance, need-love)
  •  Esteem (status, prestige, acknowledgment) (maximizing individual traits of potential value for safety and for attracting a reproductive partner)
  •  Self-Actualization (personal fulfillment and growth) Arete  Wikipedia on self-actualization (“maximizing biological finess”). 

 

 

 

.

.

Maslow’s first interest was in MOTIVATION.  When more fundamental needs are not met, according to Maslow, attempts to meet them can dominate behavior.  As they  are met, higher level needs come into focus and our concern shifts.  The satisfaction of higher needs  is sought in the context of maximizing the lower needs.  Personality  disturbances are often keyed to imbalances in what a person perceives as a need

 

.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

.

 

 

NEED for PHYSIOLOGICAL RESOURCES:   “Some people are so poor, that God appears to them in the form of bread.”

-Gandhi

 

 

.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

.

 

 

NEED for SAFETY:  Various aspects of the environment—climate, geology, predators, prey, conspecifics—often  exceed an organism’s ability to cope UNLESS its ACTIONS or PHYSIOLOGICAL tolerances change so that it can PROTECT itself or go outside its habitual ways of dealing its vagaries and exigencies. 

 

 

.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

.

 

 

NEED for BELONGING:    I find it interesting that the  highest and lowest levels of the need hierarchy  are PRIVATE, while the intermediate levels are SOCIAL.  Aristotle wrote: “The man who is isolated –who is unable to share in society– or who has no need to share because he is self-sufficient — is no part of the polis, and thus must be either a beast or a god

(Politics I, 1, 14)

 

 

.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

.

 

 

NEED to KNOW:   Seen as more-or-less urgent;l Aristotle  recognized this READ MORE

 

 

.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

.

 

 

NEED for SOCIAL ESTEEM:   “There lurks, perhaps, in every human heart a desire of distinction, which inclines every man to hope, and then to believe, that nature has given himself something peculiar to himself.”  –Samuel Johnson

 

DEEP ETHOLOGY notes on sociality | HUMAN SOCIALITY | BACTERIAL SOCIALITY .

 

 

 

.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

.

 

 

SELF-ACTUALIZATION – its BIOLOGICAL MEANING, and “the meaning of life:” Go to A&O notes on Self-Actualization to find out about Huston Smith’s view on our relentless longing for release from the mundane, and Jonas Salk’s evolutionary view of our creative engagement in evolution.  

 

 

.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Arching over and threading through Maslow’s Need Hierarchy is the pursuit of PLEASURE and the avoidance of PAIN (and even in success, these goals are themselves often ambiguous and sometimes even indistinguishable) :

 

Pleasure. what a need is met –or even when we are making progress towards meeting a need– we often feel pleasure    [more on pleasure].  Is this a sensation that evolved to signal us that we’re on the right track?

.

 

MORE on the BIOLOGY of NEEDS

 

For any organism to survive and thrive it must meet a sequence of needs that begin with health and end with self-actualization.  In evolutionary terms, self-actualization (“being all you can be”) corresponds to fitness.  This term originally referred only to reproductive success, but now is often understood to mean any transmission of “biologically relevant information” to the next generation.  Such information is classically represented by genes, but contemporary views can encompass memes — or cultural units of inheritance — transmitted through culture.  (more on fitness)

 

NEEDS and STRESS

 

“Poverty removes a person from his [normal state of] mind.”

Talmud

.

Real or perceived challenges to meeting needs can evokes a stress response —  an ensemble of  physiological responses –much like reflexes — to cope with the stressor, mainly by reallocating the organism’s resources (especially energy) to deal with the most urgent need first.   For example, if a basic safety need seems threatened, activities such as feeding, reproduction, or even fighting off disease may suffer as the system tries to resolve the more urgent survival need.

 

The stress response also involves physiological changes in the brain that affect behavioral patterns that should work in concert with other physiological changes.  In general, mild stress is positive, motivating… while extreme stress can be paralyzing.

