PQ 3.4 — Am I seeking to have my needs met at the expense of the well-being of others?
This is another one of the chapter-end questions that seems to be leading the reader towards a few defined paths. It isn’t set up well for an essay, at least not an interesting one. But to be fair, that probably wasn’t at all what Veaux and Rickert had in mind when they wrote these questions in More than Two. The questions are intended for self-reflection, not as writing prompts.
But of course, I decided to answer them all with essays, so here I am. I literally did this to myself.
So… “Am I seeking to have my needs met at the expense of the well-being of others?”
Two obvious answer possibilities emerge:
- Yes. And I should probably stop. Let’s rethink this.
- No. Full steam ahead. Good on me for making greeeeeeeat decisions.
Number 2 (“Yay for me making good choices!”) seems like a particularly nauseating essay for a reader to slog through. Self-congratulatory Poly Honor Student. Oversimplified. Insincere.
And of course, much seems simplified with number 1 as well.
This Question Isn’t Complex Enough for the Issue
I sat with this question a while and realized something: It’s reaching for a simplicity that doesn’t exist.
There are certainly situations that don’t fall in one of these two categories. Situations where what you need and what another person needs are at odds with one another. And something’s gotta give.
And it’s not clear what.
Sometimes? Not everyone gets what they want. Or need.
Needing and Wanting
The Chapter 3 questions are all asked in the context of ones to ask to evaluate whether your choices are ethical. And if something is truly a need, and not just a want, why would it be unethical to reach for it? Regardless of the consequences to others. You need it. It’s required.
So perhaps what we’re talking about here is wants. And not needs. Because otherwise, this question makes considerably less sense.
This is no minor distinction: wants versus needs.
It’s when we confuse wants with needs? Well, that’s when we really damage the well-being of others.