Sunday, July 26, 2020

Motivational Structure

Edited to improve wording.

Hardening adds an important addendum.

What is motivation? "To be moved", "to be moving", "that which keeps you moving". A motivator is something that causes (forces, allures, leads, enables, etc.) a person to do something or become something they ordinarily wouldn't have, or to refrain from doing something or to not become something they ordinarily would have.

If the world is not as it should be, and this has something to do with human decisions, then an ingredient in making the world the way it should be is motivation, motivators.

What is a motivational structure? It's easier for me to describe one first:

In some forms of Buddhism, it can be assumed that you will eventually become enlightened, but you have to work for it. It may take many lifetimes. Millions of years. But someday, you'll make it. Nobody else can work for it for you. You have to take every step yourself. And then finally, you'll be free from the cycle of births and deaths. You work, you have to work, you will work enough.

This is mostly foreign to Christianity (except perhaps in Eastern Orthodoxy, which I don't know enough about to say). Usually, in Christianity, it's assumed that you are more passive. You aren't expected to bring yourself up to a standard. Maybe you'll have to suffer in purgatory (the Roman Catholic doctrine). Or, as a Protestant, you believe that repentance is a finished work at the moment of putting your faith in Jesus, and so whatever part you were to play in living up to the standard is done, and God will take care of the rest, and there is nothing you need to do more.

The "N" of MSLN, the New Wine System, teaches that repentance is a process that takes a long time to complete, that you have to do it yourself, and that you will see it to its conclusion -- much like the Buddhist motivational structure given above. What they may both have in common (certainly I would get this from the Buddhist structure, from my vantage point now as an outsider) is the sense that there is a big task you have to do, you have to do it yourself, and you will do it, and you can do it, so do it -- you might as well start now since you have to and inevitably will do it.

Protestantism could be a tonic against burdening people with work that they can't possibly do -- even if in a sense the work is the work of repentance. There's a difference between "works-righteousness" and "repentance-righteousness", which Protestantism can tend to ignore, protecting against works-righteousness at the risk of losing repentance-righteousness. The motivational structure of works-righteousness is "you never know when the catastrophe is going to hit, and if you don't have enough supplies, you'll die" -- work anxiously to fend off death. The "catastrophe" is "meeting God in a final and decisive way" -- is your inmost being prepared to be one with God? The motivational structure of "anti-works-righteousness" is "you're going to be okay in the end, just get through the moment in an adequate way". The motivational structure of the New Wine System is "the catastrophe is going to take 1,000+ years to hit, so gather all the supplies." So there is a sense of "I have to do this, no one's going to do it for me, I have to take responsibility and take it seriously," but with far less anxiety.

There is or ought to be less anxiety because the conditions for living up to the standard are realistic. You have 1,000 years to do a task some people get close to finishing in 80 years on earth, and which most people could probably finish within 100 years in the Millennium. There, people get new bodies -- new brains. The thing that counts is the heart, the inmost being -- your real preferences, responsiveness, will, intentions. To the extent that we are currently saddled with defective minds that we don't choose or want, or are possessed by evil spirits, these no longer affect us. Likewise, the external culture in the Millennium is one conducive to spiritual maturity, which is not so much the case with what we have on earth. The exact number 1,000 may not be the number of years we get (it comes from Revelation, which is a vision), but the MSLN position is that God wants us to be saved and will give us a generous, although finite, amount of time in which to fully repent. All this to say that requiring people to do what they can do and which they can know that they can do (New Wine System) is different from requiring people to do something which not all of them can do and which they don't know that they can do (works-righteousness). It is also different from not requiring people to do more than some kind of token effort or minimal repentance (the "pray Jesus into your heart and that's all you need" doctrine of anti-works-righteousness).

I've given examples from religion, but what about the secular world? Peter Singer says "expand your moral circle to include everyone". There's a moral imperative -- it's like you're a murderer if you don't give $5,000 to save someone from malaria. After all, once you are aware of the possibility of helping, but don't do it, it was a life you could have saved, but chose not to. This imperative is something that's hard to live up to. So most people hear the word and then kick in a compensating "but we don't really mean that" factor. People are aware of "starving children in Africa". But that compensating factor keeps them from doing what they can. So secular morality is something like a works-righteousness that is too much, crippled by an anti-works-righteousness that is too much. And this situation is operative to a large extent as well in the religious world.

Secular morality has the disadvantage over religious morality of having no solid enforcement behind it. People sometimes enforce it, but not always. Guilt feelings help enforce it, but if you can get around those, and societal pressures, you're fine, and thus not necessarily motivated. What is needed is a motivator which has enforcement behind it which is reasonable.

A religious person could object that having enforcement behind a motivator makes it so people only change out of fear of the enforcement. While this is a risk, if truly pursued, working to repent ought to get a person away from fear, because repentance involves coming to trust God and becoming a real person -- those who trust and are real do not fear enforcement, but enforcement is in some ways helpful with those who do not yet fully trust and are not yet fully real, helping produce trust and reality.

Can the "1,000+ year deadline" approach really change a person's deepest intentions and disposition? Can we come to love God based on a deadline? Or don't we have to simply wait for God to work in us? Certainly you can't make God speak in your life before his time. But there is an extent to which your will can produce changes in your behavior, beliefs, desires, and so on, affecting who you really are deep down.

Secular and religious morality are things that might be held "officially", assented to rationally, held to be good by some person by their own lights. It's possible to design a logical morality to be assented to rationally. But the real motivational structures of people are generally both rational and irrational. You may believe that something is true but not know it with your body. People can be motivated by physical hungers (food, sex, companionship), compulsions (perfectionism, compulsive sympathy), fatigue (physical fatigue, some kinds of physical nihilism or derealization, compassion fatigue), irrational or less-rational anger, inertia (habitual conservatism, stubbornness, irrational determination), irrational fear (of death, poverty, shame, etc.), boredom, or whatever else. These motivations can form their own interrelationships and be supported by different psychological realities to form motivational structures. And they may take up the majority of a person's thought life, at times. But sometimes, we can be rational, and choose the motivational structures that help us and follow from what we (rather than our drives) actually believe is the truth. And over time, those small moments of rationality set your life on a different course than if you had used them for a different purpose.

A motivational structure says "there is a reason for you to act or change, and there is some reason you have, to think you can act or change." A motivational structure can say "don't worry", "don't despair", "don't be complacent", (all which can turn people away from trying), and also say "it is to your advantage, it is instrumentally rational, to start now" -- all of these messages combined in a mutually supportive structure.

Perhaps "motivational structure" can be defined as "the imperative to do a particular thing, and the supporting psychological materials (e.g. beliefs) that help make that happen". Perhaps something like a particular "do something" and its epiconcept.

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