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Being a Description of the World

By Eli Siegel


Motive is cause attended by life.

     All motives are causes. But motives imply pleasure and pain; and these imply mind; and mind implies life.

     The first motive that all living things have, is to be. Being implies satisfaction, contentment with, consent to, rest as to, being. To be, in the long run, means a state amounting to wanting to be.

     Being implies rest; pleasure is also rest. But a living being, like all things, is in motion, too; changes. Therefore, for a thing to be means that it find some rest in motion, too. All living beings have as a general, constant motive: 1, to be what they are; 2, to be at rest or have pleasure being what they are; 3, to change as much as possible while still being what they are.

     A being, therefore, has to be, and has to change; and has to feel good about the being and changing. Since the co-presence of rest and change means pleasure, a living thing wants, as that thing, the utmost rest and the utmost change. This also goes for man. Man wants, as man, the utmost rest and the utmost change. This is his big motive.

     Within each being is some state as to its possibilities. It has an unconscious knowledge, feeling, attitude, as to these possibilities. In everything that a living being does, there is a motive. These motives can all be seen as subsidiary to one motive, standing for the living thing as a whole. That one motive is always present. It is, once more: to be what it is; to change as much as it can; to have pleasure.

     As I shall show, though this motive in its triple aspect, is present in man, the aspects, seen no longer as aspects, can come into conflict—or, in the need for pleasure or rest, the desire to be what a thing is can be at odds with the equally basic desire to change as much as a thing can.

© 1945 by Eli Siegel

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