• schopenhauer1
    2k
    So this thread stems from a debate from another thread.

    Almost all other animals' behaviors are driven by instinct. Instinct here is defined as an innate behavior in response to stimuli that is essentially "pre-programmed" in the organism. So, a bird flies south for the winter, sea turtles move towards the beach to lay eggs, etc. etc. I will also lump certain forms of learned behavior into instinct as well. Yes, it is not innate, but it seems to be epigenetic in a way for some learned behavior in other animals, as they are "primed" to learn and cannot help but learn based on their programming. An example of this is a daughter chimp learns how to be a "good" mother from watching its mom. However, the daughter chimp does not have a choice to do anything but learn from her mother. It cannot say one day, "eh, I don't feel like being a mother". In a way, this is an instinct to learn specialized behaviors for survival. The animal cannot help but learn.

    Humans, somewhere along the way from Australopithicus to Homo sapiens have developed a linguistic/conceptual based mind (with developments of the Broca's region, Wernicke's region, neocortex, amongst other brain regions and networks. This linguistic mind has changed the way human behavior functions from other animals. It gives humans the ability to create complex hierarchical thinking. We still have very basic instincts (e.g. eating to get rid of hunger, warmth, a drive towards pleasure, etc.) but most other behavior any more complex than these basic drives, is based on linguistic-cultural origin and not instinct.

    My claim is that most of human behavior originates through linguistic-conceptual thought and not instinct. Even something as fundamental as child-rearing is not instinctual. If people want to have a child, it is a desire just like any other desire. That is to say, it originates with concepts (I, raise, baby, development, nurture, care for, etc.) and concepts are purely in the realm of linguistic-cultural. This contrasts with much of pop-psychology and "just so" stories that are used to explain behaviors. Beliefs like "we have an instinct to nurture and raise children" would be spurious in this view. Anyone can have a preference to not want to produce offspring, for example.

    A) Does anyone agree with this assessment that most humans behavior cannot be traced to instinct but to linguistic-cultural learning? If you do believe that, when do you think the instinct "decoupled" from linguistic-based cognition?

    B) If you believe instincts exist beneath the linguistic-cultural, what does this look like? How do you know it is an instinct and not just something that is what you simply desire based on your personality and linguistic-cultural enculturation?
  • Rich
    3.2k
    If one fully analyzes the entire range of behavior of humans one quickly comes to the conclusion that most everything we do is instinctual (I prefer to think of it as memory from the past). This would include every aspect associated with movement, emotions, feelings, biological processes, sensing, as well as the thinking process itself. All of this, habitual in nature, prerequisite for any new behavioral formation such as throwing a baseball or using chopsticks. That some of us may find learning to throw a baseball easier than others, is an interesting side observation which provides clues about the nature of instincts, habits, and their relationship to memory.

    As for animals or insects, I have no idea how they communicate but for sure they are learning and forming new habits also all the time. Bed bugs seem to be exceptionally good at this.
  • schopenhauer1
    2k
    If one fully analyzes the entire range of behavior of humans one quickly comes to the conclusion that most everything we do is instinctual (I prefer to think of it as memory from the past). This would include every aspect associated with movement, emotions, feelings, biological processes, sensing, as well as the thinking process itself. All of this, habitual in nature, prerequisite for any new behavioral formation such as throwing a baseball or using chopsticks. That some of us may find learning to throw a baseball easier than others, is an interesting side observation which provides clues about the nature of instincts, habits, and their relationship to memory.Rich

    I would think this is the opposite of instinct. This is learned behavior, and not the kind where we just can't "help" but learn, but ones where the culture/family/community transmits information and instruction. Thus, there is choice involved insofar as the culture is dictating what is to be learned.

    As for animals or insects, I have no idea how they communicate but for sure they are learning and forming new habits also all the time. Bed bugs seem to be exceptionally good at this.Rich

    And this would be instinctual for sure.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    I would think this is the opposite of instinct. This is learned behavior,schopenhauer1

    Observe all of the actions that your body is doing all the time "automatically" such as the processes of eating, breathing, reacting,

    and thinking. They can't and shouldn't be ignored simply because they are "automatic".

    And this would be instinctual for sure.schopenhauer1

    Not at all. The learning process is exactly the same.
  • schopenhauer1
    2k
    Observe all of the actions that your body is doing all the time "automatically" such as the processes of eating, breathing, reacting,

    and thinking. They can't and shouldn't be ignored simply because they are "automatic".
    Rich

    But I already recognized there are some basic drives that are indeed baked into the equations. Autonomic nervous systems like heartbeat and breathing, I wouldn't even describe as instinct, but I guess you can lump it in, it wouldn't change much to the argument. The main point is that where almost all behaviors of animals are instinctual, they are not so in humans- even ones we folk-psychologize (e.g. like nurturing instinct).

