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Here are a couple of old letters about human instincts. Peter

From: "Dennis May" To: atlantis Subject: ATL: Instincts [Premises and emotions] Date: Fri, 31 Aug 2001 15:20:27 -0500. Barbara Branden wrote: >Dennis, would you explain what you mean by << instincts>>? And why you think they exist in human beings? There are many different concepts of instincts that I don't know what you're referring to.

The concept of "instincts" refers to a continuum of behaviors exhibited by animals.  Lower creatures exhibit behavior largely genetically preprogrammed.  As creatures become more complex their preprogrammed behavior is augmented by learned behavior.  Note I said augmented, not replaced. As much as some philosophers don't want to believe it, humans are animals not far removed from those in the wild. The list of instinctual behaviors exhibited by humans to some degree or another is quite large.  Some have been studied more than others, some are obvious, some subtle, and many are controversial to those who wish to place humans outside of their place in evolution.

Some examples:

Fear of snakes, spiders.

Deep terror created by the sounds of some predators.

Face recognition/beauty [Bill Dwyer mentioned].

Sexual attraction related to scents.

Other aspects of sexual attraction.

Fear of heights [some people genetically don't have it].

Infants sucking.

Revulsion/attraction to certain tastes and smells and their changing nature with age or pregnancy.

Blinking when an object approaches.

Fear of inhaling fluids [some man-made fluids can be breathed].

The primary lesson in all of this is: you cannot ignore evolutionary biology when you are talking about humans.  We are a product of that evolution and we are far from pure-reasoning creatures. Reason [learned behavior] can overcome some instincts.  Many phobias or other mental anomalies are the result of genetic error involving instincts.  If these anomalies are helpful they are passed on to offspring, if not they are a burden which may impair reproduction.

I fully expect that some version of autism allowing fantastic memory or calculational abilities will become part of what it is to be human many generations from now. Dennis May

From: "William Dwyer" To: Atlantis Subject: ATL: Re: Instincts [Premises and emotions]

Date: Sat, 1 Sep 2001 00:04:54 -0700. Barbara Branden asked Dennis May what he means by the term "instincts."  Dennis replied:

> The concept of "instincts" refers to a continuum of behaviors exhibited by animals.

This is not a satisfactory definition, because it is simply too broad.  But perhaps Dennis didn't intend it to be.  He continues.

 > Lower creatures exhibit behavior largely genetically preprogrammed.  As  creatures become more complex their preprogrammed behavior is augmented by learned behavior.  Note I said augmented, not replaced.

So is Dennis saying that instinctive behavior is "genetically preprogrammed"?

 

 > As much as some philosophers don't want to believe it, humans are animals not far removed from those in the wild.

Even the emotional responses of animals can be learned.  A dog will feel fear, if it is beaten and abused, but will be friendly and affectionate if treated well, although some breeds are obviously more aggressive and others more friendly by nature.

 > The list of instinctual behaviors exhibited by humans to some degree or another is quite large.

I don't know whether this is true or not, since we still don't have a satisfactory definition of "instinct."

 > Some have been studied more than others, some are obvious, some subtle, and many are controversial to those who wish to place humans outside of their place in evolution.

Still no definition.  What is the defining characteristic of "instinct"?  Dennis has yet to tell us with any clarity or precision.  But in what follows, he doesn't hesitate to give us examples. I'll assume that by "instinct", Dennis means a response that is not learned or acquired through experience.

 > Some examples:

 > Fear of snakes, spiders.

I'm not afraid of spiders nor of snakes that I know are not poisonous or dangerous.  So how could this be an instinct?

 > Deep terror created by the sounds of some predators.

As Barbara pointed out, unless one associates the sound with animals that one has ~learned~ are predators, it is unlikely that there would be any fear.

 > Face recognition/beauty [Bill Dwyer mentioned].

Here I think that there may be a learned basis for one's response to beauty that we're not fully aware of. The reason is that people from different racial groups have different standards of beauty, which are probably based on familiarity.  It was reported by anthropologists that black African men found white English women, upon first encountering them, to be the ugliest women they had ever seen.

 > Sexual attraction related to scents.

This is interesting.  There may be a biological basis for pleasant versus unpleasant scents, in the same way that there is a biological basis for a sweet or sour taste.

