At the end of last week's Carnival of Space #64, I compared the perspectives of one of the blogs I was hosting (21st Century Waves) with a recent article by Rand Simberg in The Space Review. The subject was "are we driven to explore?"
While browsing a few blogs tonight (catching up after my Taiwan trip), I came across an interesting followup on Rand's article at Centauri Dreams, in a post titled "What makes us explore?" (thanks for the kind plug, Paul). While Paul believes there is some sort of "exploratory impulse," he also finds more common ground with Rand than the terms "fear and greed" might imply - it seems that Rand's emphasis is more on space development than space exploration. Is "space development" better or more inspiring than "space exploration?" I guess that depends on your point of view, and if you read the animated exchange of comments for that post, you'll find that the points of view are pretty diverse (and culturally loaded!).
I think some people do explore for the sake of exploration, though perhaps not very many people have been driven primarily by this. And I think there is a lot of overlap and synergy between exploration and development - something like science and engineering. There's no one right answer here, but I do find that in my recent outreach presentations on space, I have been talking more about private space and about the possible future economic benefits of space, while still highlighting the wonder and beauty of what we find in the cosmos. In the long run, I think space can be good for the soul and good for the pocketbook.