Controlling instinct by rational thought is what makes us human

The ability to transcend 'instinct' as the driver of our actions and replace, or at least guide that instinct by rational thought that takes account of the 'outcomes' is what lifts us above the animal. That is, we can now see our actions as not just 'good' (it worked and I got what I wanted), or bad (didn't work and I didn't get what I wanted), but as also 'good' (morally correct, in line with societal norms etc), or bad (criminal, dangerous, immoral etc). Of course some would say (Nietzsche please stand) that this is a degenerative step, but not many could say that seriously. When man began to use rationality to temper instictive reaction he became human. Prior to such a momentous step murder, theft, rape, incest etc. did not exist as they were but consequences of instinctive action that sustained personal survival. Such concepts/labels only came about when instinct began to be tempered by rationality and (importantly) that rationality was also itself subject to a 'history of rational action'. So then a 'society' was born that had a history, both physical and moral. Society did not exist in an age where all actions were instinctive.

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

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Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

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Brain study finds circuits that may help you keep your cool

Research by neuroscientists at MIT's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory helps explain how the brain regulates arousal.

Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP/ Getty Images
Mind & Brain

MIT News

The big day has come: You are taking your road test to get your driver's license. As you start your mom's car with a stern-faced evaluator in the passenger seat, you know you'll need to be alert but not so excited that you make mistakes. Even if you are simultaneously sleep-deprived and full of nervous energy, you need your brain to moderate your level of arousal so that you do your best.

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34 years ago, a KGB defector chillingly predicted modern America

A disturbing interview given by a KGB defector in 1984 describes America of today and outlines four stages of mass brainwashing used by the KGB.

Politics & Current Affairs
  • Bezmenov described this process as "a great brainwashing" which has four basic stages.
  • The first stage is called "demoralization" which takes from 15 to 20 years to achieve.
  • According to the former KGB agent, that is the minimum number of years it takes to re-educate one generation of students that is normally exposed to the ideology of its country.
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