 > Other aspects of sexual attraction.

As Barbara has pointed out, this probably has a learned component.

 > Fear of heights [some people genetically don't have it].

I think that fear of heights results from our recognition of the danger of falling.  If we had no knowledge that falling from a great height could hurt or kill us, I don't think we'd feel the same fear.  I definitely don't think this is instinctual.

 > Infants sucking.

This may be reflexive, and therefore not learned.

 > Revulsion/attraction to certain tastes and smells.

Yes, this may be innate in the same way that pleasure and pain are.

 >   and their changing nature with age or pregnancy.

There may be a learned component to this, however.

 > Blinking when an object approaches.

Undoubtedly reflexive.  So if by instincts, Dennis means "reflexive," then yes, there are instincts.  No question.

 > Fear of inhaling fluids [some man-made fluids can be breathed].

This has to be learned or else is simply the result of caution around something unfamiliar, since the only thing we typically breath is air.

>The primary lesson in all of this is: you cannot ignore evolutionary biology when you are talking about humans.  We are a product of that evolution and we are far from pure-reasoning creatures. Reason [learned behavior] can overcome some instincts.  Many phobias or other mental anomalies are the result of genetic error involving instincts. I don't agree with this last point regarding phobias. Fears are learned responses. Bill

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SL, That's part of the problem when using examples, and only examples, as the arguments. But there's even a deeper problem. Can a hatchling or chick build a nest by instinct? No it

I would think the reason a lot of discussions around instinctual behaviors and the like are center around infancy is due to the fact that infancy is the time with the least amount of experience, the i

TG, Now you are beginning to see it in all its glory. Once you see it, you can't unsee it. And then the argument always boils down to: An instinct is an instinct unless it isn't. O

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24 minutes ago, ThatGuy said:

It seems to me that she let them define the terms, and responded on the basis of that, instead of being "Radical" and going to the root, to check the premise of the term...

TG,

That is exactly right and I believe she did so on purpose as a persuasion thing. I can't prove that and I am only speculating, but I think a good case can be made for this.

At the time she lived and wrote AS, the authoritarians were all talking about instincts as the reason freedom and free will can't exist (except for them, of course :) ). They didn't use those words, but that was the essence.

If she had presented the case of check your premises rather than either-or, the instinct message (philosophically expressed as a form of determinism) was so embedded in the different cultures the world over that nobody would have paid any attention to it except a handful of readers.

Nowadays, freedom and volition are accepted as fundamental in improving the human race (except for the woke generation, who exempt themselves, of course :) , and globalist eugenics-leaning authoritarians, who, I believe, are on the way out in dying empire-like fashion).

That's why I said earlier Rand won. This, to me, was huge. A critical philosophical war took place and most people don't even realize it happened. But the cost was cognitive imprecision about a fundamental fact of reality. That had to be sacrificed at the time in order to make a big enough stink to be heard in all the noise.

A war is fought and won using the "I win, you lose" standard. It is not won on discussions of minutia and exceptions and semantics and detailed clarifications.

And, when aiming her guns, I believe that "I win, you lose" frame Rand used is also the reason she was so inconsistent in her use of the term "instinct." When she wasn't actively fighting that war at the moment in her writing (and probably speaking), her use of the term instinct included humans.

Believe me, there's quite a collection of examples of that inconsistency to be made for anyone enterprising enough to do the donkey-work.

Michael

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19 minutes ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

That's why I said earlier Rand won. This, to me, was huge. A critical philosophical war took place and most people don't even realize it happened. But the cost was cognitive imprecision about a fundamental fact of reality. That had to be sacrificed at the time in order to make a big enough stink to be heard in all the noise.

 

19 minutes ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

That's why I said earlier Rand won. This, to me, was huge. A critical philosophical war took place and most people don't even realize it happened. But the cost was cognitive imprecision about a fundamental fact of reality. That had to be sacrificed at the time in order to make a big enough stink to be heard in all the noise.

A war is fought and won using the "I win, you lose" standard. It is not won on discussions of minutia and exceptions and semantics and detailed clarifications.

