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Question about instinct and intuition?

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Guest ZAC D.
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There are a bunch of things that Rand never really discussed in depth. Like instinct and intuition, which sometimes goes against logic and reason. I think her characters use their intuition when making decisions but she never really discusses it.

For example, say you are offered an opportunity and logic says you should take it because its the type of opportunity people would kill for, but your gut is telling you to walk away what do you do?

My guess is Rand would argue intuition is the result of past experience where one can look back and evaluate, and thus is indeed derived from reason and logic, even if subconsciously. I seem to recall Rand insisting in one of her nonfiction books (can't remember which one) that, outside of biological function and survival, humans have no instincts.

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I believe she is operating on a definition of instinct as inborn knowledge. OTOH I have talked to Objectivist biologists who are pretty adamant that that is not what is meant by instinct; instinct to them refers to inborn *behavior.* I don't know of anyone who believes an animal has inborn knowledge.

All that having been said the relevant question is whether people have any inborn behavior, or even inborn behavioral tendencies. The Objectivist answer to this is no.

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Ayn Rand's definition of instinct:

"An instinct is an unerring and automatic form of knowledge"-Galt’s Speech, For the New Intellectual, 121

Knowledge is not automatic. There is no automatic code for survival for mankind. He has no automatic set of values.

That is where I disagree. I think intuition has to do with energy. Rand makes no sense. How could a human being have no instincts? Animals have them. Why wouldn't human beings?

One should ask oneself...what is a defining and differentiating characteristic that separates humans from animals?

More:

http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/instinct.html

Edited by CapitalistSwine
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"Knowledge is not automatic. There is no automatic code for survival for mankind. He has no automatic set of values."

Within hours of birth a infant will suckle a finger, a breast, almost anything within its vicinity. Isn't this a example of intrinsic unerring knowledge? without question it is pre-cognitive since the infant is pre-verbal and no one has explained or reasoned what kind of behaviors are in its self-interest.

hat is a defining and differentiating characteristic that separates humans from animals?

You accept the Darwinian theory of evolution as it applies to humans correct?

If so wouldn't you agree that humanoids had to have instincts that allowed them to undertake life-sustaining behaviors? Now, If pre-humans had instincts but we the descendants do not did we lose them all at once or slowly? Or have we simply over-layered the mammalian and reptilian brains with another higher-functioning and disctinctively-human brain component? Is there an instinct driven reptilian brain at the core of our own? If so, are there no traces or manifestations of same?

Edited by ZAC D.
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Within hours of birth a infant will suckle a finger, a breast, almost anything within its vicinity. Isn't this a example of intrinsic unerring knowledge? without question it is pre-cognitive since the infant is pre-verbal and no one has explained or reasoned what kind of behaviors are in its self-interest.

That has been identified as a 'suckling reflex' - an automatic reflex similar to that of yanking one's hand back from touching something hot.

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That is where I disagree. I think intuition has to do with energy. Rand makes no sense. How could a human being have no instincts? Animals have them. Why wouldn't human beings?

The term "instinct" doesnt apply to humans because we are conceptual beings. In the Objectivist sense, instinct referrs to "an unchosen and unerring form of action". (OPAR 193) Animals live at the perceptual level, basically using the pleasure/pain mechanism to automatically guide their actions because percepts (as in perceptual) are automatic and unerring. Concepts however (as in conceptual) are not formed automatically, their use requires a volitional process.

All mans actions require a conscious method of thought to be initiated. And man, being born "tabula rasa", needs to use the proper method of thought (reason) if he is to survive. Man cannot survive on the automatic information of his percepts, he needs conscious volitional thought to guide his actions. Conscious volitional thought is quite the opposite of "unchosen and unerring" with regard to initiating action.

j..

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... but your gut is telling you ...

Try defining that better. We all agree that your "gut" doesn't say things.

The reason you can dismiss "instinct" in humans is because of your free will. Once you identify that you feel predisposed to act in a certain way, you become conscious of your power to choose your own actions. Animals (to our knowledge) do not have this faculty.

