Allan Kardec

Back to the menu
11. What is the difference between instinct and intelligence? Where does one end and the other commence? Is instinct a rudimental intelligence or a distinct faculty, - an exclusive attribute of matter?

Instinct is occult power which incites organic beings to spontaneous and involuntary acts in relation to their conservation. In instinctive acts there is neither reflection, contrivance, nor premeditation. Thus the plant seeks air, turns itself towards the light, directs its roots towards water and the nutritious soil; the flower opens and closes its petals by turns, according to its needs; climbing plants wind themselves around supports, or cling to them by their tendrils. It is by instinct that animals are apprised of that which is useful or injurious to them, that they are directed, according to the season, towards propitious climates; that they construct, without preliminary lessons, with more or less art, according to species, soft places of rest and of shelter for their progeny, machinery by which they snare their prey by which they are nourished, that they handle dexterously weapons of defense with which they are provided; that the sexes are brought together, that the mother produces offspring, and that the little ones seek her breast for nourishment. With man instinct rules at the outset of life. It is by instinct the infant makes his first movements, that he seizes his nourishment, that he cries to express his wants, that he imitates the sound of the voice, that he tries to speak and to walk. With the adult, even, certain acts are instinctive: such are spontaneous movements to escape a danger, to remove one’s self from peril, to maintain one’s equilibrium; such are, also, the blinking of the eyelids to temper the brilliance of the light, the mechanical opening of the mouth to breath, etc.

Related articles

Show related items