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Instincts

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I understand the majority of our decisions after birth are acquired from learned behavior, but if humans were born with no instincts, the first woman who gave birth would not have known to chew the cord and put the newborn to her breast to feed and the human race would never have been or what about dropping a baby in a pool? It takes to swimming right away, right? Like all animals, are we not born with certain instincts? I guess the thing I don't really understand why Rand said "An instinct of self-preservation is precisely what man does not possess".

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I understand the majority of our decisions after birth are acquired from learned behavior, but if humans were born with no instincts, the first woman who gave birth would not have known to chew the cord and put the newborn to her breast to feed and the human race would never have been...

How do you know that was required for the first offspring of something you call "human"at some imaginary dividing line in the gradual process of evolution?

...or what about dropping a baby in a pool? It takes to swimming right away, right?

It wants to survive and knows how to push against things to go in the direction it wants to; it does not know how to swim and may or may not happen to push in the right way with the right coordination so as not to drown before someone saves it. Swimming is a learned skill and much of it, like floating and coordinated actions rather than flailing, is contrary to natural reactions from non-swimmers. Many of those who don't have the skill have drowned despite -- or because of -- their flailing at the water.

Like all animals, are we not born with certain instincts? I guess the thing I don't really understand why Rand said "An instinct of self-preservation is precisely what man does not possess".

Because man requires his rational faculty to live and you aren't born with ideas or how to use them.

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"humans were born with no instincts, the first woman who gave birth would not have known to chew the cord and put the newborn to her breast to feed and the human race would never have been"

This was more or less the argument a friend of mine had with me the other night. I guess the think the I failed to realize is that the woman herself was not born 1 sec before she herself had a baby. Therefore, it had to have been a leaned behavior to want to take care of said baby.

If that women was born and grow to adulthood, (retaining only what she knew when she was a baby) she would not be able to take care of herself, let alone a baby.

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I understand the majority of our decisions after birth are acquired from learned behavior, but if humans were born with no instincts, the first woman who gave birth would not have known to chew the cord and put the newborn to her breast to feed and the human race would never have been or what about dropping a baby in a pool? It takes to swimming right away, right? Like all animals, are we not born with certain instincts? I guess the thing I don't really understand why Rand said "An instinct of self-preservation is precisely what man does not possess".

What's an instinct?

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I'm not sure that I believe humans are born wholly without instinct. That is to say, when an infant is touched on the cheek, it opens its mouth and gropes around for a nipple, for instance. But it is certainly true that man cannot survive for long without the use of rationality (or that of another benevolent soul) -- but these in-born instincts are merely stop-gaps until one is able to use that faculty (and also these would be insufficient to keep them alive in the absence of a mother in the early years, as well). These contrast greatly with organisms who may never even meet their parents (as is the case in many kinds of fish), for whom instinct may be the only survival tool needed. It seems like the more evolved the species, the more reliant they are on parenting early on -- does anyone know of any counter-examples to this theory?

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I'm not sure that I believe humans are born wholly without instinct. That is to say, when an infant is touched on the cheek, it opens its mouth and gropes around for a nipple, for instance. But it is certainly true that man cannot survive for long without the use of rationality (or that of another benevolent soul) -- but these in-born instincts are merely stop-gaps until one is able to use that faculty (and also these would be insufficient to keep them alive in the absence of a mother in the early years, as well). These contrast greatly with organisms who may never even meet their parents (as is the case in many kinds of fish), for whom instinct may be the only survival tool needed. It seems like the more evolved the species, the more reliant they are on parenting early on -- does anyone know of any counter-examples to this theory?

I'm not sure what you're calling a theory here. What constitutes "more evolved"? What constitues parenting? As far as the sucking "instinct" that's more of a reflex. I wouldn't call it an instinct. Perhaps if you could provide some idea as to what an instinct is, that would be helpful.

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What constitutes "more evolved"? What constitues parenting? As far as the sucking "instinct" that's more of a reflex. I wouldn't call it an instinct. Perhaps if you could provide some idea as to what an instinct is, that would be helpful.

