What William James Got Right About Consciousness
By Michael S. Gazzaniga
Is consciousness an instinct?
When feeling at sea about definitions and meanings in the mind/brain business, it is always rewarding to dial up William James once again.
More than 125 years ago, James wrote a landmark article simply titled “What Is an Instinct?” He wastes no time in defining the concept:
Instinct is usually defined as the faculty of acting in such a way as to produce certain ends, without foresight of the ends, and without previous education in the performance…[Instincts] are the functional correlatives of structure. With the presence of a certain organ goes, one may say, almost always a native aptitude for its use. “Has the bird a gland for the secretion of oil? She knows instinctively how to press the oil from the gland, and apply it to the feather.”