If you feel like your gut is telling you something, there is a reason - biological or psychological. It is not magic. You may not be fully conscious of what (or which of) your senses are perceiving, but they are responding to something. Your DNA may be "predisposed" differently than other humans (for instance, to smoking or over-eating). Depending on your operational definition, you can call this impulse "instinct," but only if you deny the power of your rational consciousness and ability to choose your actions.

Within the realm of consciousness, animal instinct cannot apply. If you're aware of an impulse and still act on it, you're making a choice. And by no definition can that be called instinct.

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You accept the Darwinian theory of evolution as it applies to humans correct?

If so wouldn't you agree that humanoids had to have instincts that allowed them to undertake life-sustaining behaviors? Now, If pre-humans had instincts but we the descendants do not did we lose them all at once or slowly?

Instinctual behavior was probably lost in the evoloution of man over time, but the aquisition of language is the nail in the coffin Id say. The simplest of creatures rely on little more than sensation alone to guide their actions. More complex organisms group sensations into percepts, and some higher animals even show an ability to make what appear to be rudimentary decisions. (not volitional choice, but perhaps voluntary action)

As an organisms awareness of reality becomes more complex, relying on higher levels on consciousness to thrive, instinctual, unchosen behavior seems to diminish in inverse proportion. Evoloution I think, supports this. With the aquisition of language man has risen to the conceptual level, survival requires the use of reason. Reason and free will go hand in hand, in a way, you cant have one without the other. Conceptual and volitional awareness neccessitates that mans actions are goal directed, and chosen, i.e. no instinctual behavior.

j..

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Within hours of birth a infant will suckle a finger, a breast, almost anything within its vicinity. Isn't this a example of intrinsic unerring knowledge?

Please don't assert that things are instinctual without looking up their cause yourself first. Thank You. :thumbsup:

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In any case he is describing behaviors, not knowledge. Thus if instinct is defined as "automatic and unerring knowledge" this cannot prove it exists even if the suckling behavior is inborn. (Personally I don't think *any* animal has "automatic and unerring knowledge" and that this is not a valid definition of "instinct.")

I will be the first one to call ZAC on his assertion from #3, even though many have quoted it passim: that mean?

That is where I disagree. I think intuition has to do with energy.

What on earth do intuition and energy have to do with each other?

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Guest ZAC D.

No, Im talking about intuition. When you have a pit in your stomach that tells you that you're not doing what you should be doing at that moment. Or when you feel great because you are completely happy and aligned and doing what you love or what you should be doing at that moment.

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No, Im talking about intuition. When you have a pit in your stomach that tells you that you're not doing what you should be doing at that moment. Or when you feel great because you are completely happy and aligned and doing what you love or what you should be doing at that moment.

From above ...

Try defining that better. We all agree that your "gut" doesn't say things.

...

If you feel like your gut is telling you something, there is a reason - biological or psychological. It is not magic. You may not be fully conscious of what (or which of) your senses are perceiving, but they are responding to something. Your DNA may be "predisposed" differently than other humans (for instance, to smoking or over-eating). Depending on your operational definition, you can call this impulse "instinct," but only if you deny the power of your rational consciousness and ability to choose your actions.

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Malcolm Gladwell explores this in his book Blink. You should read it. The short story is that we actually take in a fantastic amount of information with our senses. Our higher brains are able to process this information even when we don't particularly focus on that information. He provides several examples of this, here is one:

Several years ago, a sculpture was presented to a museum for purchase. The sculpture was reputed to be a Michaelangelo. The museum had numerous art specialists examine the sculpture for authenticity. To a one, each expert said they could find nothing to indicate the sculpture was not a Michealangelo, but they didn't feel right about it. None of them thought it was a Michaelangelo, but they could not point to any piece of data which led them to believe so. In other words, their "gut" told them it was a fake. The museum went ahead and bought the piece. It was later proved to be a fake. A very, very good fake with a minor flaw.

These experts had trained themselves to recognize the genuine and the fake. They knew which data points to a fake or a genuine. Just because this data isn't glaring doesn't mean that it's not there. The brain, and the sense organs which provide it with data, are amazing organs - capable of doing far more than we give them credit for.