Interesting questions -- I hadn't considered defining "more evolved"... I suppose a working definition could be "A species which is more distinctly different from its evolutionary ancestors at some point in its past than the average". In other words, a mosquito would be less evolved than a human, given that mosquitos have been more or less the same for a million or more years, and humans are relatively new to the scene (and are quite distinct from their ancestors of a million years ago). I know I've heard that alligators and turtles are relatively less evolved, but I don't know that from first hand study.

Parenting would be the amount of time that a young animal requires its parent(s), without which it cannot survive independently. Most mammals need some parenting, I believe. My theory was that the more advanced species have a longer period for which this is true than do less advanced species. In other words, humans require at least, say, 10 years, while a dog requires only one or so.

As for instinct, I'll go with Wikipedia, which says, "An inherent disposition of a living organism toward a particular behavior," such as sea turtle young heading towards the sea after hatching. I think the cheeking mechanism I described is an instinct by this definition.

*As a side-note, I know very little about evolution, so if I'm incorrect, please enlighten me!*

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What constitutes "more evolved"? What constitues parenting? As far as the sucking "instinct" that's more of a reflex. I wouldn't call it an instinct. Perhaps if you could provide some idea as to what an instinct is, that would be helpful.

Interesting questions -- I hadn't considered defining "more evolved"... I suppose a working definition could be "A species which is more distinctly different from its evolutionary ancestors at some point in its past than the average". In other words, a mosquito would be less evolved than a human, given that mosquitos have been more or less the same for a million or more years, and humans are relatively new to the scene (and are quite distinct from their ancestors of a million years ago). I know I've heard that alligators and turtles are relatively less evolved, but I don't know that from first hand study.

Parenting would be the amount of time that a young animal requires its parent(s), without which it cannot survive independently. Most mammals need some parenting, I believe. My theory was that the more advanced species have a longer period for which this is true than do less advanced species. In other words, humans require at least, say, 10 years, while a dog requires only one or so.

As for instinct, I'll go with Wikipedia, which says, "An inherent disposition of a living organism toward a particular behavior," such as sea turtle young heading towards the sea after hatching. I think the cheeking mechanism I described is an instinct by this definition.

*As a side-note, I know very little about evolution, so if I'm incorrect, please enlighten me!*

Briefly, I fail to see how "cheeking" is an instinct since it requires an external stimulus and the baby has no way of finding a nipple on its own. One can stick a pacifier or a finger in its mouth, and the baby will suck. It is not "groping for a nipple" it is simply sucking.

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What constitutes "more evolved"? What constitues parenting? As far as the sucking "instinct" that's more of a reflex. I wouldn't call it an instinct. Perhaps if you could provide some idea as to what an instinct is, that would be helpful.

Interesting questions -- I hadn't considered defining "more evolved"... I suppose a working definition could be "A species which is more distinctly different from its evolutionary ancestors at some point in its past than the average". In other words, a mosquito would be less evolved than a human, given that mosquitos have been more or less the same for a million or more years, and humans are relatively new to the scene (and are quite distinct from their ancestors of a million years ago). I know I've heard that alligators and turtles are relatively less evolved, but I don't know that from first hand study.

Parenting would be the amount of time that a young animal requires its parent(s), without which it cannot survive independently. Most mammals need some parenting, I believe. My theory was that the more advanced species have a longer period for which this is true than do less advanced species. In other words, humans require at least, say, 10 years, while a dog requires only one or so.

As for instinct, I'll go with Wikipedia, which says, "An inherent disposition of a living organism toward a particular behavior," such as sea turtle young heading towards the sea after hatching. I think the cheeking mechanism I described is an instinct by this definition.

*As a side-note, I know very little about evolution, so if I'm incorrect, please enlighten me!*

Briefly, I fail to see how "cheeking" is an instinct since it requires an external stimulus and the baby has no way of finding a nipple on its own. One can stick a pacifier or a finger in its mouth, and the baby will suck. It is not "groping for a nipple" it is simply sucking.