Bookmarking this...interesting. I've had similiar thoughts about "meme warfare" and accuracy. Some people criticize those on the right  for make outrageous claims and employ hyperbole/clickbait in lieu of context and accuracy. Reminds me of Revolutionary War era tactics about Lexington and Concord, etc, to make the British look bad, and seeing modern-era commentators criticizing such...

"All's fair in love and war", and such...(but beware the "end justifying the means", and such...)

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I searched for the word instinct and found these Rand quotes.

To think is an act of choice. The key to what you so recklessly call “human nature,” the open secret you live with, yet dread to name, is the fact that man is a being of volitional consciousness. Reason does not work automatically; thinking is not a mechanical process; the connections of logic are not made by instinct. The function of your stomach, lungs or heart is automatic; the function of your mind is not. In any hour and issue of your life, you are free to think or to evade that effort. But you are not free to escape from your nature, from the fact that reason is your means of survival—so that for you, who are a human being, the question “to be or not to be” is the question “to think or not to think.” A being of volitional consciousness has no automatic course of behavior. He needs a code of values to guide his actions. Galt’s Speech, For the New Intellectual, 120.

Man’s consciousness shares with animals the first two stages of its development: sensations and perceptions; but it is the third state, conceptions, that makes him man. Sensations are integrated into perceptions automatically, by the brain of a man or of an animal. But to integrate perceptions into conceptions by a process of abstraction, is a feat that man alone has the power to perform—and he has to perform it by choice. The process of abstraction, and of concept-formation is a process of reason, of thought; it is not automatic nor instinctive nor involuntary nor infallible. Man has to initiate it, to sustain it and to bear responsibility for its results. The pre-conceptual level of consciousness is nonvolitional; volition begins with the first syllogism. Man has the choice to think or to evade—to maintain a state of full awareness or to drift from moment to moment, in a semi-conscious daze, at the mercy of whatever associational whims the unfocused mechanism of his consciousness produces.  “For the New Intellectual,” For the New Intellectual, 14.

A process of thought is not automatic nor “instinctive” nor involuntary—nor infallible. Man has to initiate it, to sustain it and to bear responsibility for its results. He has to discover how to tell what is true or false and how to correct his own errors; he has to discover how to validate his concepts, his conclusions, his knowledge; he has to discover the rules of thought, the laws of logic, to direct his thinking. Nature gives him no automatic guarantee of the efficacy of his mental effort. .  “The Objectivist Ethics,” The Virtue of Selfishness, 21.

 

PLAYBOY:  You attack the idea that sex is "impervious to reason."  But isn't sex a non-rational biological instinct?"

RAND:  No.  To begin with, man does not possess ~any~ instincts.  Physically, sex is merely a capacity.  But how a man will exercise this capacity and whom he will find attractive depends on his standard of value.  It depends on his premises, which he may hold consciously or subconsciously, and which determine his choices.  It is in this manner that his philosophy directs his sex life.

James S. Valliant quoted: Nevertheless, Rand's important differences with Nietzsche, even in her twenties, were already portentous. In Rand's very first notes of a philosophical nature, dated from April through May of 1934, when she was still just twenty-nine – and before the publication of the first edition of 'We the Living' – she clearly states her un-Nietzschean belief that men can "use logical reasoning to govern their lives" – without recourse to either "faith" or emotion. Rand asks herself a question, and one suspects she already has at least an inkling as to her own answer: "Are instincts and emotions necessarily beyond the control of plain thinking?" ('Journals of Ayn Rand,' p. 68)

 

"Whoever you are -- you are alone with my words in this moment, with nothing but your honesty to help you understand -- the choice is still open to be a human being, but the price is to start from scratch, to stand naked in the face of reality and, reversing a costly historical error, to declare:  'I am; therefore I'll think.' [I.e., "I am; therefore, I ~will~ think."]

"Accept the irrevocable fact that your life depends upon your mind.  Admit that the whole of your struggle, your doubts, your fakes, your evasions, was a desperate quest for escape from the responsibility of a volitional consciousness -- a quest for automatic knowledge, for instinctive action, for intuitive certainty -- and while you called it a longing for the state of an angel, what you were seeking was the state of an animal.  Accept, as your moral ideal, the task of becoming a man." [Atlas Shrugged, p. 1058, HB]

 

INTERVIEW WITH JACK WHEELER by Karen Reedstrom MAY 1996

 

Q: Is there anything you disagree with in the philosophy itself?