When someone says, "My gut just doesn't feel right about this," they're really saying, "I have picked up a data point which I'm not quite able to process conciously right now." The appropriate response is to find out more about that data point and to analyze it rationally, not to simply go with it and pretend it's a form of knowledge.

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Malcolm Gladwell explores this in his book Blink. You should read it. The short story is that we actually take in a fantastic amount of information with our senses. Our higher brains are able to process this information even when we don't particularly focus on that information. He provides several examples of this, here is one:

Several years ago, a sculpture was presented to a museum for purchase. The sculpture was reputed to be a Michaelangelo. The museum had numerous art specialists examine the sculpture for authenticity. To a one, each expert said they could find nothing to indicate the sculpture was not a Michealangelo, but they didn't feel right about it. None of them thought it was a Michaelangelo, but they could not point to any piece of data which led them to believe so. In other words, their "gut" told them it was a fake. The museum went ahead and bought the piece. It was later proved to be a fake. A very, very good fake with a minor flaw.

These experts had trained themselves to recognize the genuine and the fake. They knew which data points to a fake or a genuine. Just because this data isn't glaring doesn't mean that it's not there. The brain, and the sense organs which provide it with data, are amazing organs - capable of doing far more than we give them credit for.

When someone says, "My gut just doesn't feel right about this," they're really saying, "I have picked up a data point which I'm not quite able to process conciously right now." The appropriate response is to find out more about that data point and to analyze it rationally, not to simply go with it and pretend it's a form of knowledge.

That story as told in your post isn't an illustration of the value of "gut feelings", it is an illustration of a flaw in the application of logic. They may have found no reason to believe that it wasn't a Michealangelo (trying to prove a negative), but what objective evidence was there that it was?

By giving money for something they had no objective evidence (or proof) of authenticity for they were gambling, and they lost.

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That story as told in your post isn't an illustration of the value of "gut feelings", it is an illustration of a flaw in the application of logic. They may have found no reason to believe that it wasn't a Michealangelo (trying to prove a negative), but what objective evidence was there that it was?

Yes, it is. The experts could not identify the flaw because it was so minor, yet there was a flaw. Their senses did send the flaw to their brains and their brains did recognize the flaw. However, they could not bring the flaw to the immediate consciousness. To them, something was just "wrong" with what they were seeing, they just couldn't immediately identify it.

I did not ascribe any value to "gut feelings," and none should be. As I wrote, the proper response to any emotional or psychological "feeling" is to identify the feeling and then use logic and rational thought to understand what is causing the feeling. Most of the experts Gladwell references either fail to take the time to do this, or do not have the time to do this, thus the name of the book - Blink in the sense that you gain far more information in the blink of an eye than you can possibly cognate. The experts I specifically wrote about had a limited amount of time to evaluate the sculpture. Had they more time, they would've found the flaw since the flaw was indeed found after the museum bought the sculpture.

Experts in their field have trained their minds to such a degree that much of the data they base their conclusions upon is automatized in their subconscious (in the sense that they don't need to bring it to immediate cognition and dwell upon it in order to make the proper conclusion). It's like driving a car, or riding a bike, would be for you (I assume). You've spent enough time behind the wheel, or on the saddle that you don't have to evaluate every piece of data (there is one car 2 feet to my right and 5 feet off my front bumber, the car to my left is 3 feet to my left and 2 feet in front of my bumber, I'm doing 59.5 mph, my foot is exerting 3 pounds of pressure and the accelerator is pressed half-way down, I am in 5th gear, the car behind me is 10 feet behind me and speeding up, the song on the radio is "Highway to Hell," by AC/DC, my kids are in the back seat discussing "Medal of Honor," etc. ad infinitum). Now, you just drive. But when you started driving, you had to process most of this information individually. Now, one might argue that you're driving on instinct, but when you first started driving you were very much using your cognitive abilities just to get out of the driveway.

Experts in their field are several steps above what we do when we're behind the wheel. Their "gut reactions" are no more instinctual, or innate, than our ability to drive and still give processing time to things other than driving. It is not an illustration of a flaw in logic because they've spent their entire professional lives honing their logic in that particular field.