Some considerations. Doesn't all instinctive animal behaviour depend on some outside stimulus? In that case, what separates a reflex from instinct? Is there a sharp line? If the startle reflex is a reflex, what is a bird migrating south when temperatures drop? When is reflexive behaviour no longer that, but instinctive instead? Is the desire to eat and reproduce a reflex, a drive or instinct?

My own view is that an instinct is a programmed response to a drive, but that still doesn't answer the question of what separates reflex from instinct. Perhaps a reflex is an instantaneous involuntary response, in contrast to a measured programmed satisfying of internal drives - such as the turtle heading for water.

Humans have drives, but no inborn knowledge of dealing with them. I think that some consider a drive as an instinct, but as I mentioned above, I see a difference.

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What constitutes "more evolved"? What constitues parenting? As far as the sucking "instinct" that's more of a reflex. I wouldn't call it an instinct. Perhaps if you could provide some idea as to what an instinct is, that would be helpful.

Interesting questions -- I hadn't considered defining "more evolved"... I suppose a working definition could be "A species which is more distinctly different from its evolutionary ancestors at some point in its past than the average". In other words, a mosquito would be less evolved than a human, given that mosquitos have been more or less the same for a million or more years, and humans are relatively new to the scene (and are quite distinct from their ancestors of a million years ago). I know I've heard that alligators and turtles are relatively less evolved, but I don't know that from first hand study.

Parenting would be the amount of time that a young animal requires its parent(s), without which it cannot survive independently. Most mammals need some parenting, I believe. My theory was that the more advanced species have a longer period for which this is true than do less advanced species. In other words, humans require at least, say, 10 years, while a dog requires only one or so.

As for instinct, I'll go with Wikipedia, which says, "An inherent disposition of a living organism toward a particular behavior," such as sea turtle young heading towards the sea after hatching. I think the cheeking mechanism I described is an instinct by this definition.

*As a side-note, I know very little about evolution, so if I'm incorrect, please enlighten me!*

Briefly, I fail to see how "cheeking" is an instinct since it requires an external stimulus and the baby has no way of finding a nipple on its own. One can stick a pacifier or a finger in its mouth, and the baby will suck. It is not "groping for a nipple" it is simply sucking.

Some considerations. Doesn't all instinctive animal behaviour depend on some outside stimulus? In that case, what separates a reflex from instinct? Is there a sharp line? If the startle reflex is a reflex, what is a bird migrating south when temperatures drop? When is reflexive behaviour no longer that, but instinctive instead? Is the desire to eat and reproduce a reflex, a drive or instinct?

My own view is that an instinct is a programmed response to a drive, but that still doesn't answer the question of what separates reflex from instinct. Perhaps a reflex is an instantaneous involuntary response, in contrast to a measured programmed satisfying of internal drives - such as the turtle heading for water.

Humans have drives, but no inborn knowledge of dealing with them. I think that some consider a drive as an instinct, but as I mentioned above, I see a difference.

I reflex is a simple neurological response to a stimulus, fundamentally a non-conscious response. (I've seen dead animals, like frogs, exhibit reflex behavior.) Complex patterns of behavior are certainly not reflexes. What is "a programmed response to a drive"? Sounds like computer talk. I still haven't seen a good definition of instinct yet.

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What constitutes "more evolved"? What constitues parenting? As far as the sucking "instinct" that's more of a reflex. I wouldn't call it an instinct. Perhaps if you could provide some idea as to what an instinct is, that would be helpful.

Interesting questions -- I hadn't considered defining "more evolved"... I suppose a working definition could be "A species which is more distinctly different from its evolutionary ancestors at some point in its past than the average". In other words, a mosquito would be less evolved than a human, given that mosquitos have been more or less the same for a million or more years, and humans are relatively new to the scene (and are quite distinct from their ancestors of a million years ago). I know I've heard that alligators and turtles are relatively less evolved, but I don't know that from first hand study.

Parenting would be the amount of time that a young animal requires its parent(s), without which it cannot survive independently. Most mammals need some parenting, I believe. My theory was that the more advanced species have a longer period for which this is true than do less advanced species. In other words, humans require at least, say, 10 years, while a dog requires only one or so.

