Curiosity vs. Greed: Why Do We Want Stuff and Is It a Bad Thing?

in philosophy •  2 years ago

Is greed bad?

It certainly can be a source of suffering. If we want something and can't get it, it creates negative feelings. Or if we want more than we need and somebody who really needs it can't get it because of us. But is it actually bad?

Our bodies as well as our minds have evolved to the current state. Everything we have must be good for something. Or, if it's not good in itself, it must be a side effect of something good for us. What is greed good for?

Greed keeps us progressing

It makes us want what we see in others. As kids we want the same (or better) toys as other kids have. We wanna learn to do things our parents do. It's our greed that keeps us getting better and better by making us have / know / feel what others have / know / feel. Maybe when the greed is positive we can call it curiosity, and only when we want too much it's called greed. But where is the boundary?

I would like to make a metaphor here. Let's look at the computer. When we start it, some predefined booting procedure begins loading some basic programs like operating system and when it's done the computer is ready to use. You can do anything with it, run any program which can be run.

Curiosity makes us acquire things and skills which allow us to live in the same way the booting procedure starts up the computer which allows us to use it.

What would happen if the booting procedure didn't know where to stop?

It would be loading more and more programs cluttering up the memory, producing unnecessary data, which would fill up the hard disk, until the point when the computer would be completely useless.

Where is the boundary between curiosity and greed?
How do we find out which things we really need and which are just unnecessary luxury?
How do we find out what knowledge is really helpful and what is only a waste of time?

What do you think?

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"Where is the boundary between curiosity and greed?
How do we find out which things we really need and which are just unnecessary luxury?
How do we find out what knowledge is really helpful and what is only a waste of time?"

These are questions each individual must answer for him or herself, but in many ways I think they are answered simply by being asked. An individual who asks these questions is seeking balance around these issues - questioning his or her own habits, boundaries, assumptions, and knee jerk reactions - and will inevitably find it, although I think it's a continuous process, like balancing on a tightrope.

When human beings fail to ask themselves these kinds of questions, that's when imbalance risks becoming pathological, and can have disastrous repercussions ;)

I think there's a difference between greed and sharing, but its an interesting point that greed keeps us progressing. I wonder: could generosity keep us progressing?

This is an age old question, that can only be answered by turning it on its side.

The only wrong thing stated was: "and somebody who really needs it can't get it because of us". This statement is evil. I will try to explain why after.

Greed is an important driver. Like you said, very little gets done without a motivating force behind it. Growing hunger is probably one of the most destructive drivers. People will eat their seed crop (what is being stored to grow next years crop). Entire eco-systems will be devastated.

Greed is much more benign. There is little that you can do in a fair economy that doesn't benefit lots of people. If you build something that someone else wants because you want money (to get something else) then all the people are better off. Only when you start thinking in terms of limiting other people so that you can have the most, does this break down.

The other part is, stuff. It actually takes part of your life's energy for everything in your life. It all drags you down. Talk to anyone who has lost most everything, and they often say that they felt so free afterwards.

So, a balancing act of what you desire and stuff is essential.
Right now, we could build products that last 100 years. But, if we did, everyone would have everything and most stores would have to shut down.

Someone can't get something because of us. There is enough food, housing and clothing for everyone. It is a fact. However, greedy (people who want to have something at the expense of other people) powerful people have taken steps to keep these things appearing scarce.

After buying a house in a community, they decide to pass a zoning ordnance that states all houses need to be bigger then 2000 sq. ft. (To keep property values high...) but what this is really doing is, those who have gotten a house, are now pulling up the ladders so that the next generation cannot attain what they have.

The idea of guilting people for wanting something is form of evil advertisement. Like, everyone one in America should feel guilty because they have a refrigerator and all the 3rd world nations don't. When, it is more appropriate to say that America got together and built a refrigerator for all of us, and they didn't. We built all the supporting structures, and they didn't.

Now, there was a lot of exploitation going on that kept 3rd world countries 3rd world. But, Detroit had unions and mafia, and that didn't stop them from developing a huge industry.


This statement is evil.

This sounds very Ayn Randish ;) I agree that nobody should try to guilt you into wanting less. But I would rather discuss the personal perspective, not the forces from others.


I mean, it IS evil. The very statement is soul crushing. The inevitable conclusion from fallowing that train of thought is world destruction.

As in, humans are bad for the environment, conclusion, we should kill all the humans to save the environment. (Ignoring that humans can also be good for the environment)

The only proper way, if there is something that is necessary for life, is to make it as freely available to everyone.

To say that someone shouldn't have something because there are more needy people ... it destroys the efforts of those that would make it, get it made, get its price down...

The statement should be, lets work out how to make more.
not, lets hold ourselves back because someone might need it more.

(then we could get into the conflicts of scarcity vs abundance mindset.)

God post @hr1 interesting ideas you put over the table. Are you maybe interested into get this and some other posts translated into Spanish language? Let me know, keep up the good work :)


Sure, go ahead... Please, just reference the original posts.. Thanks


Cool, thanks a lot :) Btw, you can see examples of other translations in my translation-blog @trans-juanmi, always with a reference to the author and the post in the title and at the end. And I will leave you the links of the translated post in the comments of the post. Cheers!

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Excellent post. I followed and upvoted.

It depends on which moral philosophy we wish to adopt. If we're being minimalists, then all we need is a smattering of food and regular fresh water and a safe place to sleep. From there, we can assume that each advantageous item (bathroom, bedroom, refrigerator) is then just a luxury that does not determine if we live or die, necessarily.

If we're looking at it from a utilitarian perspective, then all we need is what we'd call the "basics" of modern society: Apt, computer, bed, clothes, etc. Only if we cross over into "bling" territory for these categories would it become unnecessary luxury. Think of a basic sneaker vs. an "Air Jordan".