Wheeler: Aside from the silly nonsense like the anti-Beethoven trip? One example might be the tabula rasa stuff, that we have no instincts.

Q: You think we do?

Wheeler: Yes, there's all kinds of genetic programs we have running in us. They've been around for a long time. We have a lot of ice age genes.

Q: Like what?

Wheeler: The double standard, for example. Every society on earth that has ever existed has had a double standard. And why is that? It's because when a woman gives birth she knows for sure that that's her child and her DNA is in that baby. A man never, ever, has that kind of 100% knowledge. There is always doubt. So men have always tried to reduce the amount of that doubt by restricting the woman's sexual activity, to make sure that her offspring has his DNA because it is a very bad genetic investment to go out there and risk your life being eaten by a lion to get the food to feed the kid when the kid is somebody else's DNA. So there's always been a double standard. Now once we become aware of that, we can override it, but there's all kinds of ice age genes, all kinds of GROMS, genetic read-only memories, operating in us. To say: "Oh, it doesn't exist; the brain is somehow exempt from evolution," just seems to me completely non-empirical. Rand is making an assertion based on her feelings, not evidence, which is not very Objectivist.

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How about one more interesting letter with the word instinct? Peter

From: Neil Goodell To:objectivism Subject: OWL: Knowledge, Genetics, and The Moral A Priori Date: Sat, 20 Sep 2003 11:00:32 -0600. On 09/20/2003 8:09 AM, Allen Weingarten wrote: >Rafael Eilon believes that I use “the term "a-priori" in a meaning quite different from common philosophical usage.” The term has been used in various ways, including as he mentions “without having any source in reality whatsoever”. It is also often used in the manner I mentioned, such as by Mises in “Human Action” where it not only includes the evolved individual at birth, but incorporates his childhood education (“Every man in his youth, starting from the depths of darkness, proceeds through various states of the mind’s logical structure.”)

And  > Monart Pon similarly takes Rafael Eilon’s position, and further writes that “all knowledge is derived from and reducible to one's experience and perception of reality.”

I think one source of confusion in the definition of "a priori" is that our understanding of what constitutes experience and knowledge has changed over the past 50 years, even the past 20 years. As such Rand's claim of tabula rasa cannot stand by itself as the naked claim she made so many years ago.

Allen's dictionary definition, "existing in the mind, prior to and independent of experience," is vague and fuzzy in light of today's knowledge of genetics. Our understanding of evolution and genetics, even limited as it is, clearly shows this. Today "knowledge" also encompasses what I'll call structure, in that different physical structures will react differently to similar physical forces, such as a baseball bat hitting a tomato or a walnut. Within organisms this structure changes over evolutionary time as a result of forces we don't yet fully understand. In other words, "experience" is part of the genome as a result of evolution, and as such the knowledge represented by this structure is "existing in the mind" prior to what we typically think of as experience.

Our brain is no different -- but we do not have the same brain structure as that of a sea turtle or a cockroach, and as part of the built-in structure of the brain, each of our different brains will react differently, from birth, to food, water, or another of the same species. Ascribing this to instinct is an oversimplification and obscures the fact that all brains come with a genetic plan for how they are to be built and their capabilities and capacities for responding to environmental stimuli. This is all an instinct is really, and humans have them in as much abundance as any other species.

That said, distinguishing between the knowledge we learn and that which is inherently part of the genetic structure of our brain, is not an easy task. And at the moment I don't have or know of a nice in-principle method for distinguishing one from the other in practice.

And finally, Allen's quote of Mises, "...proceeds through various states of the mind's logical structure." With today's knowledge it is clear that this statement is erroneous. Notions of "the mind's logical structure" is a fallacy if taken literally. It would be more accurate to say the *construction* of a logical structure. Logic is simply a method of reasoning or thinking, and there is nothing natural about it; our brains have the *capacity* to think this way, but only if we train it/them to do so. --Neil Goodell

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44 minutes ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

SL,

That's part of the problem when using examples, and only examples, as the arguments.

But there's even a deeper problem.

Can a hatchling or chick build a nest by instinct?

