The Theories of Instinct: A Study in the History of Psychology

The Theories of Instinct: A Study in the History of Psychology

The Theories of Instinct: A Study in the History of Psychology

The Theories of Instinct: A Study in the History of Psychology

Excerpt

One of the foremost problems of recent years in the field of philosophical biology is the problem of mechanism and vitalism, which is, in turn, merely an aspect of the larger problem of body and mind in general. Mechanism and vitalism represent two divergent views of nature, mechanism conceiving all events, including those commonly called vital, as capable of explanation by the employment of principles familiar to physics and chemistry, thus assimilating the realm of vital phenomena to that of natural happenings in general; vitalism holding, on the other hand, that the processes of life are incapable of explanation by merely mechanical agents, and require the hypothesis of entelechy, mind, or some similar non-mechanical principle. Now it has seemed to me that the class of acts traditionally called instinctive affords a capital opportunity for the study of the general question whether nature as a whole is capable of a mechanistic interpretation; for it is here that "body" and "mind" seem to come into transactive relations with each other, more, for example, than in phenomena like intra-organic adaptation or physiological repair, which, though regulative in character, belong more evidently to the autonomous or non-mental regulatory processes.

Driesch, among recent biologists, has seen the peculiar significance of instinct for the problem of the nature of vital processes. "It is greatly to be regretted," he writes, "that instinct is so very little studied nowadays, at least in an exact way. . . . There can be no doubt . . .

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