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Instincts and learning

In this video, Mark Solms explains how learning is added to instincts, giving us the ability to choose between competing possible actions.

Intentionality – the third defining property of the mind which we discussed in Week 4 – makes us engage with things in the outside world in order to meet our needs. But there are many other things in our environment that we might come up against such as predators or dangerous situations.

Along with other mammals and with birds, we have developed emotional systems to help us navigate those things in the outside world we can’t afford to have to learn about. For example, the emotional system for fear makes us recoil from a cliff edge. These instincts developed around 200 million years ago – but there are many sources of danger that didn’t exist 200 million years ago; so we add to these basic emotions or instincts by learning.

Once we have learned, we also need to choose between competing possible actions. This is where agency comes in for the first time – as the fourth defining property of the mind. Agency is the topic for this week.

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What is a Mind?

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