Tuesday, August 3, 2010


First off, you should be motivated to go back to last Tuesday and answer the question, after answering this question. Today's question is, are your motivations, professionally and for hobbies, are intrinsic of instrumental?

I talked with Max, trying to nail down what he meant by internal or external, and could not get it to my satisfaction, so I have changed the question slightly. To a philosopher, something with intrinsic value is done for its own sake, while something with instrumental value is done to accomplish another task. Thus someone who volunteers at a soup kitchen to help the homeless is probably finding intrinsic value, the act is of itself worthwhile. One who volunteers to impress a lovely young lady is getting instrumental value out of the action. A concert pianist might get both from playing, assuming they enjoy it there is intrinsic value, but they can also make a living, which is instrumental.

Ok, that's the question, you should answer it, or at least just think about it, because it is an interesting question. My own answer, starting with professional. Most of what I do professionally is instrumentally motivated, which, for those in the know, is probably a big factor with how unsatisfied I have been feeling with what I'm doing. My actual work, teaching, is almost completely instrumental, for the living I get, and out of a sense of obligation to the students (I'm not a monster ;)). Once my classes get rolling, my motivation is mostly instrumental, for grades and such, but I keep taking the maximum course load, and not out of any need to get credits or the like, so there is a measure of intrinsic motivation there (that is, there is empirical evidence that on some level I still am interested in math).

My hobbies, on the other hand, are mostly intrinsically motivated. Reading is probably entirely intrinsically motivated, although there are some neat results that you get from reading, they aren't why I do it. Writing here is a mix. I do it even when I get no feedback, which indicates a measure of intrinsic value, and one of my goals with my writing inspire your own thoughts and edification, regardless of whether I hear about it, so more intrinsic. However, writing is more rewarding when I receive feedback or you share the thoughts you have about my topic, extrinsic. On the other hand, one of my goals from the feedback is to better create posts that you want to think about, intrinsic.

There's my answer, and I would like to hear yours for a variety of reasons. Been busy, so haven't posted much outside my scheduled Tuesdays and Fridays, don't know if that will continue. First post of Response August sometime Friday or Saturday, I have evening plans, so if I don't get it up early it will either go up late or sometime Saturday. I am still looking for more post suggestions, but lacking that I will redo my Atheists are Immoral Animals post. Considering the disagreement I got, I think a restatement could be safely considered something you have requested.

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