organon

On Motivation

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I have identified the following four components of Motivation; comments welcome.

- Self-Esteem (foundational)- the belief that one is worthy of values as such, i.e. of living.

- The conviction that that is it possible for the value to be achieved.

- The conviction that one is worthy of the value in its particular context.

- The conviction that the value is worthy of the investment of time and effort necessary to acquire it.

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One more to add:

- The conviction that should the sought value be achieved, its possession will be secure.

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Could you concretize these, and explain why each is a distinct and necessary component for motivation? A couple questions strike me at first:

1) If you believe you are worthy of values as such, doesn't it follow that you would feel worthy of any specific value?

2) What does "secure" mean, and why is this a requirement for motivation? Can't you be motivated to pursue a value you might lose (such as a loved one)?

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I think there are psychological factors to consider here. Motivation is experienced as emotion. Without it, it is akin to pushing with a rope. Depression, it seems to me, is a major collapse of motivation. One just doesn't feel motivated to do anything. Somehow, the prospective rewards are insufficient to stir the effort.

I don't see any of this being tied to self esteem. People with low self esteem can be motivated turn to crime for instance, because they want the rewards they imagine, but, what happens when no reward seems enough to urge you to action?

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A psychologist once explained in a seminar that I attended that an individual will be motivated to strive for a goal if three conditions are met:

1. The goal is worthwhile, as evaluated by the individual pursuing it.

2. The individual has access to the resources needed to accomplish the goal.

3. The individual believes he has the ability to reach the goal using the available resources.

These factors reportedly apply to irrational as well as rational individuals, to the extent that it is possible for all three factors to exist in less rational individuals. Motivation isn't limited to rational individuals, nor to rational goals.

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Motivation is one of two primary aspects of consciousness, which is the primary focus of psychology from an Objectivist perspective. The other is psycho-epistemology. Motivation refers to the contents (or material) of consciousness. Psycho-epistemology refers to the processes (or actions) of consciousness. The two exist in a reciprocal relationship (the detailed mechanics of which have not, to my knowledge, been thoroughly articulated).

Motivation, as contents of consciousness, include all the sensory-perceptual material one has processed and retained, premises, standards of value, value-judgments, one's hierarchy of values, and related emotions. Emotions are links between concepts (as well as premises, value-judgments, etc.) and physiological processes that are rooted in one’s pleasure/pain mechanism.

Motivation, as a conscious experience, involves “psychological energy,” which manifests in one’s mental focus and physical readiness (in terms of level of energy) to do something, such as achieving a value. When we say someone is motivated, we generally mean that he is highly focused on some value and actively pursuing it.

Of course, two people can pursue the same value but have very different motivations for doing so. Both Keating and Roark wanted to be architects, but based on extremely different motivations. Similarly, two people can pursue the same value but use very different methods. The example of Keating and Roark applies here as well. Or, consider two people who both want money: one gets a job to earn it while the other steals it.

Achieving rationally self-interested values by honest methods leads to self-esteem. Self-esteem is both an effect and cause of further value pursuit and achievement.

As this bears on what goes into motivation, certainly one needs some level of self-esteem. His own life is the source of all his values, so he must value his life to some extent. One can have fairly low self-esteem but still hold values and try to achieve them. The components of resources and ability that System Builder indicated also seem valid to me. They speak to organon’s idea that one must see achievement of the value as possible (although I don’t know that one must hold a “conviction” about that—one can still pursue a value even if he thinks there is limited possibility of achieving it).

- The conviction that one is worthy of the value in its particular context.

Since self-esteem has already been mentioned, this seems redundant.

- The conviction that the value is worthy of the investment of time and effort necessary to acquire it.

I always thought that a value is, by definition, something one thinks is worthy of expending effort to achieve. If one holds a value but doesn't find it worthy of effort, then it is either an extremely low value in his hierarchy or he doesn't really value it.

- The conviction that should the sought value be achieved, its possession will be secure.

bborg's question/point is right--people can be very motivated to pursue a value even if there is no certainty of achieving or holding onto it.

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Motivation refers to the contents (or material) of consciousness.

I have never seen motivation described in this way before, in any Objectivist or non-Objectivist literature. (Granted, I haven't studied psychology in depth, but I have read quite a lot on the topic over the years, for various reasons.) Where does this come from?