    Not at all. The learning process is exactly the same.Rich

    Not exactly. I also recognized that animals learn too- but much of their learning is also innate in that they cannot but "help" but learn. There is no decision, or alternatives. The learning itself is specialized (i.e. one particular specialized behavior) and the learning cannot be helped. Humans on the other hand can learn a wide-variety of subjects and can choose what, where, and how to learn. It is not fixed. The content is wide and varied due to ability for conceptual transmission via language.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    But I already recognized there are some basic drives that are indeed baked into the equationsschopenhauer1

    These aren't just some basic, uninteresting drives. They are behavior that make up the vast amount of our existence.

    Not exactly. I also recognized that animals learn too- but much of their learning is also innate in that they cannot but "help" but learn.schopenhauer1

    You have no evidence of this? How did you arrive at this. Was it actual observations or biases formed during the educational process. Maybe biases are instinctual?
  • apokrisis
    4.1k
    If people want to have a child, it is a desire just like any other desire. That is to say, it originates with concepts (I, raise, baby, development, nurture, care for, etc.) and concepts are purely in the realm of linguistic-cultural.schopenhauer1

    So all human desires are merely linguistic social concepts?

    You seem to have a very deep seated need to argue that this is the case. ;)
  • MonfortS26
    250
    Instinct here is defined as an innate behavior in response to stimuli that is essentially "pre-programmed" in the organism. So, a bird flies south for the winter, sea turtles move towards the beach to lay eggs, etc. etc. I will also lump certain forms of learned behavior into instinct as well.schopenhauer1

    Just because a bird flies south for the winter doesn't mean that it doesn't 'think' it is doing that of its own accord. Just because a human thinks it has free will doesn't mean it does.

    Yes, it is not innate, but it seems to be epigenetic in a way for some learned behavior in other animals, as they are "primed" to learn and cannot help but learn based on their programmingschopenhauer1

    Is the process of learning in humans any different?? Do humans deliberately learn?? They may be able to deliberately choose what to learn, but the process of learning is mostly intuitive/instinctual in humans as well as animals.

    An example of this is a daughter chimp learns how to be a "good" mother from watching its mom. However, the daughter chimp does not have a choice to do anything but learn from her mother. It cannot say one day, "eh, I don't feel like being a mother".schopenhauer1

    Is this any different from humans learning how to be good parents?? Is there any evidence to suggest that this is the only place that chimps learn how to be good parents?? That they have no thought process themselves?? And do you have any evidence that chimp mothers are genetically incapable of abandoning their offspring??

    In a way, this is an instinct to learn specialized behaviors for survival.schopenhauer1

    Are there any behaviors that humans learn that aren't either specialized for survival or derived from behaviors that are?

    This linguistic mind has changed the way human behavior functions from other animals. It gives humans the ability to create complex hierarchical thinking.schopenhauer1

    Is this the product of instinct or something else?

    Even something as fundamental as child-rearing is not instinctual. If people want to have a child, it is a desire just like any other desire. That is to say, it originates with concepts (I, raise, baby, development, nurture, care for, etc.) and concepts are purely in the realm of linguistic-cultural.schopenhauer1

    Are desires not instinctual?? are concepts necessary for desires to exist?? Would a person that was raised in an environment without an existing language be unable to desire?? In my opinion, it seems more likely that desires are all instinctual and we use concepts to be able to communicate them to other people and ourselves, and the adaptation to a language is in itself instinctual.

    How do you know it is an instinct and not just something that is what you simply desire based on your personality and linguistic-cultural enculturation?schopenhauer1

    The only way I could think of to prove that SOME desires are separate from culture would be to perform an experiment on humans to test what would happen if you raised someone in an environment without language or culture, and that would be deeply unethical.

    This is learned behavior, and not the kind where we just can't "help" but learn, but ones where the culture/family/community transmits information and instruction.schopenhauer1

    Couldn't it be instinctual for the culture to transmit that information??

    There is no decision, or alternatives.schopenhauer1

    You believe in free will don't you?

