A skeptical critique of the rampant nativism of the behavioral and cognitive sciences

Against Instinct

From Biology to Philosophical Psychology

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Dennis M. Senchuk

"Against Instinct is well organized, nicely argued, and extraordinarily well-written. This book will be a challenge to the dominant view. Among its virtues is the author's rich use of philosophical and other sources; his use of image is wonderful throughout. Its readership should include philosophers of psychology, mind, action, biology, and science as well as those interested in the prospects of AI work. Philosophers will learn some psychology; psychologists might learn some philosophy."
Don Gustafson, University of Cincinnati

Are we genetically programmed to behave as we do and to learn what we do? is human control over human destiny biologically and, ultimately, physically predetermined? Is our ability to vary ad lib the amount and direction of our personal efforts an idle illusion? Against Instinct challenges recent philosophy’s all too common "Yes, but" answers to these questions. In this skeptical critique of the rampant nativism of the behavioral and cognitive sciences, Dennis M. Senchuk confronts the full range of experimental and bio-theoretical supports for the claim of instinct. Instead of arguing in favor of nurture over nature, he reorients this perennial controversy along a different axis. In the process, Senchuk propounds and defends a novel, radically non-nativistic philosophy of action and of mind.




Part I: The Scientific Quest for Instinct

1. The Slippery Notion of Behavioral Innateness
Snarled Criteria of Innate Behavior • A Forthright Experiment, Some Possibly Crooked Facts • The Intimacy of Learning and Genetic Decoding • Information as the Innate Component of Behavior • Adaptive Behavior, Sign Stimuli, and Information • Evolution and Information Theory • Behavioral Images of the Environment • The Uninformed Elasticity of Supposedly Innate Behavior • Rigidity as a Possible Criterion of Innateness

2. Theoretically Questionable Experimental Support for Instinct
Problematic Applications of the Deprivation Experiment • Tangled Environmental Influences upon the Development of Behavior • Theoretical Insights Bearing on Inductive Failures to Identify Innate Behavior • Instincts as Behavioral Impulses • The Presumable Omnipresence of Environmental Determination • Relations between Learning and Orientation Mechanisms • Efforts to Individuate Simple Movements • A Phenomenological Defense of Animal Intelligence • Manifest versus Scientific Images of Intelligent Behaviors of Behavior • Intelligence as an Alternative to Instinct and to Learning • Computer Simulations and the Faculty of Intellect • The Process and the Products of Intelligence • The Role of Problem Grasping in Genuinely Intelligent Functioning • Dualism, Mechanism, and the Hypothesis of Genuine Intelligence

3. Two Psychophilosophical Theories of Intelligence
Reintroducing Gestalt Theory: Koffka on Instinct as a Prelude to Intelligence • The Problem of Intelligence: To Grasp Ideas as Solutions • The Supposed Continuity of Instinct and Intelligence • Free Dynamics, Particular Constraints • A Dynamic Model of Attention • Goal Seeking as Stress Directed • Beyond the Present, toward the Absent • Dewey's Naturalistic Standpoint • Habits • Dewey's Seamless Web: Experience without Representation • Figuratively Stirred to Consciousness • Impulse as against Instinct • The Infant's Need for Social Commerce • The Mystery of Deliberation • Crossed Purposes: Dewey's Concession to Instinct
4. The Epigenesis of Behavior
Kuo's Epigenetic Standpoint • The Concept and Theory of Behavioral Gradients • The Concept and Theory of Behavioral Potentials • The Diminution of Plasticity Thesis • Epigenesis as Historicism: Laws and Other Patterns of Development • Habituation and Diminution: Deweyan Prospects for Kuo's Theory • Patterning and Reduced Plasticity • Social and Structural-Functional Influences on Plasticity • Kuo's Program of Charting Ranges of Behavioral Potentials • Rethinking the Role of the Brain in Behavior • Jensen's Research Program: Comparative Harmony, Ethological Discord • Chief Epigenetic Challenges to the Ethological Enterprise Part II: Philosophical Remonstrances

5. Plasticity, Teleology, and Instinct
S-R Theoretic Plasticity • Epigenetic Plasticity • Teleological Plasticity • Reasonable Assignments of Teleology • The Conceptual Compatibility between Plasticity and Instinct

6. Intelligent Behavior, Purposiveness, and Consciousness
Intelligent Habits and Capacities: From Dewey to Ryle • Somewhere between Episodes and Dispositions • Further Features of Rylean Frames of Mind • Introducing Conscious Readiness • The Role of Conscious Readiness in Purposive Behavior

7. The Functionalistic Turn of Recent Philosophical Psychology
Ryle's Credentials as a Functionalist • Artificial Intelligence as a Reductio ad Absurdum of Functionalism • The Elusive Functioning of Conscious Readiness • The Strange Fellowship of Turing Machines • Isomorphic Oddities • Some Philosophical Merits of Functionalism

8. The Possibility of Teleological Flexibility
Variously Realized Teleological Schemes • Automata, Performers and Composers • Intelligence as Opposed to Instinct • The Phenomenon of Intentionality • Brute Thoughts • Stretching toward Goal-Objects

9. A Credible Alternative to Instinct
Vestiges of Nativism in Flexible Behavioral Tendencies • Minimizing Instinctivity without Destroying Flexibility • The Image of Consciousness in Action • The Role Played by Conscious Readiness • Consciousness in Development • Consciousness as Active Prehensiveness • Native Conscious Readiness: A Concession to Leibniz?

10. Beyond Nature-Nurture, But Nature Above All
Depolarization of Fate and Freedom • Creedal Determinism • Interrogating Bergson's Argument for Vitalism • A Denial of Supervenience: Neutral Monism and Psychological Indeterminacy • Russell's Causal Skeleton: Destiny and Hierarchical Determination • The Closed System and Its Enemy: Popper on Downward Causation and Deep Indeterminacy • Consciousness Naturalized: Supervenience without Physical Determinism

11. Final Reckoning
The Dual-Aspect Nightmare • The Case against Psychological Functionalism • Nature and Fate: Some Consequences of the Principle of Sufficient Reason • Toward a Methodological Reconciliation with the Scientific Image • Emergent Indeterminacy and Unified Science: Some Neurological Speculations • Prospects for Further Research on Flexible Functioning • Beyond the Bounds: Sociobiological Constraints on Being Human • Flexibility as Fate



About the Author(s)

Dennis M. Senchuk is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Indiana University.

Subject Categories

Philosophy and Ethics



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