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The Concept Of Greed: Historical, Psychological And Biblical Perspectives

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Over the decade, greed universally, have always been subjected to various argument based on perspectives however, with the same end result. Often times it is seen as part of human nature with the societal belief that it is one of the major causes of criminal activities and the fall of man in the society.

As Wang and Murnighan (2011: 305) discussed, due to the lack of definitional clarity surrounding greed and challenges inherent in developing empirical measures, many researchers may have abandoned their interest in studying greed, as “studying other issues may be easier.” altough, Wang and Murnighan also suggest that “extensive research on greed could be particularly fruitful” (2011: 307)

Murnighan Keith J. and Long Wang. 2012. In their article titled On greed explained that “Greed is a central element in human existence, it is also frequently mentioned as a factor in many recent organizational and financial scandals. Thus, it was surprising to discover that empirical research on greed is rare. In contrast, however, a variety of different literatures present a rich conceptual foundation for understanding the dynamics of greed and greedy behavior.”

The Concept of Greed

(Wang & Murnighan 2011) explains that although greed has a long intellectual history, our review of the literature led to a rather surprising observation: empirical research on the personal and social dynamics of greed is rare. It could be said that one of the reasons for this lack of research begins with the difficulties that surround the idea of defining greed. This assertion evolves with different names attached or synonymous to greed as explained by (Tickle, 2004). that Greed can wear a cloak with many different names, e.g., grasping, avarice, covetousness, miserliness, gluttony, lust, overreaching ambition, and/or desire spun out of control. In many situations, self-interest or selfishness seems synonymous, but not detailed in defining greed. According to (Wang & Murnighan 2011), when self-interest ends and when greed starts; its exact demarcation remains elusive.

Greed is not only one of the seven cardinal sins, it may be “the matriarch of the Deadly Clan,” i.e., the basic root and ultimate source of all seven. The other six are pride, envy, sloth, gluttony, lust, and anger. (Tickle, 2004). Tickle explain the seven cardinal sins in which greed serves as the bedrock or foundation for all. It is expedient to reveal that greediness is that one thing in human nature that propels other sinful nature to action. As explained in the New Testament suggests that “the love of money is the root of all evil.” This can be simply put that the love of money is being greedy in which biblically, it is one of the fruit of the flesh which defines sin. The assertion of the New Testament is in accordance to Buddhist thought: “Whoever is free from attachment knows neither grief nor fear. From greed comes grief; from greed comes fear” (Fetherston, 2000: 30). This explains that human existence needs to be free from excessive desire to have something. Such desire is able to make human forget their grief and fear thus, when this toe are out of human life, greed will be present.

Murnighan (2012) opines that the roots of irrepressible and unbridled greed may rest in the nature of human beings this assertion supports (Robertson, 2001) our instincts for self-preservation may have contributed to the emergence of greed and fueled its widespread existence. Murnighan explains that greed and human existence cannot be divided because human shelters greed, this fact causes was mention by Roberts who said that self-preservation or perhaps selfish interest led to the existence and widespread of greed.

Manfred F. R. (2016:1) explained that like lust and gluttony, greed is a sin of excess. As a personality characteristic, it usually manifests itself as an irresistible craving to possess more of something (money, material goods, power or other symbols of wealth) than is needed. To greedy people, the acquisition of possessions is central – it ends up being the only thing that counts…greedy people need material things to be happy; wealth is essential to be seen as successful.

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines greed as “a selfish and excessive desire for more of something: basically material things than is needed. Similarly, Balot (2001; 1) used a similar definition: “an excessive desire to get more … a primarily materialistic type of desire. This explains that greed is not beyond the physical. However, the behavioral attribute of greed is relative, that is, what seems excessive to one person might be modest to another. Thus, human perspective differs.

Greed can therefore be summarized as Jeevan D’Souza (2015) argues that greed is the direct outcome of dissatisfaction, emptiness, and discontentment. To fill this emptiness and discontentment, the greedy individual then acts in ways to acquire more resources, admiration and power, often at the cost of the happiness of other individuals. Hence, greed therefore has the whole and sole power to give human long suffering evolving after temporary happiness.

