Why say Why?

For the Reader

Perhaps the most important thing you can know about something is its intended purpose. If you know the purpose of something then you are more likely to interpret it as intended.

Here are some examples. If you know that someone is acting with good intentions then you will interpret their actions generously, even if they are misguided. If a document you're reading is ambiguous, then you are likely to be able to work out what it is trying to say if you know something about what it is trying to achieve. If you have a set of instructions to follow you can deviate from them intelligently only if you understand what end they are working towards.

I provide information about the purpose of my publications so that they communicate as effectively as possible to the reader.

The reason I want to communicate is because I enjoy seeing other people benefit from my knowlege, and I enjoy gaining new knowlege by communicating with other people.

Personally, that's the end of the chain of motivations, since enjoyment is something that is "hard wired" as a goal. It's possible to ask why that is, but the reason is qualitatively different from the motivations so far, which have been concious volition on my part. To ask why enjoyment is important to me, and to other creatures, is to ask about the purpose of a non-concious system which exists simply because it is a system which works in such a way that it continues to exist. A system which didn't sustain itself in this way would disappear after a time, by definition. That's an explanation but not a purpose in the same sense as those above.

I enjoy things which are good for the survival of my genes. To put it another way, my genes are arranged so that I enjoy things which are good for their survival. If they didn't, they wouldn't survive, and so it's unlikely that I'd be writing about them.

For the Writer

There is another important reason for writing about why each page exists. I wrestled with the idea of having a home page on the Web for a while. I worked out what my motivations for desiring one were, then attempted to discard the egotistical motivations, leaving only the healthy ones. Constructing the pages describing motivation helps to keep the pages within those bounds.

Last updated 1996-08-20. Copyright 1996 Richard Brooksby.