Is There A Relationship Between "Anticipations" and "Instinct"?

  • Here's an example that might appeal to some. If (hopefully when) we are one day able to reconstruct Jurassic-Park style a new generation of ancient dinosaurs, would we not expect to see them exhibit behaviorisms that were typical of their ancestors eons ago, even though by the terms of their resurrection none of them ever met their parents?

    I'm really torn on this one. First, I firmly agree any representative of a resurrected species is going to display instinctive behavior. And it would be cool to actually see a dinosaur or even a mammoth or mastodon.

    On the other hand, you'd have to start with one. How sad would it be to doom an animal to be the only member of its species to be alive, to deny it the pleasure of "friendship" or of having a recipient to return its mating call or see its dance.

  • To go back to your original question:
    Is There A Relationship Between "Anticipations" and "Instinct"?

    I don't think so. Instinct has to do with behavior. The Anticipations have to do with perception.

    To use your favorite castorine example, beavers build dams over flowing water it appears as a result of stimuli compelling that behavior. There appears to be some sort of necessity involved. There is a visible measurable behavioral result.

    From my perspective, Anticipations (I'm going to say similar to "mental concepts" in the strict scientific sense of Barrett's and her peers' research) are used by the mind to assess, identify, and categorize sensory stimuli. Previous sensations build, fine-tune, and strengthen "Anticipations" but they don't lead to a compulsive behavior.

    Or maybe I'm conflating instinct and instinctual behavior. Still thinking...

  • From my perspective, Anticipations (I'm going to say similar to "mental concepts" in the strict scientific sense of Barrett's and her peers' research) are used by the mind to assess, identify, and categorize sensory stimuli.

    Yes, we remain at the very starting point of debate because that is the Bailey/Laertius position. The process of "asessing, identifying, and categorizing" is certainly (I think everyone would agree) a process of individual reasoning involving the use of opinion. The trademark characteristic of the five senses, and of pain and pleasure, is that they operate automatically and WITHOUT the use of opinion. If anticipations are viewed as concepts formed through the use of opinion, then you've introduced into the "canon of truth" a tool which has been formed by individual human opinion and not by Nature itself.

    So to restate where we are (I think) for clarity, we have at least two major issues:

    (1) Per Bailey/Laertius, anticipations are concepts built up through experience which are then used as the structure for the next floor in the building, going ever-higher but always on the basis of the concepts built up after experience.

    The opposing position (Velleius/DeWitt) would be that while the conceptual reasoning process Bailey describes of erecting one concept after another certainly does exist, the original decision to erect the conceptual structure, and the tools by which the conceptual structure is shaped as we build it upward, are innate / instinctual, all of a class that includes the eyes, ears, taste, nose, and touch, as well as pleasure and pain, and among which would per Velleius/DeWitt to be "etchings" which dispose the structure of conceptual thinking to be erected like a fully-formed adult grows from the DNA of a microscopic cell.

    The argument would be that the beaver is predisposed to recognize an opportunity for successful living in dam-building, from the moment of conception, and that similar processes take place throughout the animal kingdom, certainly influenced by experience after birth, but which would never have occurred at all but for the original "wiring" being present to allow the connections to be recognized.

    So that's a description of the issue, with a further major aspect of this debate being:

    (2) That the DeWitt/Velleius description of the faculty (and as far as I can tell those who advocate it) does not in any way foreclose the Bailey/Laertius description of the faculty, but those holding the Bailey/Laertius position fiercely advocate (dare I say they are predisposed to advocate?) that the DeWitt/Velleius description is bogus and something that needs to be eliminated from consideration completely.

    I find this second aspect of the question almost as fascinating as the first aspect, but maybe with this caveat: I don't think there is anything in the Laertius material that leads to the ferocious denial of the Velleius position. And almost cetainly Velleius would have been aware of and had no issue with the Laertius "conceptual reasoning" posiiton (who could?)

    I think the force of the anti-Velleius argument comes from Bailey and other "modern" commentators, not from the ancient sources.

