This is a study in moral psychology. What does someone need? It depends, of course, on what one wants, and the facts. If I want to buy groceries, I need a mode of transportation, and a grocery store that stocks groceries.
We can bump the question up a level and ask what does one – anyone – really need? And that depends, of course, on what one wants, and more importantly, what one should want. What one really needs are the things that make a good life possible. To know what we really need, we need knowledge of what constitutes a good life. “What You Need” addresses all of this.
Another kind, elderly good and wise street peddler (see “One for the Angels”) appears in the Twilight Zone, though here what’s being offered are not trinkets that one probably does not need, but things one really does need. The peddler sees the future, and provides the means toward the actualization of that future. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that the peddler sees a possible future for an individual, and provides the means to actualize that future state. The peddler is compassionate and wise, and so the possible future he helps actualize are futures that are typically good for the individuals in question.
The peddler seems not to be out for his own gain or glory. He is humble, and clearly derives satisfaction from helping others. He doesn’t even want to be paid. But that doesn’t mean that he has no self-interest. It is here that what someone needs can be relative to what another person needs. The peddler eventually faces a situation where, in his view, what (Mr. Renard) “is needed” is not what that person thinks he wants or needs, but is what the peddler needs.