As for instinct, I'll go with Wikipedia, which says, "An inherent disposition of a living organism toward a particular behavior," such as sea turtle young heading towards the sea after hatching. I think the cheeking mechanism I described is an instinct by this definition.

*As a side-note, I know very little about evolution, so if I'm incorrect, please enlighten me!*

Briefly, I fail to see how "cheeking" is an instinct since it requires an external stimulus and the baby has no way of finding a nipple on its own. One can stick a pacifier or a finger in its mouth, and the baby will suck. It is not "groping for a nipple" it is simply sucking.

Some considerations. Doesn't all instinctive animal behaviour depend on some outside stimulus? In that case, what separates a reflex from instinct? Is there a sharp line? If the startle reflex is a reflex, what is a bird migrating south when temperatures drop? When is reflexive behaviour no longer that, but instinctive instead? Is the desire to eat and reproduce a reflex, a drive or instinct?

My own view is that an instinct is a programmed response to a drive, but that still doesn't answer the question of what separates reflex from instinct. Perhaps a reflex is an instantaneous involuntary response, in contrast to a measured programmed satisfying of internal drives - such as the turtle heading for water.

Humans have drives, but no inborn knowledge of dealing with them. I think that some consider a drive as an instinct, but as I mentioned above, I see a difference.

I reflex is a simple neurological response to a stimulus, fundamentally a non-conscious response. (I've seen dead animals, like frogs, exhibit reflex behavior.) Complex patterns of behavior are certainly not reflexes. What is "a programmed response to a drive"? Sounds like computer talk. I still haven't seen a good definition of instinct yet.

Well, if it is not a reflex, and it is not conceptual thinking, that leaves a perceptual form of 'knowledge' as an option. A bird knows where it can perch or find food. I don't see why 'programmed' is restricted to computers. A rooster crows because it is wired that way, it doesn't make a sound like a turkey.

My definition of instinct is that it is an automatic form of knowledge that stems from a relationship between internal hard wired programs and chemical releases, and senses of the external environment. What may appear to be volition in animals is most likely just a response the the strongest feeling. For example a bird may have one feeling (desire) to eat out of your hand (which it knows is there) and another feeling which is fear. The stronger feeling determines the action.

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I still haven't seen a good definition of instinct yet.

How about the following, from the Glossary_of_Objectivist_Definitions (by Ayn Rand, with additional entries by Leonard Peikoff and Harry Binswanger): "An 'instinct' is an automatic and unerring form of knowledge. [invalid concept.]"

This same statement, without the parenthetical, also appears in one of the excerpts included under "Instinct" in the on-line Ayn Rand Lexicon. It is the second sentence in the first excerpt, which came from Galt's Speech.

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Well, if it is not a reflex, and it is not conceptual thinking, that leaves a perceptual form of 'knowledge' as an option. A bird knows where it can perch or find food. I don't see why 'programmed' is restricted to computers. A rooster crows because it is wired that way, it doesn't make a sound like a turkey.

My definition of instinct is that it is an automatic form of knowledge that stems from a relationship between internal hard wired programs and chemical releases, and senses of the external environment. What may appear to be volition in animals is most likely just a response the the strongest feeling. For example a bird may have one feeling (desire) to eat out of your hand (which it knows is there) and another feeling which is fear. The stronger feeling determines the action.

If you were to say a perceptual form of "awareness" you might have a point. But knowledge is not a perceptual level concept. If you can explain that a rooster crows because of certain genetic, biological, hormonal, chemical processes, then what does using the term 'instinct' good for and what does it explain? If a bird is hungry and afraid, but is more hungry than afraid and acts to eat from your hand, what does 'instinct' explain. That an animal can act in a certain way does not mean that it knows that it acts or that it knows anything. To be aware is not necessarily to know, unless a conceptual consciousness is involved.

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I still haven't seen a good definition of instinct yet.