  • Just FYI: Modern brain research has debunked the 3-part human brain. All mammalian brains (and possibly others, sorry, can't recall off the top of my head .... pun not necessarily intended) contain all those parts to varying degrees. See the work of Dr. Barrett and others.…dont-have-a-lizard-brain/

    The 3-part human brain schema always struck me as being Platonic (and Freudian, for that matter)

    1. the rational superego of the "human" logos (λογιστικόν), or logistikon
    2. the selfish ego of the "mammalian" thymos (θυμοειδές), or thumoeides
    3. the defensive id of the "reptilian" eros (ἐπιθυμητικόν), or epithumetikon

    There seems to be a correlation between the three gunas (psychological qualities) posited in the Gita:

    1. Sattva (सत्त्व), being understanding, patient, orderly, and wise
    2. Rajas (रजस्), being ambitious, passionate, and egotistical
    3. Tamas (तमस्), being vindictive, defensive, violence, and destructive

    I'm curious if there is a historical link between the aforementioned division of Threes. I note a division of Fours that can be found throughout history from Hippocrates' four humors to Galen's four personalities, to the four stations of life in Hinduism and the Indian caste system that reflects it, to contemporary American job-placement tests: there is a direct, historical evolution there. There may be for Threes, too.

  • (I didn't see Nate's post before posting this, which is more response to Don's last post.)

    I think a lot of this battle is being fought subconsciously on the issue of the meaning of "truth." I think DeWitt almost surely has to be correct in his assertion that Epicurus did not understand "truth" as an absolute term, but in terms of something being "truly reported" as if by a witness in court, who is reporting without opinion, but who may well not have access to all the facts.

    The Academic world, however, including Plato and Aristotle and Stoic derivatives, are fully invested in there being an "absolute" truth which is accessible, if at all, through conceptual reasoning. Therefore they cannot imagine themselves, and cannot tolerate in opposing views, any standard of "truth" which does not include conceptual reasoning as core to the definition of what is true or false.

    But that seems to be exactly what Epicurus did, setting "Nature" as the provider of each and every criterion of "truth." At the same time , of course, Epicurus studied and discussed how the mind works with conceptual reasoning, in which opinion is involved. So that's why I think we see Epicurus discussing both conceptual reasoning as well as the set of tools given by nature by which conceptual reasoning must be tested for its accuracy and relevance to us as individuals.

    And I guess in saying that we might see another reason for the hostility -- to suggest that the power and relevance of conceptual reasoning should be "tested" or in any way restrained by faculties of nature would be intolerable to the Platonic team. To them, reason and logic are absolutely supreme, and its easy to read into them (especially into the Stoics) the disposition to dispense with the senses and "reality" totally, in favor of what they see as the higher life attainable through the mind only.

  • Nate , the three-part brain **may** be an analogy/metaphor to simplify an explanation of human nature but it shouldn't be taken to describe the anatomy of the brain. You bring up an interesting point about the ubiquity of 3s and 4s. Maybe something about completion or the satisfying arrangement you can get from 3 (triangle) or 4 (square) objects.

  • One way in which I disagree with DeWitt's comments in this area, or at least think they are too harsh, is in his comments that Lucretius does not seem to have known about or understood anticipations. If you take DeWitt's on viewpoint as to Velleius talking about "etchings" and therefore potentially instinct, I think there are probably numerous sections of Lucretius which contain relevant material, including this below from Book 3 (Bailey).

    I know he's talking about heat and air here, but ultimately he's referring to the atomic makeup of the body and mind, and surely a faculty of anticipations would function through the elemental particles just as any other faculty is based there. This passage seems to me to be something easily compatible with a viewpoint that the animals discussed are born with particular "natures."

    At the same time, his final statement is I think consistent with my argument earlier that the Velleius position doesn't rule out that the Laertius conceptual reasoning also occurs. Lucretius is clearly pointing out that humans are born with natures of a certain type, but that conceptual reasoning has a great deal of influence on us as we grow and learn, even to the point of dispelling many of the undesirable traits that might be born in our nature.

    (I see the Smith version is perhaps even more clear than Bailey, so I will paste that here first:)

    Presumably you can train a beaver not to build dams, but no amount of training was present at birth that led to their disposition to build them in the first place.


