Excuse the late entry, but this is a useful debate.

Jim Roye, I wonder if your point over-relativizes needs. It’s of course true that we’re constantly adapting, hedonic adaptation is not in dispute. But even if we accept your point that Maslow made no distinction between wants and needs (I can’t speak to the validity of this), it still remains that Maslow did create specific categories of needs, and these categories do not stretch on forever in response to hedonic adaptation. There are individual nuances to each individual’s pyramid, sure, but there are also objective categories that transcend idiosyncrasy.

Maslow himself clearly states that by “more or less” addressing each successive category of needs, we move on and shift greater focus to the next. You’re also right that this is in constant flux throughout the day, we can’t simply check off food and never worry about it again. But Maslow writes:

“It is quite true that man lives by bread alone — when there is no bread. But what happens to man’s desires when there is plenty of bread and when his belly is chronically filled?

At once other (and ‘higher’) needs emerge and these, rather than physiological hungers, dominate the organism. And when these in turn are satisfied, again new (and still ‘higher’) needs emerge and so on. This is what we mean by saying that the basic human needs are organized into a hierarchy of relative prepotency”

I find the key word here to be “chronic”. Yes, we fall into the need for food daily, but so long as we have a relative assurance that this need will be met (which is a primary claim of UBI, to provide stable resources for our base survival needs), then ‘higher’ needs emerge to “dominate the organism”.

You seem to claim that the need for food will not be met by UBI because the need will adjust to any basic assurance of food. This seems to ignore the difference between the suffering that comes from objective lack of food, and the suffering that comes from not receiving the kind of food one desires, and it’s precisely this first category of suffering that UBI purports to address, not the second.

There is a qualitative and objective difference between the suffering of a someone who does not eat enough food to support vital functions/cognitive performance and someone who simply doesn’t get the kind of food they want. The same applies to all basic needs; there’s a difference between people who suffer from being homeless, and people suffering from not having the type of home they want, etc.

You could make the counter-argument that there is actually no difference between these cases in suffering, that all suffering and all needs are relative, which seems to be the point you’re stressing, but this strikes me as a position that can only be held by someone who’s never felt the reality, or the qualitative difference, of the suffering resulting from physiological hunger, homelessness, etc., compared with the suffering from not meeting our (infinitely relative) desires.

What do you think? And if I’ve mischaracterized your claims in any way, please feel free to set me straight.

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Interested in many things, like consciousness, meditation & economics. Sure of nothing, like how to exist well, or play the sax (yet). More: www.MusingMind.org.

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