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---------------
- The conviction that should the sought value be achieved, its possession will be secure.

bborg's question/point is right--people can be very motivated to pursue a value even if there is no certainty of achieving or holding onto it.

I don't think that this is what Organon's quote means. He stated that should the value be achieved, its possession needs to be secure. In other words, when you go out to buy a car, once you own it you don't expect it to be stolen the next day or expropriated by the government because you owe back taxes. Lacking such security, you wouldn't be motivated to acquire the car.

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Motivation refers to the contents (or material) of consciousness.

I have never seen motivation described in this way before, in any Objectivist or non-Objectivist literature. (Granted, I haven't studied psychology in depth, but I have read quite a lot on the topic over the years, for various reasons.) Where does this come from?

Motivation is a key-concept in psychology and in fiction. It is a man’s basic premises and values that form his character and move him to action—and in order to understand a man’s character, it is the motivation behind his actions that we must understand. To know “what makes a man tick,” we must ask: “What is he after?”
(my emphasis)

http://www.aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/motivation.html

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I don't think that this is what Organon's quote means. He stated that should the value be achieved, its possession needs to be secure. In other words, when you go out to buy a car, once you own it you don't expect it to be stolen the next day or expropriated by the government because you owe back taxes. Lacking such security, you wouldn't be motivated to acquire the car.

If that's what was meant, then it does make sense. One certainly wouldn't be motivated to pursue a value that he had sufficient reason to believe would be immediately taken from him.

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Motivation refers to the contents (or material) of consciousness.

I have never seen motivation described in this way before, in any Objectivist or non-Objectivist literature. (Granted, I haven't studied psychology in depth, but I have read quite a lot on the topic over the years, for various reasons.) Where does this come from?

Motivation is a key-concept in psychology and in fiction. It is a man’s basic premises and values that form his character and move him to action—and in order to understand a man’s character, it is the motivation behind his actions that we must understand. To know “what makes a man tick,” we must ask: “What is he after?”
(my emphasis)

http://www.aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/motivation.html

Yes. In my own studies of Objectivism, particularly as it focuses on psychology, I have focused mostly on the works by Dr. Binswanger and Dr. Locke (I have also read Branden's work from when he was still a part of Objectivism). I believe in one of the lectures on consciousness and/or lectures on psycho-epistemology Dr. Binswanger talks about the two core aspects of consciousness being motivation and psycho-epistemology. I'm forgetting right now which. I think it's also in one or a few essays, but again my memory fails me. Sorry I can't be more specific, but I'm confident it exists.

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Yes. In my own studies of Objectivism, particularly as it focuses on psychology, I have focused mostly on the works by Dr. Binswanger and Dr. Locke (I have also read Branden's work from when he was still a part of Objectivism). I believe in one of the lectures on consciousness and/or lectures on psycho-epistemology Dr. Binswanger talks about the two core aspects of consciousness being motivation and psycho-epistemology. I'm forgetting right now which. I think it's also in one or a few essays, but again my memory fails me. Sorry I can't be more specific, but I'm confident it exists.

You're right. Dr. Binswanger mentions these core aspects in his Psycho-Epistemology II lectures. I remember because I listened to them again recently. I think he mentions them in Psycho-Epistemology I as well.

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You're right. Dr. Binswanger mentions these core aspects in his Psycho-Epistemology II lectures. I remember because I listened to them again recently. I think he mentions them in Psycho-Epistemology I as well.

Ah, thank you, Mercury!

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Motivation refers to the contents (or material) of consciousness.

I have never seen motivation described in this way before, in any Objectivist or non-Objectivist literature. (Granted, I haven't studied psychology in depth, but I have read quite a lot on the topic over the years, for various reasons.) Where does this come from?

Motivation is a key-concept in psychology and in fiction. It is a man’s basic premises and values that form his character and move him to action—and in order to understand a man’s character, it is the motivation behind his actions that we must understand. To know “what makes a man tick,” we must ask: “What is he after?”
(my emphasis)

http://www.aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/motivation.html

Thanks, but that doesn't quite explain it for me. Consider:

Original sentence: Motivation refers to the contents (or material) of consciousness.

