Human Cognition 102

Here is a sequel of the previous publication, Human Cognition 101, dedicated to human cognition and consciousness. We continue the journey through the labyrinth of reason and try to examine when we believe, how we behave and why we object.


M. C. Escher. Relativity

Reason’s Lack of Reasons

If reason is our use of logic in verifying facts, forming beliefs and justifying said beliefs and practices, then it is clear what a limited part of consciousness reason is, and how dependent it is on the instinctual.

There are several major religions each with millions of believers in the world, the collection of which the vast majority of humanity belongs to. They play a large role in most individuals view of life, humanity and the universe. And they are all logically incompatible.

The common person’s knowledge by far exceeds what one can within a lifetime verify and deduce, especially in highly educated societies. Our knowledge of history and science is conscious, but one has not conducted all the experiments in physics to deduce the knowledge, and one has not for oneself checked the historical “facts”. “My parents/teacher said so” can hardly be called a logical justification of beliefs or actions.

Deriving the logical consequences of the great deal of opinions, beliefs and “facts” most persons have one reaches virtually without exception contradictions or logical holes. In Biological Machines it was remarked that in order not to be random an event has to be determined by something. On the one hand, few among us can imagine how an event which is not bound by any rules or caused by anything can be anything but random. Indeed, it is the definition of being random to be impossible to predict; to not be given by anything. So, it is the common belief that everything must happen for a reason; that everything is determined by something. On the other hand, few among us do not believe in free will. If a choice is not determined by anything, it is random – but we do not think of our choices as completely random. If everything is determined by something, a choice is not free because there is something that determines it – and however one twists and turns this, logic cannot escape the conclusion that either our choices are determined by something outside our control or come from some initial random event. Logic cannot escape it, but our consciousness can.

Holding on the fact that one’s belief cannot be disproven is not a logical justification of it. The amount of facts one can logically prove does not cover the floor of the deep well of “facts”, beliefs, opinions and convictions that societies build on. That the reasons for holding them come from reason can surely not be concluded by reason.

Moral does not make sense separated from human; it can only be the description of a subjective experience. For what can “right in itself” possibly mean… Such a concept cannot be motivated by reason alone. Yet the subject has been studied as a purely rational issue, and still it is often thought of as this – that what is moral can be known by reason. If the concept discussed is a description of subjective experience, why would reason claim the objective truth of it! Reason must be sparked by the instinctual – and its purpose can surely not be to find objective truth.

Perhaps truth should be added to the list of unreasonable concepts of reason; already Hume noted the trivial fact that the objective can never be proven from a subjective view, and it is unlikely he was the first. Truth is the word we apply to statements which invoke a subjective experience that leads us to think the statements are objective facts about reality.


Having traced all human behaviour, consciousness and cognition to the instinctual, it is this that should be studied. First it must be made clear what instinctual mean. In the sections on consciousness and reason I took instinct to mean not much more than not stemming from the consciousness. This is an essential part of all conceptions of instinct, but compared to common biological definitions it is too wide.

Instinctual behaviour does not depend on prior experience; the organism can perform the behaviour without being taught. In a sense, we think of instinctual behaviour as being in the organism from its birth. In which manner does an organism learn, or change behaviour through experience? By dry logic, the ability to learn or to adapt to experience must be contained in the organism from its birth – it is instinctual.

Logic can be boring – but what else than instinctual can learning be? If it is part of consciousness then consciousness cannot be learned and is therefore “built” into the organism. When we experience the same result of an event repeatedly is it not instinctual to think there is a connection? The thought has not been learned, and it is not produced by the conscious. To learn is an innate ability. To change behaviour according to experience is an instinct.

If the initial instincts of an organism are built into it, i.e. determined by organisms’ composition in nature, or more correctly they are a description of particular results of this composition, then all learning and changes in behaviour are also dependent on this.

The Simple and Simplifications

Besides the pure instinctual reaction to the statements and claims made so far, the greatest objection to them is perhaps the seemingly careless manner consciousness, reason, and indeed “human nature” has been dealt with. All the simplifications made and all what is left unmentioned. Humans are after all very complex creatures – by our own means and abilities of comprehension. The workings of the consciousness cannot be summed up in a page or two; it cannot be summed up at all with our current knowledge of it, or lack thereof.

This is exactly the fault of such an objection – one does not have to say everything in order to say something! It is a great simplification to say that the traditional car works by filling it with fuel and turning on the engine – how the perhaps complicated engine works is overlooked – but this does not change the fact that fuel must indeed be filled and the engine turned on in order to drive. And without any deep knowledge about the engine’s workings, we can safely say as much. One does not need to know exactly how one is conscious about something or how one reasons in order to see that consciousness and reasoning must be sparked by something outside them.

There is a great difference between stating a simple aspect of a complex system and simplifying the complex; the simple is not always a simplification.


In discussions and critiques one should always be wary of imagination – one’s own and others’. Is it the opponent’s claim that one disputes, or what one imagines being claimed. Is it reality and our knowledge that the implications of a statement contradict, or what we imagine and believe to be real and true. Are the implications we disagree with real implications, or what we imagine the statement can imply.

That one’s world view is contradicted does not in itself provide a reasonable justification for dismissing a statement, but the fact that this is statistically the main motivation for doing so lends weight to what has been said in previous sections.


2 thoughts on “Human Cognition 102

  1. Pingback: Do not Imagine All the People… | Interactive philosophy

  2. Pingback: Split-brain and the Unnecessity of Consciousness for “Conscious” Behaviour | Interactive philosophy

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