The mind views the world in form of a multitude of different events and objects which, in the mind, are all wholes in themselves, though made up of many different parts and an essence which binds them all together (“the whole is more than the sum of its parts”). We call these wholes either ideas or abstractions, and they can be anything such as how to cook a specific dish, or the metaphysical structure of reality. There is no telling hw accurate our thinking is, that is, how well they map the real, if they do so at all. Objective reality might be radically different from how we perceive it.
We percieve all physical objects as instantations of a universal. When we turn to an object, such as a pillow, we recognize this pillow to be an example of the “pillowness”, a general idea of the pillow that all pillows share in.
Its the same with more abstract ideas such as that of a democracy or or the idea of our solar system.
We are also able to form ideas which are subsumed under a whole, but which consists of steps (or what one could call patterns. We understand the patterns of reality, how reality usually behaves). This could be how to grow wheat. The farmer has learned that he needs to seed the field in the spring, remove weeds when summer comes, and to harvest them at the right time.
We learn by interacting with the outside, physical world. We form an idea of how to do something, and this is then revised, for example, when we fail (or have success), or by learning from others, more experienced people.
The mind works especially well by making generalizations. We perceive the particular (that is, the non-generalizations) of the outside world, where upon we extract information through encounters with several of the objects/events and turn them into a general idea of how such things are and work. We can call this: ” mapping the patterns of events or behavior”, and it works by updating old information about the world with the new data that is collected throughout our lives, in other words, we learn something new each day (about the world, others, and ourselves).
For example, we might observe our friend being very submissive towards authority several times, from which we will learn a general trait of our friend, and will know to expect this behavior from him in the future. But then again, he might on some later occassions show defiance of authority, so we have to update our mapping of our friend to include this new trait. Sometimes he might be submissive, at other times defiant of authority.