No it can't. It can't even fly.

Whenever people talk about instincts in O-Land and are of the view that human instincts do not exist, they always leave out growth. The logic goes like this.

If you point to an instinct (like being left handed or right handed, which only appears after growth takes place), they claim that this is a learned behavior because experience helped fill the "blank slate."

(btw - The natural instinct in that case can be modified by conscious effort or being forced to use the other hand, but that's a different issue. The natural impulse is there and it only develops after growth takes place.)

But when they point to animals (or insects) they always talk about ADULT members of a species. That's what they use when they point to an example of an instinct. They never talk about why such instinct isn't visible in the very young.

In other words, if an animal grows into a behavior, it's because that's an instinct. If a human grows into a behavior, that's because experience is feeding conceptual development.

Experience doesn't count for animal instincts, but it does count for proving humans don't have instincts

It's a double standard.

Also, I'm still stuck on the instinct of a black widow spider eating her mate after copulation. I've known several human women like that. I wonder if that's by instinct...

:evil:  :) 

Michael

I agree.

I would go on to imagine the following.

By the time birds are adults they are quite familiar with things they pick up or manipulate with their beaks, insects, nuts, pebbles, leaves, straw, sticks, grass etc...  they’ve seen piles of them, perhaps seen others making piles...

and perhaps having never had the urge to do so previously, one spring a bird sees a particularly interesting crook between a branch and a tree trunk... it’s dark and empty and enticing... irresistibly so.  

An urging to perch there... multiple times reinforces itself and then another urge is born... to fill it, yes

with... with.. sticks, and straw and grass 

after finding straw, grass and bits of string the urge to fill that place.... make a space in the middle... all play out as an incremental process of contextual reproductive urging and discovery.

 

Who here would claim in a sort of Blue Lagoon scenario, that in a completely different way but quite analogously, two completely innocent and ignorant adolescents having no knowledge about how certain things work would not end up discovering it,  in a similar incremental contextually urged human process.

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17 minutes ago, Peter said:

PLAYBOY:  You attack the idea that sex is "impervious to reason."  But isn't sex a non-rational biological instinct?"

 

RAND:  No.  To begin with, man does not possess ~any~ instincts.  Physically, sex is merely a capacity. 

A "capacity"? What does that mean? Something of which one is "capable"? Ok. And that capacity driven by...what? Impulse. And what is an "instinct", etymology-speaking? An impulse.

(Did she think that humans rationally derived a way to reproduce? C'mon...)

"Let me tell you 'bout the birds, and the bees, and the flowers, and the trees..."

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33 minutes ago, ThatGuy said:

 

Bookmarking this...interesting. I've had similiar thoughts about "meme warfare" and accuracy. Some people criticize those on the right  for make outrageous claims and employ hyperbole/clickbait in lieu of context and accuracy. Reminds me of Revolutionary War era tactics about Lexington and Concord, etc, to make the British look bad, and seeing modern-era commentators criticizing such...

"All's fair in love and war", and such...(but beware the "end justifying the means", and such...)

F

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3 hours ago, ThatGuy said:

A "capacity"? What does that mean? Something of which one is "capable"? Ok. And that capacity driven by...what? Impulse. And what is an "instinct", etymology-speaking? An impulse.

(Did she think that humans rationally derived a way to reproduce? C'mon...)

"Let me tell you 'bout the birds, and the bees, and the flowers, and the trees..."

TG,

Now you are beginning to see it in all its glory.

Once you see it, you can't unsee it.

And then the argument always boils down to: An instinct is an instinct unless it isn't.

Or the corollary: An instinct isn't an instinct unless it is.

:)

And here's the kicker. A concept is supposed to boil down in the end to observation, right? Well in this case, that proposition is the foundation. That's the premise. That's the primary conceptual referent for each example.

We can call it the Eeny-Meeny-Miny-Moe protocol.

:) 

Everything else is mutable in the arguments. (Talk about a festival of rationalizations, too.)

Look around.

You'll see that over and over and over with Rand's blank slate instinct thing, both in her writing and in that of those who adopt this line.

And, for readers who are uncomfortable with Rand fudging this, just let go of the "Rand is perfect" or "Rand is always right about these things" premise. Her achievements are great enough (they really are) without needing you to fudge for her when she fudges.