Historical/Philosophical Perspective of Greed

Manfred F. R. (2016:10) discussed that from the evolutionary point of view (wealth being an important signifier of power and status), greed can be seen as nothing other than a biological imperative, albeit stemming from the darker side of human nature. Like animals, we are concerned about having enough to survive in times when resources are scarce. Hoarding offers an evolutionary advantage by creating a safety net. Seen from this angle, we could interpret greed as deeply rooted in human nature, and therefore may understand why it occupies such a central position (Goldberg, 1994; Gigantes, 2002) – it is nothing more than an extension of the survival instinct.

(Balot, 2001) revealed that in Plato’s Portrait of Callicles, he pointed out that greed (Pleonexia: Excessive or insatiable greed, avarice, covetousness, the desire to have more, a greedy desire for certain goods.) is rooted in human physicality while Aristotle agreed, echoing Plato’s notion that people have natural acquisitive desires.

Murnighan (2012). Explaining Plato’s summary of Socrates’ dialogues in The Republic suggests two complementary approaches to greed. First, greed leads to immoral and unjust actions. Second, greed even hurts the people whose greedy acts have been successful. Like Solon and Herodotus, Plato argued that justice creates human happiness; greed and injustice undermine and destroy it. Plato emphasized the role of “psychic health” or “psychic harmony” as a structure that fosters justice and inhibits greed within individuals’ souls. Thus, a person with a just and healthy soul would necessarily refrain from immoral and greedy behaviors.

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Murnighan continued in his explanation that Aristotle contended that individuals often confuse their true and natural needs of acquiring strictly necessary goods (telos) with the perceived needs of maximizing profit. Thus, people may acquire more simply because they want more than others and more than they deserve or need. Aristotle also noted that individuals often judge others’ behaviors to be greedy only to justify their own greedy action. This notion is also reflected in an Old Dutch proverb, “An inn-keeper trusts his guests only as much as he trusts himself.” This makes greed a practical problem of individual behavior as well as a potential virus in a community or society’s interactions. Like Plato and Aristotle, Thucydides treated greed as a universal facet of human nature. His analysis was multi-faceted: on the one hand, he noted greed’s negative attributes, e.g., the pursuit of individual self-interest and the cause of mistrust; on the other hand, he may have been the first to note that greed might also drive human progress. He felt, for instance, that greed was the motivator behind Athenian imperialism and the creation of their extensive empire.

Furthermore, Kant defined greedy avarice as “acquiring the means of good living in excess of one’s true needs” (Kant, 1796/1964: 96). He attributed it to self-seeking, especially the insatiable acquisition of wealth for the purpose of sumptuous living… Most other ancient and contemporary philosophers have viewed greed as iniquitous and immoral, commonly identifying it as the cause of vices, evil, and misery (Faust, 2006).

Psychological Perspective of Greed

Allport (1954; 5) defined social psychology as a “scientific attempt to understand and explain how the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of individuals are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of other human beings. This assertion make it know that greed is not just only about the physical manifestation but rather there are some things that has happened in the human body prior to the manifestation of greed. However, this acts starts from the mind which is the major part of human that triggers action. Before the physical (the act), the emotional (feeling) and the psychological (reasoning). This three works together. This three acts is explored by social psychology in knowing how greed actually started. However, according to Murnighan (2012). He said that social psychological research has not yet specified the basic psychological mechanisms that drive greed.

Manfred F. R. (2016) gave an illustration in his work …there are also instances where the caregivers have the financial resources to do what they are supposed to do, but substitute material “things” for care and concern. But by acting in this way they also communicate that they cannot give the child what it really needs — love and affection. When that happens, it should come as no surprise that these children (and later as adults) never feel satisfied. Buttressing this (Weil,1953): Depending on the family set-up, greed is often rooted in past, unmet infantile needs, where lack of attention, care and recognition plays a major role. Greedy people are being deprived of some certain things in their child hood, the desire of having those things either material or not builds up in them right from child hood. The more this desire grow it becomes excessive and then turns out to be greed which such person would not mind going extra mile to satisfy their desire or “id”: the one of the three divisions of the psyche in psychoanalytic theory that is completely unconscious and is the source of psychic energy derived from instinctual needs and drives compare ego superego. The distinct lack of parental love and support to which they are exposed creates deep feelings of anxiety, vulnerability, and insecurity. According to Manfred, This feeling becomes part of their inner theatre, fuelling an urge to find substitutes for what they feel they may be lacking. Their early negative experiences leave them in a constant state of being needy, of never feeling satisfied, laying the foundations for poor socio-emotional adaptation. The drive to acquire has become a survival mechanism for these people. (Callahan, 1994) Their feeling of never having enough not only ruins their own lives but can cause serious collateral damage. (Nikelly, 2006) uses psychoanalyses to understand the concept of greed and acquisitive behavior and infers that there are strong correlations between early negative attachment styles and acquisitive behavior…Greed has a strong correlation with fear, guilt and pain caused by psychological imbalances during childhood development. This act Freud identified as a mental disorder and strongly correlated greed with narcissism and meta-pathology (Freud, 1914)