How about the following, from the Glossary_of_Objectivist_Definitions (by Ayn Rand, with additional entries by Leonard Peikoff and Harry Binswanger): "An 'instinct' is an automatic and unerring form of knowledge. [invalid concept.]"

This same statement, without the parenthetical, also appears in one of the excerpts included under "Instinct" in the on-line Ayn Rand Lexicon. It is the second sentence in the first excerpt, which came from Galt's Speech.

I'm aware of that definition. But the "invalid concept" is still used by many. So I'd like to see someone give a valid definition.

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Looking at the various definitions of "instinct" on dictionary.com, the following seems to capture the commonalities:

"An inherited tendency of an organism to behave in a certain way, usually in reaction to its environment and for the purpose of fulfilling a specific need. The development and performance of instinctive behavior does not depend upon the specific details of an individual's learning experiences."

Or, more simply:

"Behavior that is not learned but passed between generations by heredity."

Examples are given, such as: "For example, birds will build the form of nest typical of their species although they may never have seen such a nest being built before. Some butterfly species undertake long migrations to wintering grounds that they have never seen."

A reflex is generally defined as a simple, involuntary action. It's described in terms of neural impulses, i.e., "an involuntary response to a stimulus, the nerve impulse from a receptor being transmitted inward to a nerve center that in turn transmits it outward to an effector."

Man certainly has reflexes, but not instincts.

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Well, if it is not a reflex, and it is not conceptual thinking, that leaves a perceptual form of 'knowledge' as an option. A bird knows where it can perch or find food. I don't see why 'programmed' is restricted to computers. A rooster crows because it is wired that way, it doesn't make a sound like a turkey.

My definition of instinct is that it is an automatic form of knowledge that stems from a relationship between internal hard wired programs and chemical releases, and senses of the external environment. What may appear to be volition in animals is most likely just a response the the strongest feeling. For example a bird may have one feeling (desire) to eat out of your hand (which it knows is there) and another feeling which is fear. The stronger feeling determines the action.

If you were to say a perceptual form of "awareness" you might have a point. But knowledge is not a perceptual level concept. If you can explain that a rooster crows because of certain genetic, biological, hormonal, chemical processes, then what does using the term 'instinct' good for and what does it explain? If a bird is hungry and afraid, but is more hungry than afraid and acts to eat from your hand, what does 'instinct' explain. That an animal can act in a certain way does not mean that it knows that it acts or that it knows anything. To be aware is not necessarily to know, unless a conceptual consciousness is involved.

Obviously, when it comes to animals, I am not speaking of conceptual knowledge. However, I don't agree that knowledge can only be conceptual especially when it's foundation is the perceptual. Awareness is knowledge of a sort. One can know something even if he doesn't understand it, so yes, I regard awareness as a form of knowledge. An eagle diving on a fish knows there is a fish there. It knows what to do to get it. Animals learn to hunt, and such learning I consider knowledge.

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Man certainly has reflexes, but not instincts.

What about drives that are a natural part of his make up? As I mentioned above, people have certain urges and responses. A hungry baby will put things in it's mouth, not it's ear, and so will most animals. The question then is; is the process in the baby different in kind from other animals?

I am fully in accord with Ayn Rand's view of man living by reason (conceptual knowledge), but have seen little to address the animalistic drives that are part of being human. Like animals, we seek warmth and interaction with our own. We feel the need to eat, drink, reproduce. Certainly we have control over how we respond to our drives, which separates us from non conceptual animals, but that doesn't mean we don't have them. I have tried to clarify what I think is the difference between a drive (inborn in us all), and an instinct, which is an automatic response to such drives. Such responses can be triggered by both internal and external factors. For example, the weather can trigger migration or nut gathering or hibernation.

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Looking at the various definitions of "instinct" on dictionary.com, the following seems to capture the commonalities:

"An inherited tendency of an organism to behave in a certain way, usually in reaction to its environment and for the purpose of fulfilling a specific need. The development and performance of instinctive behavior does not depend upon the specific details of an individual's learning experiences."

Or, more simply:

"Behavior that is not learned but passed between generations by heredity."