Interpretation 1: The referents of the concept "motivation" are the contents (or material) of consciousness.

Interpretation 2: Motivation functions by accessing the contents (or material) of consciousness.

There may be other possible interpretations, but those two leapt to mind. If the correct interpretation is the first one, then I don't understand it at all. Motivation consists of concepts, memories, etc.? Those are the contents of consciousness. Motivation is more like a "force," not a collection of mental objects, is it not?

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Thanks, but that doesn't quite explain it for me. Consider:

Original sentence: Motivation refers to the contents (or material) of consciousness.

Interpretation 1: The referents of the concept "motivation" are the contents (or material) of consciousness.

Interpretation 2: Motivation functions by accessing the contents (or material) of consciousness.

There may be other possible interpretations, but those two leapt to mind. If the correct interpretation is the first one, then I don't understand it at all. Motivation consists of concepts, memories, etc.? Those are the contents of consciousness. Motivation is more like a "force," not a collection of mental objects, is it not?

It's both. In my original post I wrote:

Motivation, as contents of consciousness, include all the sensory-perceptual material one has processed and retained, premises, standards of value, value-judgments, one's hierarchy of values, and related emotions. Emotions are links between concepts (as well as premises, value-judgments, etc.) and physiological processes that are rooted in one’s pleasure/pain mechanism.

Motivation, as a conscious experience, involves “psychological energy,” which manifests in one’s mental focus and physical readiness (in terms of level of energy) to do something, such as achieving a value. When we say someone is motivated, we generally mean that he is highly focused on some value and actively pursuing it. [emphasis added]

So, there are two aspects of motivation: content and conscious experience. Put differently, the "raw material" of the psychological energy or "force" we experience as motivation is one's premises, values, etc., including emotions.

For example, if one holds the premises that the world is a malevolent place, that one has no ability to succeed in it, and that the future is pretty much doomed, then his conscious experience, in terms of motivation, will likely involve a poorly focused mind and little energy to pursue values.

So, one's premises (and other things) are contents of consciousness that set one up to experience the world in a particular way and will affect one's psychological energy. Does this make more sense?

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It's both. In my original post I wrote:
Motivation, as contents of consciousness, include all the sensory-perceptual material one has processed and retained, premises, standards of value, value-judgments, one's hierarchy of values, and related emotions. Emotions are links between concepts (as well as premises, value-judgments, etc.) and physiological processes that are rooted in one’s pleasure/pain mechanism.

Motivation, as a conscious experience, involves “psychological energy,” which manifests in one’s mental focus and physical readiness (in terms of level of energy) to do something, such as achieving a value. When we say someone is motivated, we generally mean that he is highly focused on some value and actively pursuing it. [emphasis added]

So, there are two aspects of motivation: content and conscious experience. Put differently, the "raw material" of the psychological energy or "force" we experience as motivation is one's premises, values, etc., including emotions.

For example, if one holds the premises that the world is a malevolent place, that one has no ability to succeed in it, and that the future is pretty much doomed, then his conscious experience, in terms of motivation, will likely involve a poorly focused mind and little energy to pursue values.

So, one's premises (and other things) are contents of consciousness that set one up to experience the world in a particular way and will affect one's psychological energy. Does this make more sense?

A bit. I've never thought of motivation being content before, just (so to speak) acting on content (or as the result of content). I'll have to so some reading and think on it.

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Sorry, typo in the above: "to so some reading" should be "to do some reading."

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A bit. I've never thought of motivation being content before, just (so to speak) acting on content (or as the result of content). I'll have to so some reading and think on it.

If by "acting" you mean one's physical actions or behavior, then certainly one acts on content. That is one outward manifestation of cognitive contents. Additionally, cognitive contents and behavior are obviously not the same thing metaphysically. Thinking about moving one's leg is not the same as doing it. However, if one intentionally moves his leg, then it was caused by cognitive content (and related processes). So, motivation is a concept that links thought to action.

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I think there are psychological factors to consider here. Motivation is experienced as emotion. Without it, it is akin to pushing with a rope. Depression, it seems to me, is a major collapse of motivation. One just doesn't feel motivated to do anything. Somehow, the prospective rewards are insufficient to stir the effort.

