Friday, August 03, 2007

The seven reasons people do things

In light of Wednesdays report by the New York Times that researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have discovered 237 reasons why people have sex (apparently in addition to the obvious one), I thought it might be useful to point out that there are only seven reasons that anyone does anything. And lest I be accused of a cooking up a misguided and dangerous psychological novelty, let me point out that this comes from Aristotle's book, Rhetorica.

We join wisdom in progress, from Chapter 10 of Book I, as Aristotle explains:
Now every action of every person either is or is not due to that person himself. Of those not due to himself some are due to chance, the others to necessity; of these latter, again, some are due to compulsion, the others to nature. Consequently all actions that are not due to a man himself are due either to chance or to nature or to compulsion. All actions that are due to a man himself and caused by himself are due either to habit or to rational or irrational craving. Rational craving is a craving for good, i.e. a wish--nobody wishes for anything unless he thinks it is good. Irrational craving is twofold, viz. anger and appetite.
In other words, the seven reasons people do things are:
  1. Chance
  2. Nature
  3. Compulsion
  4. Habit
  5. Rational craving
  6. Anger
  7. Appetite
Now I don't want to belabor the obvious, ... but, come to think of it, that is what I spend 95 percent of my time doing anyway. In fact, according the blog subtitle, that is my chief purpose. In any case, in regard to the intrepid researchers at the University of Texas at Austin who are trying to figure out why people have sex, they could have made their job a lot easier by observing this ancient and honorable canon. If they had done so, they would have discerned that there are only a small number of possible reasons for people having sex.

I'm tempted here to offer a pop quiz as to which they are, but this is supposed to be a G-rated blog, and I think I want to move on to another topic now.

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