Biblical Perspective of Greed

All reference in this part of the essay will be from the Holy book of the Christians: The bible. The bible expressively explain greed as one of the sinful nature of man. And one of the reason man fail in its society. A times death such in the case of Ananias and sapphire (Acts 5:1-11). Their greedy act led particularly because of money to their death. This act establish the saying in Matthew 6:24: “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.

The comparison is between two masters which is God and money. Money, is from the Aramaic word mammon, which indicates the animating power behind greed, money, and wealth. Money is a substitute god. You cannot serve both God and Money. The former is moral while the latter is immoral thus a manifestation of the sinful nature. Greed is seen as sin because it works with unclean acts as written in Ephesians 4:19.

Isaiah 56:11: yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, everyone for his own gain, from his quarter. This biblical facts likened greedy people to dogs. When dog is eating food particularly bone, it create a territory for itself in which no other dog can go close to so as to have the bone only to itself. Just as in such of man, man’s greedy behavior only brings up selfish act, only concerned about himself/herself, focusing only on his/her life only at the detriment of others sadness.

Jude 1:11 asserts that the greedy people are cursed. The verse starts with “woe unto them”. It establish greedy people as the linage of Cain who greedily present bad offering before God which led to the killing of his brother Abel. He was cursed such is the case of all greedy people biblically.

Greed, Human and the Society

Greed, Human and the society are three different entities that are interwoven. They are move on a parallel lines but meet at the end. Greed defines human in its existence while Human manifestation of greed defines the society. Murnighan (2012) posits that the roots of irrepressible and unbridled greed may rest in the nature of human beings Murnighan in his explanation reveals that greed is part of human identity, it is an inbuilt thing which most times its manifestations or actions cannot be limited. Also, (Robertson, 2001) opines that our instincts for self-preservation may have contributed to the emergence of greed and fueled its widespread existence. This means that to be self-secured in our wants, needs or desires, the existence of greed is inevitable in the society.

Greed is one thing that is present in every one called human in relation to all aspect of life either politics, academics, religion, economics etc. most times humans criticize and castigate each other due to greedy behavior forgetting it is an inbuilt thing which is also in them. Observers are willing to castigate what they see as other individuals’ greed without recognizing its existence in their own lives- Murnighan (2012). However, it is important to note that the level of greediness in human varies.

Manfred in Greed syndrome asserts that we know that possessions can bring pleasure, but also that pleasure can become addictive. Given greed’s ability to provide transitory pleasure, no wonder it has invited comparisons with addictions such as drugs, sex, food or gambling. But as is the case with all drugs, a “fix” gives only a temporary high. Greed “junkies” always want more of what gets them high, more of what gives them pleasure, more of what enables them to escape from anxiety, from suffering, or from themselves. But as with those other addictions, greed can also destroy lives and sever ties. Manfred assertion explains that human pleasure calls for greedy activities which many times can be addictive. He compares greed addiction to that of sex, drugs and the likes all in the name of pleasure but in greed perspective it is likened to self-satisfaction just as drugs makes the victims temporarily high. He concluded that greed can go a long way in destroying lives due to its consequences also one major effect of greed is that it break ties thereby destroying communal love in the society. Thus aside from breaking ties, greed can create bigger troubles such as corruption, hostility, even war. This is evident in (Jeevan 2015) statement that Human greed has been responsible for much of human suffering at both the community and global level.

(Nikelly, 2006) posits that greed has a strong correlation with fear, guilt and pain caused by psychological imbalances during childhood development. (Crocker & Blanton, 1999) further explained that this fears are further exacerbated by social inequalities that directly affect self-esteem. The assertions above explains that during growth, some psychological factors such as guilt, pain and fear has it way in working with greed. As a child grows to know its society, this factors affects it self-esteem by lowering it. In a bid to gain satisfaction in line with the wants of the society, desire to have more than needed sets in.

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