:) 

Michael

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6 hours ago, Strictlylogical said:

I agree.

I would go on to imagine the following.

By the time birds are adults they are quite familiar with things they pick up or manipulate with their beaks, insects, nuts, pebbles, leaves, straw, sticks, grass etc...  they’ve seen piles of them, perhaps seen others making piles...

and perhaps having never had the urge to do so previously, one spring a bird sees a particularly interesting crook between a branch and a tree trunk... it’s dark and empty and enticing... irresistibly so.  

An urging to perch there... multiple times reinforces itself and then another urge is born... to fill it, yes

with... with.. sticks, and straw and grass 

after finding straw, grass and bits of string the urge to fill that place.... make a space in the middle... all play out as an incremental process of contextual reproductive urging and discovery.

 

Who here would claim in a sort of Blue Lagoon scenario, that in a completely different way but quite analogously, two completely innocent and ignorant adolescents having no knowledge about how certain things work would not end up discovering it,  in a similar incremental contextually urged human process.

Anthropomorphism: projecting human nature and actions onto animals.

A bird must do what its programmed to do. Instinct. Build nests, mate, rear young, feed young, find food, defend its nests... An African Weaver for instance, searches for strands of vegetation from specific stringy leaves and even is known to peck hairs off horse tails and steal girls' ribbons. (Which is not being 'creative', it's obeying its instincts to select and use strands). Their nest building DNA demands only stringy material, and that's only what it looks for. The nests it weaves are elaborate and pouch-shaped with small entrance tunnels. They are always hung at very ends of branches to protect from snakes. (And each bird does not have to see 'snake' or 'know snake' to do so. It just does automatically what it must do). Most often his mate rejects the nest by tearing it to pieces and he starts again.

I've watched weavers and many animal species many a time. I'd expect others have.

This all went from extending animal, instinctive behavior onto humans, and now the reverse: a human mind's purposive "discovery"(identification and evaluation) projected onto animals. That's to blur the line. There's also often a sentimentalism about animals and animal behavior in the anthropomorphic mode.

Some direct study and knowledge of animals will go a long way here.

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6 hours ago, ThatGuy said:

A "capacity"? What does that mean? Something of which one is "capable"? Ok. And that capacity driven by...what? Impulse. And what is an "instinct", etymology-speaking? An impulse.

(Did she think that humans rationally derived a way to reproduce? C'mon...)

 

An impulse - a biological need and drive, one would think. In common to all animals, e.g. humans. Hormones, right?

Really, there is a lot of blurring the lines and blending of distinct categories going on.

Can you all not isolate "instinct" from --- all of the rest? Starting with biological functions and learned behavior and the subconscious and feelings?

 

 

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11 hours ago, anthony said:

Anthropomorphism: projecting human nature and actions onto animals.

A bird must do what its programmed to do. Instinct. Build nests, mate, rear young, feed young, find food, defend its nests... An African Weaver for instance, searches for strands of vegetation from specific stringy leaves and even is known to peck hairs off horse tails and steal girls' ribbons. (Which is not being 'creative', it's obeying its instincts to select and use strands). Their nest building DNA demands only stringy material, and that's only what it looks for. The nests it weaves are elaborate and pouch-shaped with small entrance tunnels. They are always hung at very ends of branches to protect from snakes. (And each bird does not have to see 'snake' or 'know snake' to do so. It just does automatically what it must do). Most often his mate rejects the nest by tearing it to pieces and he starts again.

I've watched weavers and many animal species many a time. I'd expect others have.

This all went from extending animal, instinctive behavior onto humans, and now the reverse: a human mind's purposive "discovery"(identification and evaluation) projected onto animals. That's to blur the line. There's also often a sentimentalism about animals and animal behavior in the anthropomorphic mode.

Some direct study and knowledge of animals will go a long way here.

You have it backwards and your fabrications, straw men, mischaracterizations, and intellectual dishonesty are so blatantly on display that it beggars comprehension.

On occasion I would confuse your evasions and twisting of other’s words as honest mistake, but now, I just don’t buy that anymore, but it perplexes me.

 

Do you think it’s impressing anyone?