    The content is wide and varied due to ability for conceptual transmission via language.schopenhauer1

    Yes our ability to learn is improved by our ability to use language, couldn't that be viewed as an instinctual evolutionary advantage? Can you really call the human thought process anything but instinctual???
  • Caldwell
    150
    If you do believe that, when do you think the instinct "decoupled" from linguistic-based cognition?schopenhauer1

    I would think this is the opposite of instinct. This is learned behavior, and not the kind where we just can't "help" but learn, but ones where the culture/family/community transmits information and instruction.schopenhauer1

    Good opening post.
    I'm not sure about "decoupling" (what's this?). Instincts are such that they are innate. That we have now complex ideas doesn't mean that instincts aren't operative anymore or at some point, free from our decision-making capability. In fact, instinctive behaviors are fascinating. Pre-linguistic humans had the instinct of 'force' and how to use it. Remember that cave men would break animal bones by pounding -- they knew how to get the meat inside. How did they know that weight plus application of force equaled deconstruction. (And think about how early ideas of turning plants into powder to make something else out of them -- making a paste, a dough, collecting yeast from the air). You've seen birds take a nut and fly high and drop the nut to break its shell. That's instinct.
  • Bitter Crank
    6.1k
    Almost all other animals' behaviors are driven by instinct.schopenhauer1

    Yes, it is not innate, but it seems to be epigenetic in a way for some learned behavior in other animals, as they are "primed" to learn and cannot help but learn based on their programming.An example of this is a...schopenhauer1

    baby exposed to human speech.. It WILL learn the language it is exposed to whether it likes it or not. It might have preferred to learn Parisian French, but if it is exposed to Brooklyn Yiddish, that is what it will learn. We are compelled by instinct or we are primed, or it just happens automatically to learn language. The way our brain works is determined by genes. Instinct.

    Babies seem to be born with very, very basic ideas about the way the world works. A prime demonstration of this is showing a baby a balloon filled with ordinary air. Let go of the ball and the baby smiles. Present the baby with a ballon filled with helium (or better, hydrogen gas about ready to explode spontaneously), let go, and the balloon rises to the ceiling. The baby is shocked. SHOCKED! It is surprised because the rising balloon violates it's basic expectation of the way the world works.

    You are under-rating instinct in humans, and you may be under-rating learning, or reasoning, in other animals. For instance, consider a hungry crow presented with a snack that is floating on the surface of water have way down a narrow tube. It can't reach the snack with it's beak. It picks up pieces of gravel and drops them into the tube until the water level lifts the snack within reach. Instinct? Probably not. Birds' survival depends on a lot of instinct and some learning.

    Dogs that are in laboratory situations where they get rewarded for xyz behavior and can observer the other dogs doing the same thing, will stop cooperating if they do not receive a reward and other dogs do. Primates in a similar situation will stop cooperating if the quality of their rewards are deficient--like getting a piece of lettuce instead a slice of apple. Either there is an instinct for fairness, or the lab animals are capable of seeing futility. What's the point of cooperating if I am not going to get a reward?

    Most animals have to learn certain things; there is variability among animals--not all worker bees are equally good at their tasks). Squirrels that aren't good at finding their buried food once it gets cold tend to starve.

    Parents don't have to be taught to respond with great favor when the see their child emerge into the world. The process is helped by neurotransmitters (like oxytocin), which is emitted at just the right time -- apparently instinctively.

    I don't think dogs are born to summon assistance from people, but they do. Perhaps it has something to do with their instinctive gaze-following behavior. Dogs are one of the few animals that follow the human gaze. Dogs learn that if they want something that is inaccessible (the ball under the couch), they can get a person to fetch it for them by directing the persons' gaze to the ball under the couch. Dogs engage in unrelenting staring to alert us to their wishes. Once you stop reading and look at them, they will indicate (physically, of course) whether their food is overdue or that they want to go outside (to shit/piss/bark/wander aimlessly around).

    Sex is mostly instinctive. Did you have to read a book to learn how to jack off? I hope not. Two dim teenagers can figure out how to have sex the first time without previous coaching. (Prior coaching is hard to avoid these days.) There is no grand design to a good share of the world's many billions of pregnancies. Arousal ----> insertion ----> ejaculation ----> sperm meets egg ----> conception ----> VOILA another baby on the way. It doesn't take any long-range planning (not a bad idea, it just isn't required).
  • schopenhauer1
    2k
    These aren't just some basic, uninteresting drives. They are behavior that make up the vast amount of our existence.Rich

    Yeah, but would you call that instinct? I think it is more reflexes and automatic behaviors. Instinct to me is a bit more complex fixed behavior, but not complex learning.

    You have no evidence of this? How did you arrive at this. Was it actual observations or biases formed during the educational process. Maybe biases are instinctual?Rich

    I guess my evidence is that animals don't just reject learning something. Animals can't say, "hey, I'm going to sit this learning stuff out". Preferences are fixed.
  • schopenhauer1
    2k
    Just because a bird flies south for the winter doesn't mean that it doesn't 'think' it is doing that of its own accord. Just because a human thinks it has free will doesn't mean it does.MonfortS26

    Even if there is no free will, humans still have many options and preferences we can select from.

