Primary wants of Man

Gandhi believes that Western Civilization, concerned with the advancement of machinery (which I had read as analogous to “technology”), is “godless” and immoral. I found Gandhi’s approach to technology very interesting and composed of some interesting threads of moral fabric, a few of which i listed below:

1) “The machine should not be allowed to cripple the limbs of man”. The machine should not encroach upon the individuality of man.

2) Gandhi rules out machines that “do not satisfy any of the primary wants of man.”

He rules out cars because ““..it is not the primary need of man to traverse distances with the rapidity of a motor car.”

3) Gandhi would rule out all machines if he could, but “machines will remain because, like the body, they are inevitable”.

The ideas of Gandhi listed above seem to be intertwined with culture, or rather, his view on what “true civilization” is. To him, true happiness arises from the proper use of hands and feet. His forefathers opposed using machinery not because they did not know how to invent them, but because if they had used them, they would “become slaves and lose our moral fibre”.

I want to (and as of now, am more inclined to) believe that our happiness is relative to the time and culture we live in. In the digital society in which I live, technology is pervasive and intertwined into our social and professional lives. Our happiness adapted to immense use of technology. Facebook does not make us more lonely (as INFO 203 would have taught us that such an idea is technologically deterministic). Our minds are flexible and we, as social beings, are here because we, if anything, are good at adapting to our environments. The “primary wants of man” are culturally relativistic.

Gandhi speaks of “primary wants of man”. He speaks of “primary needs of man”. He also writes of the “individuality of man”. Using hands and feet trump using machines. Such phrases remind me of Tagore and the idea of a sort of essentialized man – a human in his or her purest form. Those ideas are enticing to me.

I don’t have a specific question but a rather broad one. Do we have a set of “primary wants” unphased by culture? Is there a pure way of life, such as using hands and feet for work as opposed to machinery? Or is such an idea relativistic? A few hours a day on desktop or mobile devices seems to be normal for most. At what point does it seem unnatural and not satisfying “primary wants of man”? 8 hours? 10 hours? 12 hours?

1 thought on “Primary wants of Man

  1. I think part of the beauty of humanity is our diversity. Beyond a shared set of primary needs (e.g., food and shelter), our wants differ greatly. I refuse to believe that there is one “right” way to live, and therefore one possible path to purity.

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