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Talking about human needs, suppose that there are two possibilities:

  1. We have a need called A and that would be definitely possible to satisfy A anytime we desire.
  2. We do not have any need called A, and therefore there is no need to satisfy it at all.

My question is: Supposing that satisfying needs is always joyful, which of the above options is more preferred?

Let's take eating as something humankind needs to do in order to survive. Given there is no poor man living on the planet earth, and it's always possible to eat anything you want without much effort, and given that eating is always joyful, what would you prefer more? Is it preferred to have this need and satisfy it, or is it more preferred to completely eliminate the need for eating? The point is that if you didn't need to eat, you would also lose the joy of eating.

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There are some caveats to having desires, even if we can satisfy them and even if satisfying them is always joyful (I will go with these premises even though I don't believe, that it's always joyful to satisfy a desire).

  1. Conflicting desires Assume you have more than one desire at a given time. Lets say you are hungry and you are tired. You have a meal and you have a bed available, but you cannot eat while you are asleep. So either you go to sleep hungry or you eat sleepy. Although you enjoy the meal the overall experience might be a bad one, because it eating gives you less pleasure than it pains you to fight against your fatigue.

  2. Short-Term-Satisfaction Assume that satisfying a desire will reduce your happiness in the future. Lets say you have a desire to kill your wife, but you are a deeply moral man. Now you have two options: Either you give in to your desire and have a short moment of satisfaction but a lifetime of self-hatred and remorse. Or you don't kill her and your desire to kill her will remain unsatisfied indefinitely. Either way you are better off without the desire.

  3. Dependency on satisfying objects Even if (as you stipulated) a given desire can always be satisfied, you will always know that you are dependent on the objects you need to satisfy it. Let's assume, you are an alcoholic, you do enjoy drinking and you have infinit supplies of alcohol. Still the dependency alone is something that can make you feel uncomfortable. You will have worries: "What if someone steels my supply? What if I make a long trip and have no access to it? What if it is empty one day?". All of that can never happen (as you stipulated), but it's the dependency alone that will trigger those sorrows. Some alcoholics stopped drinking just because of that, because they wanted to be free, to don't be dependent on the satisfying object, to not have the desire to drink.

  4. The joy of satisfaction is (usually) smaller than the displeasure of having a desire If it was the other way around, all people would constantly try to be bitten by mosquitoes. Why? Because it is satisfying to scratch a mosquito-bite! People could constantly experience the joy of scratching: It's free, you can do it everywhere and the desire to scratch would never seize. Instead we see people going to great length to kill mosquitoes. Also people don't stand for prolonged durations just because it causes the desire to sit down, followed by the joy of finally sitting down.

  • I really like your answer and appreciate it. Just out of curiosity, are these your own thoughts or have you read about them somewhere before? In the second case, could you please refer me to the book or website where I can study more about this subject? Thank you. – Meysam Aug 30 '14 at 8:12
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I don't think there is a uniform answer, if you have any value beyond 'joy'. I think the ultimate way to choose between things that affect all of humanity, is to determine the effect of a change on our future, not on our 'joy'. And our needs cause us to serve various purposes to the world.

For instance, a world without sex would lack more than the fulfillment of sex -- It would stop natural evolution and take away part of our family bonding, and I think those would be losses.

On the other hand, not having to eat could be a positive thing. (Especially if you could taste things without consuming them -- your question did not rule out joy without need.) It would separate some aspects of our survival from a drain on the resources of the planet, and allow for a more sustainable world.

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