I don't see any of this being tied to self esteem. People with low self esteem can be motivated turn to crime for instance, because they want the rewards they imagine, but, what happens when no reward seems enough to urge you to action?

I like your point about depression, nice observation.

I disagree though with something else:

I think self esteem has got a lot to do with motivation. I think the role of self esteem, or even more specifically the self esteem we feel about ourselves in specific fields is ingrained in motivation to pursue values in that field. Because, it serves our survival. Here are a few examples: Suppose you're building a house with your own hands, but you know from experience that you are bad with hammering nails to the beams, you feel lack of confidence in that field: this serves to protect you from the damage you may cause (to your life and your values). Your recognition of your own ability in that field determines your emotional motivation to pursue it. On the other hand, if you're good with hunting animals (or executing robbery/coming up with a good crime-plan), you have high confidence in your ability to pursue that value, you'd feel motivation to pursue it. When you succeed, it reinforces your confidence, and also serves as a reward. So (like Scott A. said, if I am not mistaken): self esteem is both a requirement and a reward.

This mechanism can work against you (when a mistake is involved): one example is insecurity with "hitting on" women. So the mechanism of confidence<->motivation prevents you from not hammering nails into your hands, but potentially (if a mistake is involved) also to be too afraid to hit on women or go after something you desire.

confidence by itself, feels so great, that it can be by itself an added motivation to achieve something. I can testify about myself that big part of my motivation to paint (or gain knowledge), and do it well, is that I can look at myself later on as the one who created something well, and be proud of myself (in other words have higher self esteem). Such motivation is in the background of things that I am motivated to do well.

I think Self-esteem is a general form of confidence: it does not apply to the ability to achieve values in a specific field, but to living as a whole (to your ability to live). I also think that confidence in many small fields integrates itself in our mind to self esteem as a total sum.

To the extend a person conceptualizes certain virtues as practical to his life, his self esteem will depend on the relation between his actions and what he perceives as virtues.

People with low self esteem can be motivated turn to crime for instance, because they want the rewards they imagine, but, what happens when no reward seems enough to urge you to action?

people who turn to crime still feel that it reflects well on them in some way. Self esteem is still very much involved, in my opinion. For instance, if someone imagined the great rewards stealing can offer them, but the very thought of such an action made them feel rotten, then the possible damage to their self esteem deters them from pursuing crime. Similarly, if they don't feel confident in their ability to do the job well.

If, however, they consider stealing good (to some degree), then their self esteem grows the more "glorious" their crime experience is. Of course, it is not self esteem that fully embrace their ability to live, but it is some degree of self esteem, supported by how well they manage to live up to their "virtues" (or what they perceive as virtues).

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people who turn to crime still feel that it reflects well on them in some way. Self esteem is still very much involved, in my opinion. For instance, if someone imagined the great rewards stealing can offer them, but the very thought of such an action made them feel rotten, then the possible damage to their self esteem deters them from pursuing crime. Similarly, if they don't feel confident in their ability to do the job well.

If, however, they consider stealing good (to some degree), then their self esteem grows the more "glorious" their crime experience is. Of course, it is not self esteem that fully embrace their ability to live, but it is some degree of self esteem, supported by how well they manage to live up to their "virtues" (or what they perceive as virtues).

I’d like to add to this, because I think you’re partially correct here on self-esteem. I don’t think criminals pursue goals as normal people do, and it’s a mistake to look at crime strictly as a risk/reward endeavor (as most people view it). One problem with this is that it just doesn’t explain criminal behavior. Stanton Samenow noticed that people usually take irrational (low benefit, high risk) crime as a sign of mania. Someone who steals worthless items off of tables must be a “kleptomaniac”. That sort of stealing doesn’t seem to fit with other kinds, such as burglary, robbery, fraud, etc. At least it doesn’t, if you assume that crime is aimed at gaining wealth. Samenow also talks about how most criminals blow all of their money almost as soon as they get it. So despite their "scores" they are poor. My professor mentioned financial records that were recovered from a gang dealing in drugs, finding that they made the equivalent of minimum wage. If they are committing crimes because they believe crime is the best way to make money, then once they discover that isn’t true they should be reforming and pursuing legitimate work, right? I’d also use Frank Abagnale, Jr. as an example. Brilliant mind, he faked a diploma but then passed the bar exam in order to con his way into a brief stint as a lawyer. You might enjoy his autobiography, Catch Me if You Can, his schemes were ingenious. But he was always on the run, he was always afraid of being discovered, he couldn’t save any of the money he “made”, and it wasn’t until he almost died in a French prison and then faced a life sentence in US federal prison that he was willing to reform. If he’d chosen to, he could have pursued and succeeded in any of the careers he’d conned his way into. And in fact, he is a genuine multi-millionaire today working as a consultant to banks on check fraud and security.