Examples are given, such as: "For example, birds will build the form of nest typical of their species although they may never have seen such a nest being built before. Some butterfly species undertake long migrations to wintering grounds that they have never seen."

A reflex is generally defined as a simple, involuntary action. It's described in terms of neural impulses, i.e., "an involuntary response to a stimulus, the nerve impulse from a receptor being transmitted inward to a nerve center that in turn transmits it outward to an effector."

Man certainly has reflexes, but not instincts.

Those are quite interesting definitions. I think the second leaves out too much as one needs to identify why the behavior is learned: fulfilling a specific need. And the first doesn't include enough essential information. How would you classify something such as 'breathing'? Is that not unlearned behavior in response to one's environment that fulfills a purpose? I would not call breathing an instinct, would you? If the term applies to anything, it has to be to a complex series of behaviors (seemingly unrelated) that fulfill a specific environmental need: looking for twigs, carrying the twig to a tree branch, flying away, looking for more twigs, placing it in a certain location so that a structure results, remembering where the original twigs were placed, remembering where the nest is built, etc.

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Looking at the various definitions of "instinct" on dictionary.com, the following seems to capture the commonalities:

"An inherited tendency of an organism to behave in a certain way, usually in reaction to its environment and for the purpose of fulfilling a specific need. The development and performance of instinctive behavior does not depend upon the specific details of an individual's learning experiences."

Or, more simply:

"Behavior that is not learned but passed between generations by heredity."

Examples are given, such as: "For example, birds will build the form of nest typical of their species although they may never have seen such a nest being built before. Some butterfly species undertake long migrations to wintering grounds that they have never seen."

A reflex is generally defined as a simple, involuntary action. It's described in terms of neural impulses, i.e., "an involuntary response to a stimulus, the nerve impulse from a receptor being transmitted inward to a nerve center that in turn transmits it outward to an effector."

Man certainly has reflexes, but not instincts.

Those are quite interesting definitions. I think the second leaves out too much as one needs to identify why the behavior is learned: fulfilling a specific need. And the first doesn't include enough essential information. How would you classify something such as 'breathing'? Is that not unlearned behavior in response to one's environment that fulfills a purpose? I would not call breathing an instinct, would you? If the term applies to anything, it has to be to a complex series of behaviors (seemingly unrelated) that fulfill a specific environmental need: looking for twigs, carrying the twig to a tree branch, flying away, looking for more twigs, placing it in a certain location so that a structure results, remembering where the original twigs were placed, remembering where the nest is built, etc.

If an instinct is automatic behavior in response to one's environment, then that would explain why, when you place a bowl of meat in front of a dog, he goes to it and eats. He has no choice in the matter, and eats until he's full. You and I do have a choice, and are not run by instinct. And that's a good point---instincts _run_ the animals which have them; or, the instinct is in charge of behavior. However, it can be canceled and replaced by something new in the environment; for example, a female dog comes upon a male dog who is eating and his attention and action is _run_ by his instinct to mate, unless he's starving.

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Briefly, I fail to see how "cheeking" is an instinct since it requires an external stimulus and the baby has no way of finding a nipple on its own. One can stick a pacifier or a finger in its mouth, and the baby will suck. It is not "groping for a nipple" it is simply sucking.

Instincts are always in response to external stimulus and the baby does have a way of finding the nipple or finger. If you touch its cheek it turns to the nipple and sucks. The baby does not back away in fear, make a noise, feel the nipple with its hands, or any other activity. This does not vary from baby to baby or from occasion to occasion in one baby. It is also a unique behavior. If you stick a finger in another animals mouth it does not necessarily suck.

I think I see the point that you are making. You are identifying the weakness in the common understanding of the term "instinct".

