Needs, Goals and Errors
All living creatures are intentional in the sense that they all project
themselves into the world every day to get what they need. All living creatures
have needs, goals, drives and strategies. Intention does not usually include a
well-developed conscious plan, except in unusual circumstances.
Young children are random little creatures. They do all sorts of things that
they should not do, make many mistakes and hurt themselves often. The randomness
is useful to tune into features of the local environment that are new.
Children learn by exploring, copying and by making mistakes. Sometimes they are
injured and sometimes they die by making a mistake. A responsible parent will
use the words "no" and don't" more often than any other words as they interact
with their child. The child will persevere, trying to get things forcefully. The
"No!" instruction will modulate but not eliminate defiance.
Every parent dreads the fatal mistake and good parents are constantly vigilant, using
warnings, instruction and constraints to minimize the danger facing the
inexperienced child. A one-year-old will crawl and then stagger around the house
pulling and pushing on every object and will put everything that fits into his
or her mouth. There is no way for a parent to sit down and have a nice chat with
the infant about what is permissible activity and what is not. Children slowly
become less random and tune into their environment more selectively as they get
older. The no's and the don'ts become incorporated into a strategy of not doing
things that are risky and harmful. This is called maturation.
A mature human, however, will usually continue to do things that they should
not do. Not doing things is often the key to success in any endeavor. The true
test of freedom is making the choice not to do things that your world-eating
appetites insist that you do. Every free society has elaborate arrangements in
place to continue the constant repetition of no's and don'ts.
Adult societies often operate much like a two-year-old infant exploring the
kitchen cupboards and having tantrums when anyone says “no.” A small group of
smart and nice humans act like parents and try to regulate the reckless behavior
of others. Elaborate regulations are required to achieve a tolerable level of
destructive behavior, but are generally unsuccessful at sustaining a high level
of constructive behavior at any age.