    Bailey Book 3, approx line 300: Now, as I long to give account in what way these parts are mingled one with another, and in what manner bound together so that they can act, against my will the poverty of my country’s tongue holds me back; yet, despite that, I will touch the theme, as best I can in brief. For the first-beginnings course to and fro among themselves with the motions of first-beginnings, so that no single one can be put apart, nor can its powers be set in play divided from others by empty space, but they are, as it were, the many forces of a single body. Even as in the flesh of any living creature anywhere there is smell and a certain heat and savour, and yet of all these is made up the bulk of a single body. Thus heat and air and the hidden power of wind mingled create one nature together with that nimble force, which sends among them from itself the beginning of motion, whence the motion that brings sensation first arises throughout the flesh. For right deep within this nature lies hid far below, nor is there anything further beneath than this in our bodies, and it is moreover the very soul of the whole soul. Even as in our limbs and our whole body the force of the mind and the power of the soul is secretly immingled, because it is formed of small and rare bodies. So, you see, this force without a name, made of tiny bodies, lies concealed, and is moreover, as it were, the very soul of the whole soul and holds sway in the whole body. In like manner it must needs be that wind and air and heat act mingled together throughout the limbs, and one is more above or below the rest, yet so that one single thing is seen to be composed of all; lest heat and wind apart, and apart from them the power of air, should put an end to sensation, and by their separation break it up. Moreover the mind possesses that heat, which it dons when it boils with rage, and the fire flashes more keenly from the eyes. Much cold breath too it has, which goes along with fear, and starts a shuddering in the limbs and stirs the whole frame. And it has too that condition of air lulled to rest, which comes to pass when the breast is calm and the face unruffled. But those creatures have more of heat, whose fiery heart and passionate mind easily boils up in anger. Foremost in this class is the fierce force of lions, who often as they groan break their hearts with roaring, and cannot contain in their breast the billows of their wrath. But the cold heart of deer is more full of wind, and more quickly it rouses the chilly breath in its flesh, which makes a shuddering motion start in the limbs. But the nature of oxen draws its life rather from calm air, nor ever is the smoking torch of anger set to it to rouse it overmuch, drenching it with the shadow of murky mist, nor is it pierced and frozen by the chill shafts of fear: it has its place midway between the two, the deer and the raging lions. So is it with the race of men. However much training gives some of them an equal culture, yet it leaves those first traces of the nature of the mind of each. Nor must we think that such maladies can be plucked out by the roots, but that one man will more swiftly fall into bitter anger, another be a little sooner assailed by fear, while a third will take some things more gently than is right. And in many other things it must needs be that the diverse natures of men differ, and the habits that follow thereon; but I cannot now set forth the secret causes of these, nor discover names for all the shapes of the first atoms, whence arises this variety in things. One thing herein I see that I can affirm, that so small are the traces of these natures left, which reason could not dispel for us, that nothing hinders us from living a life worthy of the gods.

  • A quick clarification that may have led to some confusion:

    When I say Anticipations are similar to "mental concepts" in modern neuroscience, I'm not talking about rational reasoning. Godfrey may be able to help me with this.

    A "concept" in this sense is a technical term that denotes a mental model against which your brain compares sensations coming in and uses to make predictions on the course of action to keep your body budget in equilibrium. Its all pre-rational, we don't "know" it's going on. The model or concept can get refined but it works below the surface.

    I'm not explaining this very well, but I wanted to be clear I'm not referring to a "conceptualizing" or "reasoning."

    Godfrey ? Help :) .

  • At this part of the conversation I would like to provide some cites from the Bailey position to show that regardless of what Barrett might be talking about, Bailey DOES (I would argue) equate anticipations with general concepts which are then used and recombined in the future to construct the rest of human thought. The first one I can put my hands on is Bailey's commentary on Diogenes Laertius in the Greek Atomists and Epicurus, in which he says he is adopting the position generally taken by the commentating community. I'll paste some of the critical part of the discussion here.

    Its all pre-rational, we don't "know" it's going on. The model or concept can get refined but it works below the surface.

    In distinction to this statement about it being pre-rational, Bailey says "a concept is not fully known until it is named, until it has a label by which it may at once be called into prominence in the mind." (last page pasted below)

  • When I say Anticipations are similar to "mental concepts" in modern neuroscience, I'm not talking about rational reasoning

    Don I was going to make exactly that point. "Pre-rational concepts" are what I would consider to be the faculty as well as the "etchings."

    I'm curious as to whether there is any functional equivalence between "pre-rational concepts" and "rational concepts" or if it's just confusing terminology. It seems as if they may be different levels of usage of the faculty, but I don't know if that's neurologically correct.

    An illustration that comes to mind is of breathing: we breathe subconsciously to stay alive, but we can also consciously control our breathing.

  • Bailey is explicit that concepts clarify sensations. According to modern science, sensations confirm "pre-rational concepts." In conscious thought we use concepts to clarify sensations, but Barrett argues that rationality is somewhat of an illusion since so much of the process occurs subconsciously through predictions, simulations, affect, etc.

  • Which would seem to poke a hole in the Platonic or Stoic balloon...

    gues that rationality is somewhat of an illusion since so much of the process occurs subconsciously through predictions, simulations, affect, etc.