The answer of course is that criminals don’t measure success by the same standard we do. Criminals view the working man as a “sucker”. Why? Because to a criminal, independence means independence from the rules of reality. They believe they are exempt from laws and don’t have to answer to anyone. Their wish is our command. One curious phenomenon Samenow mentions is burglars who blame a victim’s injuries on their choice to resist the crime. They may express regret that injury (or even death) was inflicted, but they place the blame squarely on the victim for standing in the way of what they wanted. If you’ve read Crime and Punishment, I think Dostoevsky nailed it. The main character believes he is some kind of superman, a la Nietzsche, that society exists to lift him up. He therefore has a right to whatever he wants. And if you notice, crime is pervasive wherever there is a culture of entitlements – namely, welfare dependent communities.

So to come back to the subject of the thread, I think what this shows is that motivation is not merely a judgment of whether an action will benefit you, but must also be based on one’s self-image and view of reality. And that does not go away easily, especially after decades of psycho-epistemology supporting that view. Even if a person fails at crime, even if they go to jail, even if they see that their life could be better if they just stopped hurting people and started earning their way, this may not be enough to change their motivation.

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people who turn to crime still feel that it reflects well on them in some way. Self esteem is still very much involved, in my opinion.

My view is that criminals embody either a lack of self-esteem or irrational self-esteem (i.e., pseudo-self-esteem). One reason is provided in your next statement...

For instance, if someone imagined the great rewards stealing can offer them, but the very thought of such an action made them feel rotten, then the possible damage to their self esteem deters them from pursuing crime.

I'm not sure how one can simultaneously imagine great rewards from stealing and feel rotten at the very thought of stealing. What about stealing would such a person consider rotten and then how could he imagine great rewards resulting from it?

People can certainly hold contradictory ideas, but this one is so massive that I cannot see self-esteem being a part of it. In fact, I don't think a person who held such a contradiction would have any self-esteem.

If, however, they consider stealing good (to some degree), then their self esteem grows the more "glorious" their crime experience is. Of course, it is not self esteem that fully embrace their ability to live, but it is some degree of self esteem, supported by how well they manage to live up to their "virtues" (or what they perceive as virtues).

I don't think they actually believe stealing is good, or adeptness at crime is a virtue. Or, if they do, it is a rehearsed rationalization.

I think it has to do with bborg's point about a criminal's belief that the working man is a "sucker." Stealing is a validation of their core premises about man generally and themselves individually. They hold a malevolent view of man, and seek a pseudo-self-esteem by being an "exception" to man's foolish nature. As bborg also mentions, they tie (through distortion) the concept of independence to thievery, and so tell themselves that they are being virtuous.

However, those with genuine self-esteem don't need to engage in these kinds of rationalizations. They know that fooling or stealing from "suckers" will not make them feel genuine pride, and they don't view man's nature this way to begin with. People with real self-esteem do not become criminals.

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people who turn to crime still feel that it reflects well on them in some way. Self esteem is still very much involved, in my opinion.

My view is that criminals embody either a lack of self-esteem or irrational self-esteem (i.e., pseudo-self-esteem). One reason is provided in your next statement...

I don't think they actually believe stealing is good, or adeptness at crime is a virtue. Or, if they do, it is a rehearsed rationalization.

I think it has to do with bborg's point about a criminal's belief that the working man is a "sucker." Stealing is a validation of their core premises about man generally and themselves individually. They hold a malevolent view of man, and seek a pseudo-self-esteem by being an "exception" to man's foolish nature. As bborg also mentions, they tie (through distortion) the concept of independence to thievery, and so tell themselves that they are being virtuous.