Do you think you are learning, growing, or refining your learning by faking to hash it out with discussions?

Do you think you are winning some kind of competition, earning golden stars in some universal ledger by fake debating people?

 

Why pretend to try to have a conversation you are not actually willing to have?

 

I have no illusions that you would deign to answer anything close to honestly, and be willing to listen, think, and fully engage with intellectual objectivity.

 

Know that I had hoped to have and would have valued having a real conversation with the person you could have and should have been.

 

 

Your concept of man is an overblown cardboard cutout, that you would openly admit to ignoring essential and universal characteristics because they are “lower” than others shows clearly how polluted your process of thought by your subjectivity.  I suggest you reconsider, elsewise you will never fully understand what you are, and accordingly never know what you should do.

 

Good luck.

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15 hours ago, anthony said:

Anthropomorphism: projecting human nature and actions onto animals.

Tony,

I can't resist. This set up is just too good.

You mean "projecting human nature and actions onto animals" into a definition like this?

On 3/30/2021 at 8:14 PM, anthony said:

Instinct: n. innate propensity esp. in lower animals, to certain seemingly rational acts performed without conscious design;  ... Concise Oxford

:evil:  :) 

Michael

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I was thinking about human reason and instinctual thoughts and actions compared to lower animals and it reminded me of these lyrics. Don’t forget about space travel and inhabiting other planets too! And by the way, the song is beautiful. Peter

Ordinary World by Duran Duran

. . . . And I don't cry for yesterday,

there's an ordinary world,
Somehow I have to find
And, as I try to make my way to the ordinary world,
I will learn to survive

Every world, is my world (I will learn to survive)
Any world, is my world (I will learn to survive)

Any world, is my world
Every world is my world

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10 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Tony,

I can't resist. This set up is just too good.

You mean "projecting human nature and actions onto animals" into a definition like this?

:evil:  :) 

Michael

Seemingly rational acts. Well, first I didn't compose that, it's a definition. Second, from the point of view of an observer, instinctive acts by animals seems to make sense, feeding its young, defending its territory, mating for life, (as some species do) and much more: Most of the time (not spiders eating their mate) we can relate to their actions. Quite rationally.

But they are not doing so by "rational" intent! It is what they are DNA-programmed to do, and within a range of disparate, minor actions, can't act otherwise. They haven't rational choice! But they do still sustain their lives.

VoS p16

"On the -physical- level, the functions of all living organisms... from the single cell of an amoeba to the blood circulation in the body of a man--are actions generated by the organism itself and directed to a single goal: the maintenance of an organism's LIFE.*"

{Rand's definition: "life: self-generated, self-directed action"]

On that page an important explanatory footnote by AR:

*[When applied to physical phenomena, such as the automatic functions of an organism, the term "goal-directed"is not to be taken to mean "purposive" (a concept applicable only to the actions of a consciousness) and is not to imply the existence of any teleological principle operating in insentient nature. I use the term 'goal-directed' in this context, to designate the fact that the automatic functions of living organisms are actions whose nature is such that they RESULT in the preservation of an organism's life]

Michael. "projecting" a man's context, one's consciously selected actions and capability onto animals gives some the mistaken idea that they (animals) are doing the same thing, by the same method. But the animal causality is instinctual while the visible EFFECT is life-sustaining, like us. A plant's life (etc,etc) is self-generated and self-directed action. Like every organism and independent body and the organisms within bodies. Only men can be said to have "self" and be purposive, consciously - or, have conscious purpose. 

You'll see how this connects to "seemingly rational"? Perhaps said another way: "apparently purposive". The results we can see - ongoing life in animals, the causes are *instinctually* self-generated/self-directed action. Not by conscious purpose, which is what men have (and have to perform to live).

 

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We say all the time, I tossed John the book and he "instinctively" caught it. And so on. It's a metaphorical manner of speaking and often in fiction writing.

Of course it is NOT 'instinct'. A fast reaction and response, is all. One has to be -taught- to catch, I haven't heard of any toddler/child who was a natural ball catcher from the first throw to him. With regularity, the catching 'instinct' is eventually embedded in the brain, a muscular memory, coordinating vision and hands.

