Needs Versus Wants
Q&A Radio: 7 June 2015, Question 1
I answered a question on needs versus wants on 7 June 2015. You can listen to or download the podcast of just this question below – or check out the whole episode of Philosophy in Action Radio.
Is the distinction between needs and wants valid? Anti-capitalist philosophers such as Giles Deleuze accuse the capitalist system of depending on blurring the distinction between needs and wants and tyrannizing over us by implanting artificial needs into our minds. In contrast, George Reisman justifies capitalist extravagance on the basis that human needs are technically infinite and that our needs expand as we become more affluent. Who is right? Is the distinction between needs and wants valid or not? Is it useful in thinking about ethics or politics?
My Answer, In Brief: Needs are the universal requirements for sustaining human life — what every person requires to survive and flourish. Wants, I suggest, are the particular ways that a person desires to satisfy his needs based on his own context, preferences, and resources. Needs and wants do not merely differ in importance, and a person’s rational wants should not be regarded as unimportant.
- Duration: 28:08
- Download: MP3 Segment (9.7 MB)
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About Philosophy in Action
I'm Dr. Diana Brickell (formerly Diana Hsieh). I'm a philosopher, and I've long specialized in the application of rational principles to the challenges of real life. I completed my Ph.D in philosophy from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2009. I retired from work as a public intellectual in 2015.
From September 2009 to September 2015, I produced a radio show and podcast, Philosophy in Action Radio. In the primary show, my co-host Greg Perkins and I answered questions applying rational principles to the challenges of real life. We broadcast live over the internet on Sunday mornings.
My first book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame, can be purchased in paperback and Kindle. The book defends the justice of moral praise and blame of persons using an Aristotelian theory of moral responsibility, thereby refuting Thomas Nagel's "problem of moral luck." My second book (and online course), Explore Atlas Shrugged, is a fantastic resource for anyone wishing to study Ayn Rand's epic novel in depth.
I can be reached via e-mail to email@example.com.