Instinct

In the conduct of life, habits count for more than maxims; because habit is a living maxim, becomes flesh and instinct. To reform one's maxims is nothing: it is but to change the title of the book. To learn new habits is everything, for it is to reach the substance of life. Life is but a tissue of habits.

Instinct gave place temporarily to a system of habits, each one of which became contingent, their convergence of which became contingent, their convergence towards the preservation of society being alone necessary, and this necessity bringing back instinct with it. The necessity of the whole, felt behind the contingency of the parts, is what we call moral obligation in general - it being understood that the parts are contingent in the eyes of society only; to the individual, into whom society inculcates its habits, the part is as necessary as the whole.

Knowledge and action... are only two aspects of one and the same faculty... There are things that intelligence alone is able to seek, but which, by itself, it will never find. These things instinct alone could find; but it will never seek them.

Discretion is the perfection of reason, and a guide to us in all the duties of life; cunning is a kind of instinct, that only looks after our immediate interests and welfare. Discretion is only found in men of strong sense and good understanding; cunning is often to be met with in brutes themselves, and in persons who are but the fewest removes from them.

There is no instinct like that of the heart.

Friendship is held to be the severest test of character. It is easy, we think, to be loyal to family and clan, whose blood is in our own veins. Love between man and woman is founded on the mating instinct and is not free from desire and self-seeking. But to have a friend, and to be true under any and all trials, is the mark of a man!

A small minority are enabled... to find happiness along the path of love; but far-reaching mental transformations of the erotic function are necessary before this is possible. These people make themselves independent of their object’s acquiescence by transferring the main value from the fact of being loved to their own act of loving; they protect themselves against loss of it by attaching their love not to individual objects but to all men equally, and they avoid the uncertainties and disappointments of genital love by turning away from its sexual aim and modifying the instinct which they induce in themselves by this process - an unchangeable, undeviating, tender attitude - has little superficial likeness to the stormy vicissitudes of genital love, from which it is nevertheless derived.

What can be the aim of withholding from children, or let us say from young people, this information about the sexual life of human beings? Is it a fear of arousing interest in such matters prematurely, before it spontaneously stirs in them? Is it a hope of retarding by concealment of this kind the development of the sexual instinct in general, until such time as it can find its way into the only channels open to it in the civilized social order? Is it supposed that children would show no interest or understanding for the facts and riddles of sexual life if they were not prompted to do so by outside influence? Is it regarded as possible that the knowledge withheld from them will not reach them in other ways? Or is it genuinely and seriously intended that later on they should consider everything connected with sex as something despicable and abhorrent from which their parents and teachers wish to keep them apart as long as possible? I am really at a loss so say which of these can be the motive for the customary concealment from children of everything connected with sex. I only know that these arguments are one and all equally foolish, and that I find it difficult to pay them the compliment of serious refutation.

The religious instinct will never be replaced by law or even philanthropy.

Each is driven by the most relentless, persistent instinct man possesses: the instinct for meaning, transcendence, wholeness and truth... Reality is a continuum that extends from thinking to the denser world of physical form.

It seems evident, that men are carried, by a natural instinct or prepossession, to repose faith in their senses; and that, without any reasoning, or even almost before the use of reason, we always suppose an external universe, which depends not on our perception, but would exist, though we and every sensible creature were absent or annihilated.

Instinctive reactions and emotional expressions thus shade imperceptibly into each other. Every object that excites an instinct excites an emotion as well.

Nature... is frugal in her operations and will not be at the expense of a particular instinct to give us that knowledge which experience and habit will soon produce. Reproduced sights and contacts tied together with the present sensation in the unity of a thing with a name, these are complex objective stuff out of which my actually perceived table is made. Infants must go through a long education of the eye and ear before they can perceive the realities which adults perceive. Every perception is an acquired perception.

The instinct of ownership is fundamental in man’s nature.

No man can force the harp of his own individuality into the people’s heart; but every man may play upon the chords of the people’s heart, who draws his inspiration from the people’s instinct.

There is a sort of natural instinct of human dignity in the heart of man which steels his very nerves not to bend beneath the heavy blows of a great adversity.

All naturalism in morality, that is all healthy morality, is dominated by an instinct of life - some commandment of life is fulfilled through a certain canon of ‘shall’ and ‘shall not’, some hindrance and hostile element on life’s road is thereby removed. Anti-natural morality, that is virtually every morality that has hitherto been taught, reverenced and preached, turns on the contrary precisely against the instincts of life - it is a now secret, now loud and impudent condemnation of these instincts. By saying ‘God sees into the heart’ it denies the deepest and the highest desires of life and takes God for the enemy of life.

By morality the individual is taught to become a function of the herd, and to ascribe to himself value only as a function... Morality is the herd instinct in the individual.

Life is an instinct for growth, for survival, for the accumulation of forces, for power.