Philosophy Friday: Instincts vs Reason

Sometimes I feel like I am two people in the same body. And I don’t mean in the multiple personality sense…like there’s not a Kenneth, and a Jake running around inside my head. The two sides are the subject of this blog. And it seems like they are at war with one another a lot.

First, let my clarify my meanings so we can be on the same page. There are many times when I have discussed philosophy with friends and been frustrated and angry only to realize we are using different terms for the same things and misunderstanding each other. When I speak of instinct I am talking about base impulses, gut feelings, intuitive responses…basically almost anything we feel rather than think. You don’t choose to love someone it just happens, you don’t choose to fear something it just happens. Now your reason and willpower can overcome those emotions and allow you to make decisions you might not otherwise, but the instincts/impulses remain. And there I have kind of covered what I mean by reason as well. Reason is using your higher brain functions, willpower, and logic to overcome or react to problems.

Now on to why I want to talk about this. I spend a lot of time trying to be a rational, civilized person, and for the most part I am wildly successful. But often I wonder how much other people struggle, how often everyone else has to rein in their instincts in order to be “civilized” and if that is even a good thing. And more and more I find myself trying to trust my instincts, because pure (or as close to pure as I can get) reason has just continually screwed up my life over and over. And I am in a situation now where all my instincts are screaming not to do something, but my reason keeps reining them back and saying give it a chance.

So I guess what I am wondering is this:

How much do you struggle against your base impulses and instincts?

Without knowing the details, should I “go with my gut” or trust my reasoning skills?

Do you think we are better off civilized or did we lose too much when we stopped following our instincts?


I look forward to hearing your replies, and feel welcome to check out the rest of my posts.


Posted on September 9, 2011, in Musings. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. You are a smart man and my opinion is incredibly bias. I will say though that for me it is the opposite. I tend to use instinct over reason and it has messes things up for me time and time again.

  2. That is definitely true.. in most cases.

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