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And LeGault makes the same point I made above when he wrote, "... lying behind these 'snap judgments' are educated impressions formed by years of study, thought, and analysis." He was specifically referencing the example I gave above. (He was wrong, however, in asserting that Gladwell overlooked this.)

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Malcolm Gladwell explores this in his book Blink. You should read it. The short story is that we actually take in a fantastic amount of information with our senses. Our higher brains are able to process this information even when we don't particularly focus on that information. He provides several examples of this, here is one:

Several years ago, a sculpture was presented to a museum for purchase. The sculpture was reputed to be a Michaelangelo. The museum had numerous art specialists examine the sculpture for authenticity. To a one, each expert said they could find nothing to indicate the sculpture was not a Michealangelo, but they didn't feel right about it. None of them thought it was a Michaelangelo, but they could not point to any piece of data which led them to believe so. In other words, their "gut" told them it was a fake. The museum went ahead and bought the piece. It was later proved to be a fake. A very, very good fake with a minor flaw.

These experts had trained themselves to recognize the genuine and the fake. They knew which data points to a fake or a genuine. Just because this data isn't glaring doesn't mean that it's not there. The brain, and the sense organs which provide it with data, are amazing organs - capable of doing far more than we give them credit for.

When someone says, "My gut just doesn't feel right about this," they're really saying, "I have picked up a data point which I'm not quite able to process conciously right now." The appropriate response is to find out more about that data point and to analyze it rationally, not to simply go with it and pretend it's a form of knowledge.

Now would you contend that this is some innate survival tool of the brain? Like pattern recognition?

(i'm imagining here a prehistoric man scanning his surroundings by sight, smell, sound, and subconsciously registering that something is 'not right', or out of place.)

I don't think that this skill has been lost to us - isn't it the ability to take in a massive amount of sensations and percepts, of which some can later be isolated, made conscious, and then transformed into cognition?

In a nutshell, 'Blink', and 'Think' are not contradictory, but mutually supportive, imo.

So, if one gets that nagging feeling in the gut, it is because some critical and relevant sensation has not been identified.

(Which is merely coming full circle to your conviction.)

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Now would you contend that this is some innate survival tool of the brain? Like pattern recognition?

I don't know. Both would seem to be products of higher brain functions; perhaps part of the evolution of a more complex brain. In that case, then yes, it is an innate survival tool of the brain.

I don't think that this skill has been lost to us - isn't it the ability to take in a massive amount of sensations and percepts, of which some can later be isolated, made conscious, and then transformed into cognition?

Exactly. We choose which percepts, out of the literally millions our senses provide us with, to focus on. We choose whether to focus on the forest or the trees. However, that doesn't mean our brains are ignoring the other perceptions. I'm sure everyone has had the experience of remembering some detail that wasn't obvious the moment the detail was presented. Another example would be when faced with a sudden and traumatic experience (a car wreck, perhaps), time seems to slow down. At these moments, the brain is hyper-aware and it's focusing on all the percepts it's presented with simultaneously. I contend time seems to slow down because we're just not used to processing so much information immediately.

So, if one gets that nagging feeling in the gut, it is because some critical and relevant sensation has not been identified.

(Which is merely coming full circle to your conviction.)

Right, it's not license to just say, "Well, it feels right (or wrong)," and then go with it. One must rationally analyze that feeling and attempt to identify what is causing it.

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Guest ZAC D.
And LeGault makes the same point I made above when he wrote, "... lying behind these 'snap judgments' are educated impressions formed by years of study, thought, and analysis." He was specifically referencing the example I gave above. (He was wrong, however, in asserting that Gladwell overlooked this.)

This is finally turning into a Interesting discussion.

What is the difference between blink and think? Did he merely just misjudge Gladwell's work? I find it hard to believe he wasted all his time just to error. I could see him being incorrect but to error?

I was under the impression intuition had to do with psycho-epistemology. In other words the "pit in your stomach" is when your subconscious is telling you via emotion that you are not acting in accordance with the ideas you have integrated into it. Or, in the other case, your subconscious is telling you via emotion that your conscious convictions are properly integrated and your subconscious is in a harmonious, non-contradictory, state.