Seems silly to deny Rand that simple metaphorical and commonplace device in her novels, holding her to her other thoughts known of, about instincts. They don't connect. Or are over-derivative of art into reality and to her philosophy.

One more, heard the other day: "I walked into the room and instinctively knew something was wrong". Nothing to do with her eyes and ears or smell, her instincts told her...

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12 hours ago, Strictlylogical said:

You have it backwards and your fabrications, straw men, mischaracterizations, and intellectual dishonesty are so blatantly on display that it beggars comprehension.

 

 

Good luck.

Most oddly, you are behaving. I have only one reference and guide - reality and my mind. If anyone has seen of and conceptualizes the same, I can talk with him in mutually good faith and honesty. With that outburst, you I can't. 

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What kicked this debate off:

The two things that can't be reconciled:

1. One's own life is one's ultimate value.

and 2. One's own life is one's standard of value.

But take what's proper to man's life, as the "standard" of value, and the principles cohere into an ethical system.

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2 hours ago, anthony said:

Seems silly to deny Rand that simple metaphorical and commonplace device in her novels, holding her to her other thoughts known of, about instincts. They don't connect. Or are over-derivative of art into reality and to her philosophy.

 

Not silly at all...isn't Rand the one who, instead of saying "good luck", insisted on saying "good premises"?

(Or, is this a case of "it's not ok to use sloppy metaphors, except when it is?) 😉

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44 minutes ago, ThatGuy said:

Not silly at all...isn't Rand the one who, instead of saying "good luck", insisted on saying "good premises"?

(Or, is this a case of "it's not ok to use sloppy metaphors, except when it is?) 😉

Ha, I see. It is Rand's famous precision of words - for which she is blamed by her any ~apparent~ departure. Hoist by her own petard?

If I remember correctly, the two (only two) references which Michael pulled out of the novel about "instincts", were a. writing disparagingly, of the "instincts" of a group of people whom she implied believed in 'instinct' (i.e. from their pov) ; b. a character's 'instinctive' knowledge (subconscious, in-learned knowledge, or intuition) which he evaded facing. The context makes her meaning clear.

In no way is she recognizing human instinct there, either.

It's fiction, not a philosophical discourse. Comes under cutting her some slack.

 

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1 hour ago, anthony said:

... the two (only two) references which Michael pulled out of the novel about "instincts"...

Tony,

I also mentioned there was a shit-ton of other examples by Rand I could quote--both fiction and nonfiction.

You are making it sound like I only presented two because I could only find two.

That's the kind of spin the fake news media does all the time.

Why do that? I was clear in what I wrote.

Isn't truth enough?

:)

Michael

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18 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Tony.

Nope.

:)

Michael

MSK. How can one not see the busy-ness of bees, the organized labor by ants in a termite mound, a pod of dolphins cooperating together to compress a shoal of sardines - and all those purposeful-looking activities of insects and animals - and not think that that seems organized, volitional and rational and "purposive" (from yours, the human's viewpoint)? The effects, what they build and produce in shelter and food, etc,, appear 'rational', the cause (a conscious and purposeful mind) was not.

I think what's uppermost in people's thoughts is the apparent cooperation, even compassion which mammals *sometimes* seem to show one for the other. And for sure I know that dogs have several simple emotions. If evolution had bred those characteristics into those species for survival value I'd not be surprised. But they plainly are not the outlet of a volitional consciousness - such things are: instinctive.

Human can't be ~instinctively~ kind and compassionate, they each act and feel according to their rationality and pre-chosen, self-programmed, value-system.

Appearances to the contrary, only men can be compassionate. Comparing humans with animal behavior is then moot.

Like I said, an 'instinctive feeling' for others, if it were possible, would be meaningless and/or insulting to the object of compassion; A volitional one out of his/her rationality and recognized values (disvalues for someone's pain) has high merit.

 

 

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16 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Tony,

I also mentioned there was a shit-ton of other examples by Rand I could quote--both fiction and nonfiction.

You are making it sound like I only presented two because I could only find two.

That's the kind of spin the fake news media does all the time.

Why do that? I was clear in what I wrote.

Isn't truth enough?

:)

Michael

Well I'm dying to see where Rand contradicted herself about instincts. A rarity. 😉

In her novels, the context matters.

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