    Is the process of learning in humans any different?? Do humans deliberately learn?? They may be able to deliberately choose what to learn, but the process of learning is mostly intuitive/instinctual in humans as well as animals.MonfortS26

    I'm talking from the parents/community perspective. It's not an instinct to teach. It is a cultural preference that is deemed necessary for proper enculturation of the child for survival. It is instinctive to pickup and learn a primary language, I will agree with that.


    Is this any different from humans learning how to be good parents?? Is there any evidence to suggest that this is the only place that chimps learn how to be good parents?? That they have no thought process themselves?? And do you have any evidence that chimp mothers are genetically incapable of abandoning their offspring??

    I don't have evidence that chimps can abandon offspring, but if it does, I'm not sure if it is a choice as much as the pre-programming not working as it should.


    Are there any behaviors that humans learn that aren't either specialized for survival or derived from behaviors that are?

    Human behavior isn't necessarily specialized for survival. After we learn to do things like walk on our two legs, and learn primary language, the learning process is very generalized and malleable. There are no fixed learning specializations. They are culturally driven preferences the community decides to expose the child to.

    Is this the product of instinct or something else?

    I think picking up language is an instinct yes. But this is where it ends. The Brocas and Wernickes regions makes it a specialization in humans.


    Are desires not instinctual?? are concepts necessary for desires to exist?? Would a person that was raised in an environment without an existing language be unable to desire?? In my opinion, it seems more likely that desires are all instinctual and we use concepts to be able to communicate them to other people and ourselves, and the adaptation to a language is in itself instinctual.

    This is the heart of the difference between the two views. I don't think specific desires (e.g. "I want to raise a child) are pre-linguistic. Rather, if there is no language, there are no desires outside very basic drives for warmth, not being hungry, and a preference for pleasure.

    The only way I could think of to prove that SOME desires are separate from culture would be to perform an experiment on humans to test what would happen if you raised someone in an environment without language or culture, and that would be deeply unethical.

    I agree. That is why this is still largely speculative and up for philosophical debate.

    Couldn't it be instinctual for the culture to transmit that information??

    But my argument is that cultural preferences cannot arise pre-language. The drive for specific preferences comes after a personality is constructed via environmental interaction with cultural learning..

    You believe in free will don't you?

    Not in animals which have fixed instincts.

    Yes our ability to learn is improved by our ability to use language, couldn't that be viewed as an instinctual evolutionary advantage? Can you really call the human thought process anything but instinctual???

    I think that learning a language and concept formation is instinctual but our preferences and desires after this are not riding on some pre-linguistic instinctual desires. I think pop-cultural evolutionary psychology wants to reduce cultural learning to some more primary instinct, and is overmining the concept.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    Yeah, but would you call that instinct?schopenhauer1

    It's all memory of a specific sort derived from exactly the same evolutionary activity.

    I guess my evidence is that animals don't just reject learning something.schopenhauer1

    There is plenty of evidence to the contrary. One only has to read about the affairs of circuses.

    My guess is that in many respects, other life forms are for more evolved than humans, but we only get glimpses of it now and then.
  • schopenhauer1
    2k
    I'm not sure about "decoupling" (what's this?)Caldwell

    What is the narrative for how instincts (fixed behaviors) diminished in favor of largely cultural learning. This must have been a challenging transformation that took place over millions of years.

    Pre-linguistic humans had the instinct of 'force' and how to use it. Remember that cave men would break animal bones by pounding -- they knew how to get the meat inside. How did they know that weight plus application of force equaled deconstruction. (And think about how early ideas of turning plants into powder to make something else out of them -- making a paste, a dough, collecting yeast from the air). You've seen birds take a nut and fly high and drop the nut to break its shell. That's instinct.Caldwell

    That is part of the complicated narrative of how humans got from innate behaviors and fixed specialized learning to more complex learning. Perhaps you have an interesting theory regarding this change over time.
  • Posty McPostface
    4.3k
    I fail to see how this Skinnerian analysis of behavior is accurate. One can say, based on these sentiments, that people who are depressed will remain depressed because it is an instinctual trait of human beings to become depressed. Yet, people come out of depression...
  • schopenhauer1
    2k
    baby exposed to human speech.. It WILL learn the language it is exposed to whether it likes it or not. It might have preferred to learn Parisian French, but if it is exposed to Brooklyn Yiddish, that is what it will learn. We are compelled by instinct or we are primed, or it just happens automatically to learn language. The way our brain works is determined by genes. Instinct.Bitter Crank

    Yes, I agree that language is an instinct for humans. We can start learning it within the first two years. But as I said to another poster, "Human behavior isn't necessarily specialized for survival. After we learn to do things like walk on our two legs, and learn primary language, the learning process is very generalized and malleable. There are no fixed learning specializations. They are culturally driven preferences the community decides to expose the child to."