I think if the cheeking behavior is considered more carefully a better understanding of "instinct" and its mechanism becomes apparent. Why does a baby always and specifically react with "cheeking" to something touching its cheek? Well what other options does it have? The mouth is the baby's primary tool. Its highly sensitive and requires minimal motor coordination, therefor the mouth is more useful at this point in development than its hands. So the baby reacts to the sensation by using the only appropriate tool. It puts the finger in its mouth. This is seen further in development when exploring babies pop new objects right into their mouths (Freud actually had some interesting insights into this). So the baby "cheeks" because the stimulus demands attention and the mouth is the baby's only appropriate tool. It is the only tool because of its neural development. In this way neural development predisposes the baby to a certain behavior. Genetics predispose neural development and therefor the behavior. This disposition makes evolutionary sense as it means a baby wastes no time in finding its food source.

Of course genetic predisposition doesn't go very far with humans because conceptual faculty is our primary tool and it is volitional.

I think this predisposition is also a better explanation for the genetics/personality correlation but that's a different discussion.

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What about drives that are a natural part of his make up?

Drives are basically an urge to do something resulting from a state of deprivation. "Drive Reduction Theory" in psychology says that we have physiological needs that when unfulfilled create a negative internal state, which we then seek to bring back to balance (or homeostasis). Hunger and sex are the two basic drive states. Taken to an extreme you get Freudian theory, which states that ALL behavior is fundamentally rooted in and motivated by biological drives. (I disagree with this, of course.)

I'd suffice it to say that we have very few drives and that they are largely physiologically-based forms of motivation. But they aren't reflexes or instincts, and as you point out they can be controlled.

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How would you classify something such as 'breathing'? Is that not unlearned behavior in response to one's environment that fulfills a purpose? I would not call breathing an instinct, would you?

No, I wouldn't. I think breathing is just a biological process; I'm not sure it should even be classified as a behavior.

If the term applies to anything, it has to be to a complex series of behaviors (seemingly unrelated) that fulfill a specific environmental need: looking for twigs, carrying the twig to a tree branch, flying away, looking for more twigs, placing it in a certain location so that a structure results, remembering where the original twigs were placed, remembering where the nest is built, etc.

I think of an instinct as a (genetically) pre-programmed series of simple actions that accomplish some goal related to survival. I think B. Royce's point about instincts "running" an animal is a good one. I'm not sure where memory fits in this, as you suggest in your example. I tend to think memory is a separate conscious (but non-volitional) process than the genetically-based instinct in animals. The two interact but are different, I think.

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Briefly, I fail to see how "cheeking" is an instinct since it requires an external stimulus and the baby has no way of finding a nipple on its own. One can stick a pacifier or a finger in its mouth, and the baby will suck. It is not "groping for a nipple" it is simply sucking.

Instincts are always in response to external stimulus and the baby does have a way of finding the nipple or finger. If you touch its cheek it turns to the nipple and sucks.

This behavior is a reflex, specifically, the "rooting reflex." Infants have many reflexes for the first few months of life, and doctors test these reflexes to evaluate development. A good list of these reflexes and related descriptions is here.

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Briefly, I fail to see how "cheeking" is an instinct since it requires an external stimulus and the baby has no way of finding a nipple on its own. One can stick a pacifier or a finger in its mouth, and the baby will suck. It is not "groping for a nipple" it is simply sucking.

Instincts are always in response to external stimulus and the baby does have a way of finding the nipple or finger. If you touch its cheek it turns to the nipple and sucks.

This behavior is a reflex, specifically, the "rooting reflex." Infants have many reflexes for the first few months of life, and doctors test these reflexes to evaluate development. A good list of these reflexes and related descriptions is here.

I know that this is called a reflex but I don't agree with it being classified as a reflex because it is not as input-precise as the term reflex implies. The baby doesn't respond to the input with exactly the same movement. It performs the same behavior which has similar but not precisely the same movement. In my understanding the terms reflex and instinct are differentiated on a scale of complexity. Reflexes are simple neuro-muscular responses. An input receives exactly the same response. Instincts are coordinated responses. An input receives an approximate response labeled as the same behavior. A reflex would be a dog salivating when its tongue touches meat powder. The dog will salivate the exact same amount every time a given amount of powder is applied. An instinct would be the dog's mating behavior when it smells a female in heat. The dog will respond in similar but not exactly the same fashion every time it comes into contact with the female.

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