I agree with everything here (and I think those are very good observations about the psychology and premises of criminals). It is definitely irrational self-esteem. But even the most depraved man has some self esteem, no matter what irrational, disintegrated ideas it rests on. It is simply not possible, in my view, to live without self esteem completely.

However, those with genuine self-esteem don't need to engage in these kinds of rationalizations. They know that fooling or stealing from "suckers" will not make them feel genuine pride, and they don't view man's nature this way to begin with. People with real self-esteem do not become criminals.

I agree.

For instance, if someone imagined the great rewards stealing can offer them, but the very thought of such an action made them feel rotten, then the possible damage to their self esteem deters them from pursuing crime.

I'm not sure how one can simultaneously imagine great rewards from stealing and feel rotten at the very thought of stealing. What about stealing would such a person consider rotten and then how could he imagine great rewards resulting from it?

People can certainly hold contradictory ideas, but this one is so massive that I cannot see self-esteem being a part of it. In fact, I don't think a person who held such a contradiction would have any self-esteem.

My main point was to demonstrate that self-esteem is a factor in motivation for pursuit of a value. The other details don't matter so much to me, but I can still answer what I meant (though it is not crucial to the point I was trying to make).

I meant that when considering something as a value, you can have "for"s and "against"s like in this case. "piles of money? good, definitely good". "Doing something which I consider evil? bad, definitely bad". As long as one keeps these points separate, unintegrated, it is possible to have such "components" in the way someone feels about something. Integration is not automatic, which is what I think makes it possible to think of "great rewards" as great rewards prior to integration with the bad stuff.

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However, those with genuine self-esteem don't need to engage in these kinds of rationalizations. They know that fooling or stealing from "suckers" will not make them feel genuine pride, and they don't view man's nature this way to begin with. People with real self-esteem do not become criminals.

One of Samenow's more fascinating observations is that it takes a lot of evasion (although he doesn't use that term) for criminals to continue this act. Guilt and depression are common among criminals, and they know it's due to their criminal behavior. They fail at everything, from careers to romance and friendships. At some point they do realize that the world doesn't work the way they wish it did, and that what they do is wrong. But they convince themselves that they are basically good, despite the lying and the stealing. I think this could be where the attitude comes from, when someone rather than face their own immoral behavior seeks it out in other people. They need to feel that they are just being singled out, that despite their "flaws" they're no different than anyone else. And they get that reinforcement from many therapists.

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I was not able to keep up with this thread during its initial active period; I am going through it now. Beginning with bborg:

1) If you believe you are worthy of values as such, doesn't it follow that you would feel worthy of any specific value?

First, let's define 'worthy' clearly; it is (this is my own): "to have sufficient value according to the relevant standard".

Although a man may be worthy of values as such, as he is indeed good, he may not be worthy of, i.e. deserve or merit, getting into a top medical school, as his MCAT scores, undergraduate GPA, and skill at experiment would not support that admission.

Or again: although worthy of values as such, he might not merit a car loan, as his FICO score and income are low due to illness and unemployment.

In these cases, he would not, respectively, have the motivation to apply to medical school, or to apply for the loan. Why? Because, according to the standards by which these values are granted, the time and effort would be extremely unlikely to have a positive result -- so unlikely as to make the effort and cost (if any) of applying not worthwhile. Were he to attempt to do so anyway, I think it would feel to him like pushing a tremendous boulder uphill.

2) What does "secure" mean, and why is this a requirement for motivation? Can't you be motivated to pursue a value you might lose (such as a loved one)?

Consider a simple example, a meal. Imagine you are in the wild, and begin to feel hungry -- but there is a man nearby, armed, watching you intently, will follow you should you move -- and will take the meal from you immediately should your effort achieve it. If we assume that he is a fixed variable, so to speak -- nothing at present can be done about him -- what motivation will you have to pursue the achievement of that meal? None, until the situation changes in some significant way. Why? Because even if it were achieved, your hold upon it would not be secure.

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... Motivation refers to the contents (or material) of consciousness.... Motivation, as contents of consciousness, include all the sensory-perceptual material one has processed and retained, premises, standards of value, value-judgments, one's hierarchy of values, and related emotions.

I define motivation simply as the desire to act to achieve a value.

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