Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

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." - Henri Bergson, aka Henri-Louis Bergson

"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." - Henri Bergson, aka Henri-Louis Bergson

"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." - Jean de La Bruyère

"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!" - Charles Alexander Eastman, first named Ohiyesa

"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." - Sigmund Freud, born Sigismund Schlomo Freud

"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." - Sigmund Freud, born Sigismund Schlomo Freud

"The religious instinct will never be replaced by law or even philanthropy." - Hugh Reginald Haweis

"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." - Arianna Huffington, born Arianna Stassinopoulos

"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." - David Hume

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

"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." - William James

"The instinct of ownership is fundamental in man’s nature." - William James

"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." - Louis Kossuth, also Lajos Kossuth, fully Lajos Kossuth de Udvard et Kossuthfalva

"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." - Louis Kossuth, also Lajos Kossuth, fully Lajos Kossuth de Udvard et Kossuthfalva

"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." -

"The most intelligent men, like the strongest, find their happiness where others would find only disaster: in the labyrinth, in being hard with themselves and with others, in effort; their delight is self-mastery; in them asceticism becomes second nature, a necessity, an instinct." -

"The most spiritual human beings, as the strongest, find their happiness where others would find their destruction: in the labyrinth, in severity towards themselves and others, in attempting; their joy lies in self-constraint: with them asceticism becomes nature, need, instinct." -

"Civilized people cannot fully satisfy their sexual instinct without love." -

"Conscience is that peculiar faculty of the soul which may be called the religious instinct." - Samuel Smiles

"The soul, by an instinct stronger than reason, ever associates beauty with truth." - Henry Theodore Tuckerman

"With the exception of the instinct of self-preservation, the propensity for emulation is probably the strongest and most alert and persistent of the economic motives proper." - Thorstein Veblen, fully Thorstein Bunde Veblen, born Torsten Bunde Veblen

"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." -

"Competition, which is the instinct of selfishness, is another word for dissipation of energy, while combination is the secret of efficient production." - Edward Bellamy

"The ultimate test of the laughing instinct is that a man should always be ready to laugh at himself." - Gamaliel Bradford

"Life is like music, it must be composed by ear, feeling and instinct, not by rule. Nevertheless one had better know the rules, for they sometimes guide in doubtful cases, though not often." - Samuel Butler

"To live is like to love - all reason is against it, and all healthy instinct for it." - Samuel Butler

"It may be difficult, too, for many of us, to abandon the belief that there is an instinct towards perfection at work in human beings, which has brought them to their present high level of intellectual achievement and ethical sublimation and which may be expected to watch over their development as supermen. I have no faith, however, in the existence of any such internal instinct and I cannot see how this benevolent illusion is to be preserved. The present development of human beings requires, as it seems to me, no different explanation from that of animals. What appears in a minority of human individuals as an untiring impulsion towards further perfection can easily be understood as a result of the instinctual repression upon which is based all that is most precious in human civilization." - Sigmund Freud, born Sigismund Schlomo Freud

"A good man, through obscurest aspirations, has still an instinct of the one true way." - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"An instinct is an agent which performs blindly and ignorantly a work of intelligence and knowledge." - William Hamilton, fully Sir William Hamilton, 9th Baronet

"[Music] It reveals us to ourselves, it represents those modulations and temperamental changes which escape all verbal analysis, it utters what must else remain forever unuttered and unutterable; it feeds that deep, ineradicable instinct within us of which all art is only the reverberated echo, that craving to express, through the medium of the senses, the spiritual and eternal realties which underlie them." - Hugh Reginald Haweis

"Things as they are are changed when we demonstrate a new reality. A very small change in perception can result in a change in behavior and, cumulatively, in a very large change in cultural patterns. Our purpose and destiny are encoded within us. But they do not automatically propel us to the next act in our day, let alone the next stage in our evolution. Our Fourth Instinct allows us to see that next stage, and our free will enables us to act on it so that it can become a reality." - Arianna Huffington, born Arianna Stassinopoulos

"Music moves us, and we know not why; we feel the tears but cannot trace their source. Is the language of some other state, born of its memory? For what can wake the soul's strong instinct of another world like music?" - Letitia Elizabeth Landon

"Life is first boredom, then fear. Whether or not we use it, it goes, and leaves what something hidden from us chose, and age, and then the only end of age... Time has transfigured them into untruth. The stone fidelity they hardly meant has come to be their final blazon, and to prove our almost-instinct almost true: what will survive of us is love." - Philip Larkin, fully Philip Arthur Larkin

"When reason and instinct are reconciled, there will be no higher appeal." - Jean Philippe Rameau

"Conscience is the voice of the soul, the passions are the voice of the body. Is it astonishing that often these two languages contradict each other, and then to which must we listen? Too often reason deceives us; we have only to listen too much acquired the right of refusing to listen to it; but conscience never deceives us; it is the true guide of man; it is to man what instinct is to the body, which follows it, obeys nature, and never is afraid of going astray." - Jean-Jacques Rousseau

"The sex instinct is one of the three or four prime movers of all that we do and are and dream, both individually and collectively." -

"The inner and unconscious ideal which guides [the parents’] lives is precisely what touches the child; their words, their remonstrances, their punishments, their bursts of feeling even, are for him merely thunder and comedy; what they worship, that it is which his instinct divines and reflects." - Henri Frédéric Amiel

"We are impelled by a hidden instinct to reunion with the parts of the larger heart of the universe." - John Elof Boodin

"I believe that the more we think, the more we become convinced that the instinct which asks for equality is a low one, and that equality if it were completely brought out, would furnish play for the lower instincts and impulses of man." - Phillips Brooks

"All the great – the permanently great – things that have been achieved in the world have been so achieved by individuals, working from the instinct of genius or goodness." - Samuel Taylor Coleridge

"Ultimately our moral sense or conscience becomes a highly complex sentiment – originating in the social instinct, largely guided by the approbation of our fellow men, ruled by reason, self-interest, and in alter times by deep religious feelings, and confirmed by instruction and habit." - Charles Darwin, fully Charles Robert Darwin

"The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity." - Carl Jung, fully Carl Gustav Jung

"Morality is herd instinct in the individual." - Friedrich Nietzsche, fully Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

"Man is unique in that he knows nothing. He can learn nothing without being taught. He can neither speak nor walk nor eat, in fact he can do nothing by natural instinct alone except weep." -

"Even scholars of audacious spirit and fine instinct can be obstructed in the interpretation of facts by philosophical prejudices." - Albert Einstein