 

BEHAVIORAL changes can (depending on the level of stress)  involve facilitated or inhibited alertness, sensory sensitivity, thought processes, and activity levels.  Exactly how these are expressed depends on the context –the person’s experience, values, and opportunities.

 

Among the most powerful of psychological stressors is CHANGE —  challenges to the existing stability of the organism and its environment.  Organisms try to COMPENSATE for change.  Compensation for modest changes are done automatically and we are unaware of them — but if serious enough, the need to compensate can “break into” consciousness.  

 

 (Organisms are fundamentally conservative and many evolutionary changes (“innovations” )  manifested over time seem to support the general principle nicknamed “Romer’s Rule” :   “the initial survival value of a favorable innovation is conservative, in that it renders possible the maintenance of a traditional way of life in the face of changed circumstances.”   –Hockett & Asher 1964:137)

 

[optional: more about STRESS]

.

.

.

NOTE:  The need hierarchy  appears to reconcile conflicting schools of  psychology, each with their special emphasis:

     Freud: early experiences of physiology and security;

     Reich: love and attachment;

     Adler: self-esteem;

     Jung, self-fulfillment.


An interesting commentary on needs from William James:

“Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth that around every circle another can be drawn,’ wrote Emerson in ‘Circles’. Fifty years after the essay was published, James finished the Principles of Psychology (1890), in which he developed a model of selfhood that resembled radiating spheres. At the centre was the ‘material self’, our bodies and material fortunes. This is frequently regarded as the most concrete aspect of our lives, but it is also, according to James, the most superficial. We would typically be willing to give up our material fortunes for the subsequent ring, what he terms ‘the social self’, the recognition that one gets from friends, family and loved ones. Finally, James explains, there is the ‘spiritual self’, one that is sought or experienced in ‘intellectual, moral, and religious aspiration’. This is the most expansive aspect of selfhood, the farthest reaching, but also, for many of us, the most subtle and easily neglected. This is the wave that matters even when it is not fully detected or articulated.” (John Kaag (2018) The Greatest Use of Life . Edited by Sam Dresserhttps://aeon.co/essays/is-life-worth-living-the-pragmatic-maybe-of-william-james?utm_source=Aeon+Newsletter&utm_; downloaded Monday, October 01, 2018)

         

 

 

.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

|

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 THE MOTIVATION TO MEET NEEDS might propel us forward, but do we always know WHEN TO STOP?   “Once biological needs have caused mental life to reach a certain level, this mentality goes on to manifest itself independently beyond those needs”  (Mach, Knowledge and Error, 53)  Think about how technology enlarges and extends our dispositions to act in ways that meet specific needs — but those dispositions emerged in us long before we had technology.  Where once we sought to neutralize a competitor or adversary, now we can destroy entire nations.  

 

“… A monkey in a zoo caught a ‘possum, examined it, found the pouch and took out the young, looked at them and put them back: here the curiosity of the little zoologist goes far beyond biological needs.”  (Mach)  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

|

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

.

.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brain-Break:  EVOLUTION was “in the air” in Darwin’s day  (that may have been part of the reason it was not part of the title of his book) — so, what was the big fuss?  How was Darwin’s theory of “:evolution” offensive to some religious people where other theories were not? The answer may be in the last paragraph of Origins.  But here’s how evolutionary thinking affected Tennyson.

 

 

 

Interdisciplinary Connections:  NEEDS we were speaking of are those of living organisms — but possibly a FIRST need is to be ALIVE. How do we  defeat the Second Law of Thermodynamics!?  Or do we?  What is the Second Law of Thermodynamics!?

ALIVE? what does that mean anyway? [more]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

.

NEEDS met by ART

[more]

spiritual aspects of self-actualization

.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arete

  more on pleasure

 more on fitness

 WHEN NEEDS ARE NOT MET: more about STRESS

spiritual aspects of self-actualization

 

reconfigured, minor revisions Feb 5, 2012 /  Modest revisions September 2018