All of this depends on the individual, and the moral construction of their ethics. Knowledge that doesn't help reinforce this structure would be considered "a waste," even though it may be of value to a different individual.

Ultimately, I don't see greed itself as bad. Rampant greed can surely have terrible consequences, but in moderation it can also be a motivator, as you say.

Thanks for making me think on my lunch break :)


Of course it's subjective, but how should one determine how much one needs? I feel like I can always get rid of one more thing.. :-)


We definitely share that common struggle. Ironically, I have a weird thing about keeping cables and tech wires. I'm not sure they connect to anything anymore, but I'll be damned if I'll risk it haha

I think greed and other such words are quite judgemental. Humans function in ways different than we usually judge each other. I don't think there's anything wrong in wanting, or being ambitious.

However when we call someone greedy, we might not see under the surface. That person might be acting out from an unresolved issue from their childhood where they never had enough and this is presenting itself as what the outside world sees as greed.

Sorry, just a rant :)

Hiya! I know this post is ancient, in steemit years, but I just found it. I wanted to comment because you're right. I teach about emotions based on the work of Karla McLaren, and while we call it Envy, it's basically as you describe here. That emotion is what tells us what we want, and what is fair, and gives us energy to go after it. The balance is found when all of the other emotions are given their proper place as well. When they are allowed to flow freely, they all work together in a beautiful dance. I'm going to be posting more about emotions soon, and also starting a podcast show on the MSP discord channel in August, if you're interested in chatting more about it! :D Thanks for your post, (and the upvotes you've given to my own).

I think in day like 2017 where we think of only few men having luxury.....when in contrast to the money that is spent on war machines and bringing others down......for instance instead of having better computer chips out of greed, or better land/oil/prices out of greed and the willingness to let greed cause human death destruction and suffering.
Imagine just 20-40-100 years of complete/ mostly peace/ very little people inprisioned/oppressed. The fun "competitions" and strive for comfortable/luxury items could be in conquest on the deep see. Schools could compete for better subs/ faster/deeper.
Larger lusher greener gardens/foods/cafeterias for children and old people. Education designed for old folks and homes for near death people that rival wild dreams, without harming animals and ecosystem in the process, but instead working with them.
We could be competing for the highest overall broadband internet. I mean getting internet to the world is great....but will be fast everywhere? will be free? I would compete for those......why will so many other let greed instead charge for these things so that they can have a nicer thing rather than give a nicer thing?
Could we not instill the attitude of accepting gifts from others and wishing to give a bigger one in return?
Imagine the items we would be creating instead of destroying ...

If only nation states back when had decided to work together for riches rather than kill whole cities for gold/tools/books ect.

This does all stem from words/emotions/our frontal lobes/ our subconscious and how we balance all these together. I have found studying NLP/Hypnosis to being a huge key into balancing out exactly what I want in life, the future I want, how to talk and get it, notice im getting it, as well work together with my subconscious to better understand how powerful our words our and how to more strategically use them for my/our advantage.

I think your last question is one to be debated over the people who believe in a big picture long term humanity view of things vs. people who just do not care, want to live a life of ignorance/ instant gratification and generally just need some decent education.
If it causes harm to others, or take away form others/enviroment, it should be avoided. If it helps others, or builds the future its probably a better bet.

Like intense marketing to get people addicted to gambling and drinking
vs not having gambling like in current casinos/apps/comp games.
You could instead be targeting the same type of knowledge into finding education, job placement, something else other than having people infront of blinking machine hoping for a big pay out day in day out as millions goes into r&d on continuing that cycle.

For fuck sake we could have free energy if casinos were just set up to put all profits into solar/r&d on green energy.

In 1980s Texas decided to not make the words largest Large Hadron favor of a military budget to go to war in the middle east over oil or whatever.....I mean thats a whole science field trip that hits home for student like me in DFW Texas who was in public school from the 1990-2012....I never had a teacher tell me that instead of learning science texas speant its month on better tanks and bombs to kill brown people who live in sandy shitty war torn part of the world.....
That sucks knowing that greed in military out beat interest in science .
It most likely did not..just a few rich men who make the big decisions let it happen then and still now.

Curiosity can also drive exploration.

Curiosity with a little greed can make us take chances that we would not normally take.

Steem on,

Thanks for the upvote on my latest post. I really love this post. Ive found that the more i meditate and spend time giving thanks for what i have, i feel that i need less and less to make me happy. In the last 2 years i adopted a more 'Minimalist' lifestyle and tried to fill my life 'DOING' more things and experiencing life more rather than Buying things to try and cheer myself up. I also found that Minimalism helped me realise that i really dont need all the things i accumulated and that most of these things werent actually making me happy.

Si me permite mi punto de vista, la avaricia en mi opinión personal es diferente a uno trazarse metas y querer llegar lejos muy lejos, porque si bien muchos tenemos necesidades y siempre queremos lograr la estabilidad, muchos no tenemos lujos, y no hablo solo por ser venezolano, y en las circunstancias en la que me encuentro, pero si muchas personas del mundo viviera lo que nosotros vivimos a diario, se darian cuenta que tener poco es tener mucho y valoramos lo que tenemos, un trabajo con un buen salario, poder comer bien e incluso ayudar a los que no tienen tanto. Si lo vemos de otro punto de vista de alguien que ya lo tiene todo y quiere mas solo para tener mas poder, allí si estaríamos hablando de avaricia y codicia, dependiendo de lo que quiere claro esta. Pienso que uno tiene que aprovechar de aprender todo en la vida no solo esta en el estudio, esta en nuestro entorno crecemos mas como personas que como profesionales, conozco muchos profesionales y de verdad como persona no lo son, creo que me desvie un poco del tema, disculpen