{Of all lies, art is the least untrue - Flaubert}

Thursday, October 07, 2004


Desire is one aspect of life which is almost always seen in bad light. Most of the religious philosophies put a theory of restrain when it comes to desire. Some of the branches of Buddhism/Hinduism say "desire is the root of suffering and stands in the way of enlightenment". Lets leave the second part of the statement as I am not clear what they mean by 'enlightenment' (Can be discussed separately, check out this blog :))). We will stick to desire here.

First of all, why a theory of restrain? Can we not flourish with a unconstrained approach. One reason may be because constrain puts limits to equations and used to get more quick (rather easy) answers.

Its difficult but lets imagine a world without an iota of desire. People donot have any motives. People live and die. They donot try to improve themselves, their surroundings simply because all are surviving. But with limited resources, increasing population will imbalance the equation, and if we say they donot even have the desire to multiply, they will die down anyway (assuming they cannot live forever). So to satisfy this equation, either resources should grow or only some of the people should survive. But who should survive, the one who have desire to or the one without it. Obviously, the set of people having desire to survive. Others will not. So desire is as elementary an idea that will decide our survival.
One more striking thing which comes up is that the religious philosophies which preach to shun desire are ultimately aimed at ending all life. Seems strange.

If we move from basic desire to survive to more complex desires like to create, to improve, to invent, to discover, to question, to think.., the bigger picture will emerge. Putting restrain on desire directly put restrain on our growth and freedom. Then why all this bad-talk about desire.

One of the reason may be as desire is the driving force for all (all good and all bad). It may be viewed as a necessary evil. Again the moral question of good and bad surges. The desire to kill a person is bad. The desire to love is good. But not everything is as black and white as this. Is desire to compete good or bad? Is desire to make money good or bad? Is desire to progress good or bad ? Here comes the restrain theory whose non conservative approach says everything in moderate amount is not bad. But this theory is flawed in this respect also because of its vagueness, an infinite possibility of misuse by the chosen few and because of a direct conflict with the basic idea of freedom.

So here again we have more questions than answers. Desire is essential but 'what type of' and 'what amount of' desire is necessary or can be tolerated in a society. Will moderating/policing desire bring more evil than good. What happens if your desire to do something becomes your passion (Theory of restrain fails utterly here)... What if survival is not our primary desire. ... ?? What about self fulfillment ... ??


Saurabh said...

Desire cannot be foresaken without the desire to foresake desire. Hence it is not possible to have a world without desire. Those who condemn desire just don't know what they are saying or are being misinterpreted.

Coming to the next question - should desires be policed (and I will not go into the good-bad issue). If A has a desire and B has the power and intention to police A's desire but if A does not want his desire to be policed and is somehow able to prevent B from policing his desire then this would mean that A was successful in policing B's desire to police A's desire. I am not trying to play with words here - just taking what you already said to the next level. And we see that if someone has the desire to police someone's desire then it is not possible to have a world without desires getting policed.

And let's leave enlightenment and morality issue for some other day.

anurag said...

You are right Saurabh about the versatility of a desire, it can be as simple as to eat an apple to as complex as you have given an example.

After reading your comment, it came to me that most of the time our desire are affected by desire of others. Its like there is an apple and we both want to eat it. I may think in a number of ways to get the apple, one of which may be to stop your desire to get it, other may be to get it before you do, yet other way may be to work my best within my potential and moral (??) and other limitations to get the apple( the emphasis here is not to harm others) and a lot of others (All of this will effect (police or otherwise) your desire to get an apple). Some extremes which come to my mind are, to stop my desire to eat the apple or to kill you to get that apple and any other future apples ;))... Yes, policing of desire of other persons is not going to help. Probably, then *checking* our desires within the boundaries we respect as moral, is going to help to us and others. Some light on this required !