    Babies seem to be born with very, very basic ideas about the way the world works. A prime demonstration of this is showing a baby a balloon filled with ordinary air. Let go of the ball and the baby smiles. Present the baby with a ballon filled with helium (or better, hydrogen gas about ready to explode spontaneously), let go, and the balloon rises to the ceiling. The baby is shocked. SHOCKED! It is surprised because the rising balloon violates it's basic expectation of the way the world works.Bitter Crank

    Granted, I'll give you the expectation for things not to fly can be considered an instinct. That still may be learning, just limited experience. Associative learning is the way most animals learn, as far as I know.

    Probably not. Birds' survival depends on a lot of instinct and some learning.Bitter Crank

    I agree. However, the percentage of learning in other animals is much lower compared to instinctual behaviors. A bird may learn its chirps from other birds, but it can't help but chirp it seems. It can't help but build its nest. It can't help but feed its young. It can't help but to do certain behaviors based on stimulus to environment and almost always the same behaviors.

    Dogs that are in laboratory situations where they get rewarded for xyz behavior and can observer the other dogs doing the same thing, will stop cooperating if they do not receive a reward and other dogs do. Primates in a similar situation will stop cooperating if the quality of their rewards are deficient--like getting a piece of lettuce instead a slice of apple. Either there is an instinct for fairness, or the lab animals are capable of seeing futility. What's the point of cooperating if I am not going to get a reward?Bitter Crank

    I'll grant certain associative learning. Dogs are especially bred to have associative learning help shape their behavior. That is how its species developed along with man- the already present tendencies of a social pack animal combined with the ability to use associative learning more effectively until it was completely domesticated. No doubt associative learning can take place and perhaps even lead to a sort of recognition of fairness. Does this mean we have an instinct for fairness? Perhaps.

    Most animals have to learn certain things; there is variability among animals--not all worker bees are equally good at their tasks). Squirrels that aren't good at finding their buried food once it gets cold tend to starve.Bitter Crank

    Okay, variable rates of survival abilities.. However, those abilities are largely instinctual (finding the acorn, building the hive, etc.).

    I don't think dogs are born to summon assistance from people, but they do. Perhaps it has something to do with their instinctive gaze-following behavior. Dogs are one of the few animals that follow the human gaze. Dogs learn that if they want something that is inaccessible (the ball under the couch), they can get a person to fetch it for them by directing the persons' gaze to the ball under the couch. Dogs engage in unrelenting staring to alert us to their wishes. Once you stop reading and look at them, they will indicate (physically, of course) whether their food is overdue or that they want to go outside (to shit/piss/bark/wander aimlessly around).Bitter Crank

    That is basically instinct shaped by domestication.

    Sex is mostly instinctive. Did you have to read a book to learn how to jack off? I hope not. Two dim teenagers can figure out how to have sex the first time without previous coaching. (Prior coaching is hard to avoid these days.) There is no grand design to a good share of the world's many billions of pregnancies. Arousal ----> insertion ----> ejaculation ----> sperm meets egg ----> conception ----> VOILA another baby on the way. It doesn't take any long-range planning (not a bad idea, it just isn't required).Bitter Crank

    I have granted that sexual gratification and the desire for pleasure in general is instinctive.
  • schopenhauer1
    2k
    I fail to see how this Skinnerian analysis of behavior is accurate. One can say, based on these sentiments, that people who are depressed will remain depressed because it is an instinctual trait of human beings to become depressed. Yet, people come out of depression...Posty McPostface

    Was this response for me or BC?
  • WISDOMfromPO-MO
    753
    An instinct is simply an unlearned response.

    If that response is regularly repeated, it becomes habit.

    When I was robbed at gunpoint I doubt that 1% of my response was "learned". Sure, some of it, such as cooperating with the robber and not trying to be a hero, was things I had been taught. But if I could remember every detail of every second of the experience I doubt that there would be much that I had been taught by others.

    I have not been robbed at gunpoint any other time, and I likely never again will. Therefore, my unlearned responses to being robbed at gunpoint will never become habit.

