I read a post in facebook few minutes ago and the titular says something about a boy banging a dog, and then the boy broke the dog's leg because the dog bit her little sister and also the boy stabbed the dog many times. The boy was like 6 years and the girl is 2 years old. Some people said: "That is ok, the human is more important than a dog". I keep thinking on that, why we are more important? A friend answer me because we are rational. But with our rationality we are destroying the earth. I'm not a defender of animals but for being rational I dont feel more important. And when I was thinking in all these a question came to my mind: is the rationality an instinct?

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    Whether something is an "instinct" or not is a question of biology, not philosophy. Could you maybe rephrase to make the philsophical question more clear? – James Kingsbery Jan 12 '16 at 22:07
  • @JamesKingsbery: With the movement of philosophical anthropology (Scheler, Gehlen, Plessner et. al.) there was a whole new branch of philosophy only dealing in a philosophical way with the touching points of biology and philosophy. In there, instinct became object of philosophical thinking and by this a philosophical term. This could be taken as a hint for the OP, too hint – Philip Klöcking Jan 12 '16 at 23:11
  • I vote for reopen. The comment of Philip convinces me that the OP deals with a question from anthropology which is a philosophical subject. – Jo Wehler Jan 13 '16 at 4:05
  • @JoWehler please see meta.philosophy.stackexchange.com/q/3083/2953. – user2953 Jan 13 '16 at 12:12

It depends both of the definitions of instinct and rationality.

Taking Helmuth Plessner's work The Levels of the Organic and Man, Introduction to Philosophical Anthropology from 1928 [note: the translation is in the making], it is just the way you think:

In Chapter 6.4, he describes instinct as a certain predetermination of action that has broadness, i.e. leaves place for conciousness, difference, correction of behaviour. It is by this the frame/bounding of conciousness. This has to be discriminated from reflex, which is a direct reaction pattern with no broadness whatsoever. Therefore, instinct is left to animals (and humans, as animalic) that can conciously act towards their environment and not only react to changes in their environment (essentially, but not necessarily identical to the difference between animals with or without central nervous system).

Human rationality there could be defined as an ability that coincedentally emerges from having the ability to have distance from the self (self-conciousness, excentric positionality, Chapter 7) together with the ability to to idealize (Ideation is a term taken from Husserl), that is to make a true difference between the particular and a general concept of it. Only by this, we are enabled to be rational, i.e. not bounded by the situation and phenomena.

As rationality would in these terms be part of the specificity of our mode of conciousness and instinct is described as the frame/bounding of conciousness, rationality would in fact be instinct.

But this is only one, although in its total very convincing (only very sketchy here) way to define the terms.


Rationality is a cognitive capability. A capability which must be trained like the capability to speak.

Rationality is not an instinct:

Instinct or innate behavior is the inherent inclination of a living organism towards a particular complex behavior. The simplest example of an instinctive behavior is a fixed action pattern (Wikipedia)

Summing up the main difference: Rationality must be learned, instinct not.

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    If this is the answer OP is looking for, the question doesn't belong here (as James Kingsbery points out above). Please don't answer off topic questions. – user2953 Jan 12 '16 at 22:47
  • @Keelan Questions concerning rationality have a philosophical aspect which I consider suitable for the present blog. – Jo Wehler Jan 12 '16 at 22:55
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    Just the fact that the question mentions rationality is not enough. It should fit into one of our seven topics. There are plenty of questions that contain the word "rationality" that are off topic here. Also, this is not a blog. – user2953 Jan 12 '16 at 23:00
  • @Keelan: I take it to be a poor understanding of philosophy if (philosophical!) anthropology was not taken to be a philosophical topic. And the question fits this branch just fine. – Philip Klöcking Jan 12 '16 at 23:05
  • @PhilipKlöcking I agree that you can make the question fit, but not if this would be the answer. – user2953 Jan 12 '16 at 23:06

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