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Instincts Essay

1371 words - 6 pages

  The major premise of Beach’s article is the need to analyze the reasons for the vitality of a concept that has stood the test of time without objectively testing it. The next objective of the article is to evaluate the concept of intuition as it relates to the science of behavior. Beach concerns himself with the problem that behaviorists often just name or label instincts and he cautions what will happen when this phenomenon assumes that no learning is involved in this process.
Beach states that from the beginning, instinct has been defined and discussed in terms of its relation to reason and the human soul. During the fourth century B.C. the Greek philosopher Heraclitus stated that ...view middle of the document...

St. Thomas Aquinas, a student of Albertus supports this distinction stating that animals possess this sensitive soul. He also states that the rational soul is “directly implanted in the fetus at sometime before birth,” and that “the behavior of man then, depends upon reason, whereas all animals are governed by instinct.” These scholars were not concerned with factual evidence. Beach states that we need to question why Descartes felt that man is the reasoned, and all other living creatures are just machines with flesh and blood. Albertus and Descartes argue that the theological system is based on life after death; and that possessing a soul is not enough. They state that each man must earn the right of his soul’s salvation. According to them this depends upon reason when differentiating good from evil, and of behavior which is sinful from which is not.
Beach summarizes that the concept of instinct has descended from early philosophers that separated man from the rest of the living world and that only they seek “divine affinity.” They also state that man alone has the power of reason. By the process of elimination the behavior of animals was ascribed to their instincts which occur naturally. Pre-scientific concepts of instinct were made without facts, and were based on demand of the present philosophical systems and the supernatural. These philosophers believed that the possession of reason and of the soul was linked to the hope of eternal life. There was a general tendency to adopt the pre-scientific points of view regarding instinct until Erasmus Darwin expressed is theory that all behavior is a product of experience, however, his grandson Charles Darwin disavowed this view. Charles Darwin made the concept of instinct a cornerstone of his theory on evolution by means of natural selection. Darwin and his followers came up with two types of evidence. One type of evidence is for the purpose of proving the existence of instincts in humans, and the other pertained to rational behavior in sub-human species. The nineteenth century literature shows that the concept of instinctive behavior was accepted not because of facts or validity from testing but because it filled a need in the theoretical system. This way of thinking leads to the tendency to confuse naming with explaining. Some psychological writers of this time used this concept of instinct to explain behaviors, resulting in a revolt to use instinct in any theory.
Beach criticizes against the use of ‘instinct’ to explain animal behavior with three reasons for its failure. He states that behaviorists such as Kuo deny instincts but admit to the existence of unlearned “units of reaction,” or simple reflexes, which provided fatal to his thesis. Now arguments were made as to the degree of complexity permitted in an unlearned response. Having stated that only unlearned reactions consist of few simple reflexes, opponents of the instinct doctrine used learning to explain all other...

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