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What causes our will to learn/understand?

  1. Dec 31, 2005 #1
    Recently I have become more interested in how my car works, and what I can do to help service and maintain it. Last night I was wondering why I wanted to learn about engines and understand the workings of my car, and that question soon followed into the one in the title of this thread.

    If we disregard both egoistic (learning about cars to impress your mates, or to be someone who others look up to as knowledegable) and humanistic (learning about cars so you can help others when their's break) reasons for learning, then what is left? Why do we seek to understand things around us? Humanistic and egoistic reasons may contribute to my thirst for an understanding, but they definatly don't seem to make up the bulk of it.

    At first I thought I was learning about my car so that I could really appreciate it, and instead of just being a passenger riding on the surface form of my car, I was involved in it's substance and therefore more connected to it. But then that would mean to really feel part of something you have to understand it?! I don't understand much f the world around me but I still appreciate and feel part of it, and sometimes I feel that learning more about something, and understanding the world in scientific terms can take away from a feeling of oneness.

    What do you think?

    I think I am really just terrible at answering relatively simple questions, I always get hung up on little things.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 31, 2005 #2


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    Being more closely involved with your car's inner functions enables you to feel more personally satisfied. When this was not the case when you purchased your vehicle, it slowly evolved into the present condition as you were influenced by surrounding factors. These factors can be diverse and large in number but appreciation is most definitely a major contributive factor to your desire of gaining a complex understanding about cars. Perhaps the vehicle was expensive, possesses an attractive appearence, runs and rides smoothly, etc. Other influential factors may include your friends, family and even TV programs.
  4. Dec 31, 2005 #3
    It seems to me that the various features that have developped in living organisms must have developped in a manner that makes their use more natural than their non-use. What would be the survival advantage for a fish to develop fins if they don't get used as a matter of fact? Likewise with intelligence, it must have naturally developped along with its spontaneous inclination to be used. We are surely hard-wired to do so. Otherwise what would be the point?
  5. Jan 4, 2006 #4
    I agree with DM, there are so many things that influence you on a daily basis, which you are oblivious to, that it's next to impossible to pinpoint the exact cause of a decision. Why, for example, would one turn left instead of right to avoid running into a person in an empty white room? Many factors influence this, ones that are obvious, and others much more complex.

    There is no fundamental way to answer your question. To do so would be to define why we prefer one thing over another. This involves contrasting likes and dislikes, which are still a mystery (on a fundamental level) as far as I know.

    Sorry we couldn't help more :P
  6. Jan 7, 2006 #5
    I agree with Orefa there. About 2 months ago I started hitting the history books and wondered why on earth am I so preoccupied with remembering the names of every player in a certain historical event!?

    Afterall, I already swore not to flaunt my knowledge after I have acquired it so what is the use of remembering a name of some dead guy? Ain't exactly science.

    We survive because of our intelligence. It's just telling us to use it.

    I suppose one could consciously deny the urge to learn as a way of "sticking it to the man". Just to prove that we are truly free!

    That's a good excuse. Then I can take an hour break without reading any more. Phew. :)
  7. Jan 7, 2006 #6
    Is curiosity an emotion? If so what would cause it to grow?
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