    Sometimes you hear a coach saying that a player has "good football instincts". Other times you will hear coaches and athletes saying something like, "In this situation your instinct is to do this. But you really need to do that". Clearly, an instinct is not necessarily beneficial or detrimental. It depends on the situation.

    I doubt that any response is purely unlearned or purely learned.

    As far as I know we don't have the ability to control every variable and isolate any mental response that is in no way learned, no matter if we are studying humans or non-humans. Therefore, to attribute anything purely to "nature" or "nurture" is probably being either ignorant or intellectually dishonest.

    I do not know if it is due to ignorance or dishonesty, but one that a lot of people really love to completely attribute to "nature" is sexual attitudes and actions. I see from the opposite pole: things like arousal are involuntary biological responses, but probably 99% of "sex" is cultural.
  • schopenhauer1
    2k
    I have not been robbed at gunpoint any other time, and I likely never again will. Therefore, my unlearned responses to being robbed at gunpoint will never become habit.WISDOMfromPO-MO

    Yeah but you knew certain responses like "danger" because you know what a gun can do. That is a cultural response. You've learned through media, stories, movies, etc. what can happen with the gun. A gun waved at a chimp, probably won't have any if at all. The chimp would simply have to associate it with a dangerous incident previously- not from cultural transmission. Of course, one can argue that chimps teach each other different calls for their various dangerous situations, but this may be more a 1-1 ratio of stimulus response. They cannot help but respond to an enemy. It is still more inbuilt than a the vast landscape of possibilities in the human thought process.

    I do not know if it is due to ignorance or dishonesty, but one that a lot of people really love to completely attribute to "nature" is sexual attitudes and actions. I see from the opposite pole: things like arousal are involuntary biological responses, but probably 99% of "sex" is cultural.WISDOMfromPO-MO

    I think you may be right here, but maybe you can elaborate.
  • Bitter Crank
    6.1k
    Humans, somewhere along the way from Australopithicus to Homo sapiens have developed a linguistic/conceptual based mind (with developments of the Broca's region, Wernicke's region, neocortex, amongst other brain regions and networks. This linguistic mind has changed the way human behavior functions from other animals. It gives humans the ability to create complex hierarchical thinking. We still have very basic instincts (e.g. eating to get rid of hunger, warmth, a drive towards pleasure, etc.) but most other behavior any more complex than these basic drives, is based on linguistic-cultural origin and not instinct.schopenhauer1

    I would submit that the language instinct is at the heart of your "linguistic-cultural" behavior. Besides language, general cultural features such as hierarchy-formation, domination of individuals and groups over other individuals and groups, story-telling (composing narratives out of experience), eating together, music (nothing specific, just the employment of music and rhythmic motion (dance) in some form, religious behaviors (again, nothing specific), and so on all demonstrate instinct.

    At the most biological level, humans share with the rest of the animal kingdom a regular pattern of sleep and wakefulness, mating, breast feeding, foraging for food, nest making, defensive hostility (to protect the group), etc.

    If you add the basic biological stuff to rhythmic movement and melodious sound making, language use, story telling, eating behaviors, dominance behaviors, religious behaviors, you have named a significant share of human behavior.

    That still leaves room in human behavior for novel, spontaneous, never-seen-before-on-TV behaviors and patterns and learned behaviors.

    The reason that human behaviors and cultures are consistent across the board (in general form, not in fine detail)--the reason why we are more similar than we are different--is instinct. It's our instincts that give basic form to human behavior.

    The latest findings indicate that we have been our species, homo sapiens, for 300,000 years. (Remains found in India, Israel, and Morocco from 200,000 to 300,000 years old all have very modern teeth.) It's safe to say that we didn't make it over 300,000 years, and longer from our previous species to homo sapiens WITHOUT instinctual guidance.

    If you look at tool making, there were very long stretches where the same tools were being made. There didn't seem to be a lot of day-in day-out learning leading to improved tools. It was the same thing over and over--until at some point that stopped and tools started to vary, become more specialized, be made out of different materials, and so on. That development seems to bring us closer to the "modern era" which began maybe 40,000 years ago.

    I base my approach on evolution. We didn't just evolve as humans with no connection to pre-human animals. Humans evolved from earlier animals. The features of our behavior have ancient roots, just as the biology of our bodies have ancient roots. Even giving a large role for evolution leaves plenty of room for learning and novel, spontaneous behavior. If modern humans were found from Morocco to India 300,000 years ago, we were clearly a curious species--we kept going to the top of the next hill to see what lay beyond.