  • Bailey's reference to the words and labels issue is probably useful as a dividing line or place to focus attention. If I remember some of Ellis comments correctly, some of the modern Greek Epicureans take the position that the assignment of a word or label is itself somehow prerational and is what Epicurus meant by the "present impressions of the mind which Laertius says some later Epicureans considered to be a fourth leg of the canon.

    I have never been persuaded that this direction (meaning considering "present impressions of the mind" to be a fourth leg of the canon) is useful but the sections referenced in Laeritus and Herodotus probably do deserve to be correlated with any full review of these issues.

  • Don Thank you very much for the info on Baretts book. I read one of her articles on a scientific magazine and was really remarkable. Her article is on this link:

    Yesterday, I found that her book already exists, here in Greece, in english language and I will buy it soon.

    As for the beaver... It takes two to tango. :)

    Βeaver is very capable swimmer, as he can breathe underwater, he uses his sharp teeth and manages to cut down an entire tree overnight. It builds its dams in lakes, even in rivers and in fact creates dams with tree trunks, branches, stones and mud.

    The curious thing of course is that beavers for building their dams all the materials are carried by the male beavers while the females are the ones who undertake the construction by making a separation in the house, which is of two parts, because it has the main apartment and storage for food for difficult days while with a hole in the top out of the water, there is also ventilation. The little beavers, as soon as they manage to swim well, they take on their responsibilities and become independent, after going to their own nest.

    Beauty and virtue and such are worthy of honor, if they bring pleasure; but if not then bid them farewell!

  • It seems then that the behavior being debated as instinctual is quite complicated since it involves two beavers and a division of labor. This, to me, makes it sound more like learned behavior. But since it doesn't seem to be clear what constitutes instinct, there is the possibility that this degree of complexity may be instinctual.

    In Don's example I wonder if the beaver that built a dam was male or female :/

  • Perhaps also this is a reason that I think DeWitt chose the term "intuition" almost as much as he did "instinct" -- I think "intuit-" is probably a broader or at least more applicable word, and less likely to get us sidetracked onto other issues not really related to the current discussion. I see the wikipedia article talks about Plato in ancient philosophy, which ought to be a concern, yet also may provide another clue as to what Epicurus was "bouncing off of" in articulating his own views.

    Since DeWitt had a lot more background than we do and thought about this issue long before we did, let me do a word search in EAHP to see how often he mentioned each word:

    Number of occurrences of "instinct-" in EAHP - seven

    Number of occurrences of "intuit-" - in EAHP - six

    I think another thing to keep in mind is that if we're talking "canonical faculties" here - and that's what we should be looking at - then we are talking about ways in which WE perceive reality that are somehow personal to us, not a matter of how others judge us from the outside.

    I think we're all agreed that there is no way that we are talking about particular "concepts" or "ideas" being inborn, and we are also (or should be) talking about some kind of perceptual faculty like seeing or hearing which is available to process data, but which doesn't have any data in it at birth.

    The "dam" example is probably a good test case because at least to me it seems tempting to consider a "dam" to be a concept or idea, which would not seem compatible with the theory. Maybe that's where the "rushing water" cited above would be helpful, in that if the components like water and trees are present but other key components are not, it's the relational ability that is the real key. A beaver which built a dam in a lake which had no flowing water would probably be evidence of a truly preprogrammed mind (like a computer programmed to do some activity regardless of circumstances ) but the ability to see that a key component is missing may indicate that the faculty which which the beaver is endowed is part of an "active" faculty that is able to react to unforeseeable circumstances.

    At any rate, all we really have to work with in explaining the philosophy is the examples in the texts that are specifically cited -- "gods" and "justice" and maybe one or more less certain references (time?). In most all other cases, I would think we can talk about the core issues of a faculty while leave the extended applications to other people down the line. Beavers may help us as a possible example, but all we really know that Epicurus mentioned was justice and gods.

    And that's the real issue I have always asserting itself in my mind; our job (at least the job I have chosen for myself) ought to be to articulate and restate the basics in an understandable form so that people in the future do not have to start virtually from scratch (or worse, as we do in the "absence of pain" attitude) in studying Epicurean philosophy. We don't have to get too far in the weeds in order to do that, and if we DO get too close to those weeds they will probably in every case prove to be a major distraction to plowing ahead with the primary goal.

  • On this topic Godfrey called to my mind an article (chapter of a book) by David Sedley that is probably relevant here - "Epicurus' Theological Innatism," of which an early paragraph is:

    A link for this is here