The law of the ultimate motivation of ethical behavior: Qualitative analysis of human nature

Introduction: The ultimate motivation of ethical behavior—love and hatred, personal pain and pleasure, as well as the desires of self-interest

In analyzing the ultimate motivation of ethical behavior it can only be found in desires and emotion, not in the reason. As Fung Yulan said: “Reason has no force and desire is blind.”21 And, according to Liang Qichao: “Reason only can let people know what they ought to do and how they ought to do it, but cannot force people to do it. Only emotion can lead people to do it.”22

Psychology shows that so-called emotion is the psychological response of the subject to whether or not its needs are satisfied by the object. This kind of psychological response may point to the object, and thus is the subject’s psychological response to the object as to whether the object satisfies its needs; it may also point to the subject itself, and thus is the psychological response of the subject as to whether or not its needs are satisfied. For example:

Pleasure and pain are the emotions directing the subject, and are the subject’s psychological response to whether its needs are satisfied because pleasure is the subject’s psychological response to the satisfaction of its needs, and pain is the subject’s response to the dissatisfaction of its needs. On the contrary, love and hatred are the emotions directing the object, which is the subject’s psychological response to the object which satisfies or impedes its needs, because so-called love, as many philosophers indicated, is the subject’s psychological response to the cause of its pleasure, that is, the subject’s psychological response to the object which satisfies its needs; hatred is the subject’s psychological response to the cause of its pain, that is, the subject’s psychological response to the object which impedes the satisfaction of its needs.

Emotion can be divided into basic emotions and non-basic emotions. Modern psychology identifies four kinds of basic emotions: pleasure, anger, sadness, and fear. It goes without saying that anger, sadness, and fear are the three main forms of pain, we can reduce the four to the two the basic emotions of pleasure and pain such that one is “the most basic positive emotion” and one is “the most basic negative emotion.”23 Furthermore, both pleasure and pain are the production of desires: pleasure is the psychological response when desires are satisfied; pain is the psychological response when desires are not satisfied. Therefore, desire is the most basic emotion, while pleasure and pain respectively are the most basic positive and negative emotions. More precisely, pain, and pleasure are the most basic positive and negative emotions that direct the subject; and since love and hate are derived from pleasure and pain they are the most positive and negative emotions directed to the object.

Almost all philosophers, psychologists, or any ordinary person would admit that “need” is the ultimate motivation of action—what we might otherwise term as a fundamental “non-ends cause of action.” However, if we analyze “need” in depth, we find that it cannot directly cause an individual’s actions. Only when the need is experienced and transformed into emotions— emotion is the psychological experience of whether need is satisfied—can it cause action: that is, need can only cause various psychological experiences concerning needs, i.e., emotions such as desire, pleasure, pain, love and hate etc., and only emotions can cause the ends of action, which are the cause of the means of the behavior that actualize it. In the overall process of behavior then, emotions such as desire, pain, pleasure, love, and hate, are the ultimate motivations that directly cause everyone’s action, while need is the ultimate motivation that indirectly causes everyone’s action.

This argument has been proved by the experiments of modern psychology. The research findings of Tomkins, a psychologist of ultimate motivational theory, indicate that the bare signal of the physical needs itself cannot cause action: “the first system of ultimate motivation is the system of emotion; the internal drive of a creature can only be motivated by the amplification of the emotional system.”24 For example, the signals of the physiological need to replenish water provided by cell dehydration and reduced blood volume do not trigger the act of drinking water. The physiological need to replenish water requires only the magnification of the thirst and urgency that it produces to trigger the act of drinking water:

The urgency of thirst is the fundamental non-purpose cause or ultimate motivation of the behavior of drinking water; while the physiological need to replenish water is the non-purpose cause or ultimate motivation that indirectly induce the actions of drinking water.

From above, we know, on the one hand, that emotion is the ultimate motivation of all kinds of actions; on the other hand, that desire is the most basic emotion, that pain and pleasure are the most basic positive and negative emotions directing the subject, and that love and hate, which are derived from pain and pleasure, are the most basic positive and negative emotions directing to the object. In combination: desire is the ultimate motivation behind all actions, and pain, pleasure, love, and hate are the positive and negative ultimate motivations that cause all actions. We also know that ethical behavior belongs to the category of action, so desire is the ultimate motivation that causes all ethical behaviors, and pain, pleasure, love, and hate are the positive and negative ultimate motivations causing all ethical behaviors. As this is just the introduction to our research for the law of ethical behaviors, the research will further indicate that love and hate are the ultimate motivations of all ethical behaviors, and that personal pain and pleasure, as well as the desires of self-interest, are the deepest ultimate motivation that directly cause love and hate then indirectly cause all ethical behaviors.

 
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