I think what you are saying is conscious thoughts take time. Where as emotions are instantaneous. In other words our emotional response to any situation will always be sensed faster than our mind can consciously come to a conclusion. Is that what people call "intuition"?

Edited by ZAC D.
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It is interesting. :)

I do think it is critical to differentiate between intuition/instinct, and emotion.

Emotion as "the automatic results of man's value judgments integrated by his subconscious" is an important "barometer" regarding how 'well' a man is thinking and acting - in my much simplified understanding.

Whereas, intuition, as JeffS and I are suggesting, is raw information itself. In the form of millions of random percepts and sensations (bits?) of data.

Which one can volitionally isolate a few bits of, and discard the rest, unseen.

Those few but necessary bits, if ignored, may impact upon the psycho-epistemology in the form of an emotion - so there could be a correlation between the two, but only as cause and effect.

(One resulting emotion might be frustration ie, that nagging sense of "I know there's something wrong here, but cognitively can't find it yet.")

So, yes, certainly one's emotions should be integrated, but instinct/intuition cannot be, imo - it can only be acknowledged as a source of possibly valuable information.

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What is the difference between blink and think? Did he merely just misjudge Gladwell's work?

I think LeGault just didn't read Gladwell very carefully. Gladwell doesn't argue that one can just go on their "gut instincts," but that seems to be the impression LeGualt got. Interestingly enough, I remember LeGault providing a bunch of unfounded conclusions himself. It's not a book I would recommend.

Whereas, intuition, as JeffS and I are suggesting, is raw information itself. In the form of millions of random percepts and sensations (bits?) of data.

Emotions are physiological responses to some percept. When I see my wife, I feel happy. Why do I feel happy? Because she is a great value to me. When I see her, my brain makes the instantaneous comparison between her and all things which are not her. It also, instantaneously, evaluates all my values and recognizes her at the top of my heirarchy. It then signals my lymbic system to dump various chemicals into my blood stream - dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine among them. It is these chemicals which are the percepts my brain reacts to and which I call the emotion "happy."

Although these chemicals were released when I first met her, through twenty years of our relationship my interpretation of those chemicals has changed. I still feel the sexual attraction that these chemicals first brought about, but there are now far more data points integrated into the evaluation of those chemicals.

I don't think intuition is any different. It is still a response to some chemical cocktail. Whatever that cocktail is, it is our perception of it that causes the "pit in the stomach." It is our perception of whatever causes the brain to demand this cocktail which causes the cocktail to be mixed up in the first place. Just as with my example above, over years of integrating multitudes of data points the brain comes to associate those data points with the cocktail. When those data points are perceived, the brain demands the cocktail. If those data points are not perceived, the brain has no reason to demand the cocktail.

If an expert views a forged DaVinci, his brain is not getting the data points associated with a real DaVinci; therefore, he doesn't get the cocktail; therefore, he doesn't get a "good feeling" about the painting. At that point, the rational thing to do is try to determine which data point is missing, or which data point is incorrect.

Conscious thoughts do take time, and emotions are instantaneous. However, emotions are not just a product of subconscious thought, they can also be a product of prior conscious thought. In either case, the time has already been spent in order to arrive at an instantaneous decision - or intuition. Over time, and after a multitude of experiences with a particular percept, the brain registers a percept as associated with certain actions, effects, causes, entities, whatever. It can make these percept/event connections without focus - as in someone who has an irrational phobia due to some experience in early childhood; or, the connection can be made with focus - as in someone who becomes an expert in a particular field through years of study.

In short, emotion and intuition are the same thing. They are both products of perceptual data either integrated purposefully or not. They are both perceptions of physiological changes to the chemical make-up of the bloodstream. Since they are so dependent upon body chemistry, they can't be trusted to provide knowledge. The rational course of action is to consciously identify what percept (or confluence of percepts) caused the brain to demand the chemical change. When a bear is chasing you, the percept causing your brain to dump adrenaline into your body and make you feel fear is not so difficult to identify. But when you're trying to determine why you don't like someone upon first meeting them, or why you don't think a particular sculpture is a Michaelangelo, then identifying the particular data point(s) might be more difficult.

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