    So it's both instinct and culture.
  • schopenhauer1
    2k
    Besides language, general cultural features such as hierarchy-formation, domination of individuals and groups over other individuals and groups, story-telling (composing narratives out of experience), eating together, music (nothing specific, just the employment of music and rhythmic motion (dance) in some form, religious behaviors (again, nothing specific), and so on all demonstrate instinct.Bitter Crank

    Can't it be argued that hierarchy formation is either cultural or circumstantial and not so much instinct? For example, if you are in a wilderness survival situation, and there is someone present with the most wilderness survival-craft, wouldn't he be the natural leader due to his abilities? That's not so much instinct as much as a rational choice. In groups of school age children, often the biggest and most aggressive kids become the leaders. Or perhaps the most charismatic and imaginative. However, again, that is simply rational analysis. Who thinks of the best play activities? Who is going to get their way with physical force? Who has the greatest abilities? Well, it would be rational to pick ones in terms of maintaining self-interest.

    Story-telling can simply be a byproduct of language. People like to be entertained with narratives all very much linguistic-cultural based. Music perhaps is an instinct, but it would be an instinct like language is an instinct and a byproduct of brain that can recognize patterns and make connections between pitches and tone but also it is very much a learned behavior as far as producing the music- even just by trial and error and observation of other people playing and dancing (which almost always has to be in the equation).

    Religious behaviors may just be a case of more primitive ways to understand the world, but it also strengthened group cohesion and tribal stability. This doesn't seem instinctual as much as culturally utilitarian.
  • Wayfarer
    6.3k
    This linguistic mind has changed the way human behavior functions from other animals.schopenhauer1

    ...with the practical effect that humans are no longer animals as such. Whilst biologically their kinship with animals can’t be disputed, it is just the ability to think and speak which differentiates humans from animals. And it’s not a biological differentiation, but an ontological one - they’re actually a different kind, or mode, of being.

    Humans, after all, are born helpless; unlike other primates, a human baby can’t even cling to mother and has to be nursed for some years before becoming mobile. And extra-somatic learning occupies around 18 years for humans, which exceeds the entire lifespan of many other creatures.

    That is one reason why I think that the ‘biologism’ or biological reductionism that is so common today sells the human species short. It wants to argue that humans are ultimately understandable in biological terms - that we’re ‘just animals’, as has already been argued at least once in this thread. I think part of the motivation for that, is that we’re not given the tools to imagine ourselves as something more than animals - after all, what more could there be? Furthermore, it saves us a lot of existential anxiety, trying to ask such an open-ended question. Perhaps I’m being overly polemical in saying that, but it’s a serious point.

    Anyway, overall I’m in agreement with the OP.
  • Wayfarer
    6.3k
    Although I will add that I think a lot of what is described as ‘instinct’ is not really that well understood. In that respect, I agree with @Rich above - nature herself has memories. Check this story out. But humans reach a new evolutionary plateau, by being able to ask ‘why do this’, instead of just acting it out. And once you can ask 'why' then a whole new realm becomes possible.
  • schopenhauer1
    2k
    Humans, after all, are born helpless; unlike other primates, a human baby can’t even cling to mother and has to be nursed for some years before becoming mobile. And extra-somatic learning occupies around 18 years for humans, which exceeds the entire lifespan of many other creatures.Wayfarer

    Good point. The result of having less built-in mechanisms for the baby to survive is that it has more time to enculturate cultural ways of survival via its linguistic-conceptual developing brain.

    That is one reason why I think that the ‘biologism’ or biological reductionism that is so common today sells the human species short. It wants to argue that humans are ultimately understandable in biological terms - that we’re ‘just animals’, as has already been argued at least once in this thread. I think part of the motivation for that, is that we’re not given the tools to imagine ourselves as something more than animals - after all, what more could there be? Furthermore, it saves us a lot of existential anxiety, trying to ask such an open-ended question. Perhaps I’m being overly polemical in saying that, but it’s a serious point.Wayfarer

    I think there may be an inability here to see the vast difference between an animal that survives through a very large percentage by cultural learning and conceptual thinking versus other animals which use mostly instinct (with some propensities for limited associative learning or problem solving). There is a tendency for "just so" stories. Everything becomes an instinct rather than constructed via the virtual world of concept formation. We have to be careful what to delineate as a true instinct and what is culturally-linguistically based in our behaviors and habit-formations. We are so ready to place ourselves as "just another animal" that we often overlook the complicated way that linguistic-minds shape us. Let me add, I am very much a naturalist in terms of science essentially and materialist explanations are what I see to be the best structures of explanation. However, I don't jump the gun in explanations that reduce assumed instinctual behavior into instinct when in fact, it may just be a cultural trope that is so embedded and assumed, it seems like instinct.
  • Bitter Crank
    6.1k
    Can't it be arguedschopenhauer1

    It can be and is argued because our behavior is a mosaic pattern of instinctive and learned behavior. I do not know whether we can definitively sort out all of the pieces.

    Given the tools of molecular decoding, we can see that genes direct a significant portion of behaviors. Twin studies show how identical twins who were separated early on, developed remarkably similar lives. Genes presumably carry instincts, along with physical characteristics, in animals (in which we are grouped).

    Is 'story telling' a by-product of language or is story telling the very essence of language? As we write our posts here, aren't we telling stories? There is a speaker, an audience, action occurring in the past, present, or future, conditionally or not, objects acted on, and so forth. We are born with [have an instinct for] language, but we have to learn it. Young children can learn multiple languages simultaneously when they are exposed to multiple languages at the same time.

    We would (I am guessing or hoping) learn singing and dancing fluently too, if we did not also learn so damned much performance anxiety. No, I am not claiming we would all be playing Bach, or singing or dancing like [fill in the name of your favorite performer]. But most people are capable of folk-singing and folk-dancing. We don't because we have learned inhibitions.
  • Bitter Crank
    6.1k
    ...with the practical effect that humans are no longer animals as such. Whilst biologically their kinship with animals can’t be disputed, it is just the ability to think and speak which differentiates humans from animals.Wayfarer

    I will grant that it is difficult to feel like an animal as I sit here in cold Minnesota in front of a computer screen made in China communicating with people on 3 different continents, while I drink coffee raised somewhere in Africa or South America and roasted in Seattle, WA, and stay warm in a bathrobe made in Portugal. The little heater that is keeping more of the chill away is running on electricity from a mix of nuclear, coal, and wind power.

    We are indisputably animals, and "no longer animals as such". The rock bottom core of our "human problem" is that we are animals who imagine that we have transcended our animal nature. Tech, bio, and mens don't always jive.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    But humans reach a new evolutionary plateau, by being able to ask ‘why do this’,Wayfarer

    There is no reason to believe that human life is more or less evolved than other life. Other life may have long ago answered this question and evolved beyond it. What one can say is that some forms of life, such as humans, do like to to think in terms of a hierarchy. I wonder if other forms of life look at human existence as quite barbaric and silly? It's possible.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    we have transcended our animal nature. Tech, bio, and mens don't always jive.Bitter Crank

    You think that Facebook and mass pollution moves us up the hierarchy? I'm sure you realize that humans just create trash that cannot be environmentally recycled. As far as I'm concerned the human experience has become an experiment in greed, overconsumption, and enormously excessive trash throw-off. I wonder how it will be turn out?
  • Bitter Crank
    6.1k
    I wonder how it will be turn out?Rich

    Actually, we already know how it is turning out: Not good.

    But that's what I mean by tech, bio, and mens don't always jive: We can figure out how to suck up oil from deep below the surface of the earth and convert it into plastics and fuel. That's a highly centralized function. But then the plastic is distributed to every corner of human life, with no centralized method (anywhere) to collect and reuse it -- or at least sequester it. It ends up everywhere from the deepest oceanic trenches to the highest mountains. CO2 is the same thing, of course.

    There are roughy 500,000,000 people living in North America, consuming -- and excreting -- all sorts of pharmaceuticals from aspirin to cancer medications, and all these excreted chemicals (and more besides) are ending up in the water (even the air).

    We don't seem to be able to think through the problem of centralized production (chemical plants) and atomized distribution (billions of people using drugs and indestructible plastics).
  • Rich
    3.2k
    I agree. To me it's an experiment going completely out of control. Definitely headed toward a poor outcome.
  • schopenhauer1
    2k
    Given the tools of molecular decoding, we can see that genes direct a significant portion of behaviors. Twin studies show how identical twins who were separated early on, developed remarkably similar lives. Genes presumably carry instincts, along with physical characteristics, in animals (in which we are grouped).Bitter Crank

    That brings up a point about personality. What is personality? How is it constructed? How much of it is genes versus environment? How does having such individual personalities affected by things like mental illness or tendencies make humans different than other animals? Granted, chimps,dolphins, and our pets seem to have their own personalities in terms of moodiness, affection, adventurousness, etc. but there seems to be a difference not only in degree but in type as to how human personalities are constructed from linguistic-conceptual cues combined with genetic predispositions.
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment

Welcome to The Philosophy Forum!

Get involved in philosophical discussions about knowledge, truth, language, consciousness, science, politics, religion, logic and mathematics, art, history, and lots more. No ads, no clutter, and very little agreement — just fascinating conversations.