By my current understanding: Individual instinct is instantiated primarily by lower brain systems, which provide motivations of attraction and repulsion toward particular internal and external objects and states. Through middle systems, these basic valences are merged and translated into more complex emotions. In higher systems, these emotions are further shaped into plans, compatible with real-world constraints, to achieve life's goals. Higher layers, in general, act as consultants to lower layers, providing wisdom and guidance over basic desires. The mind is often extended outward, beyond the flesh, to form an extended mind, which includes various exogenous helpers like papers, cameras, and computers.

This overall structure of mind and extension can involve multiple people as well, in a process called distributed cognition. Here, external representations such as language and picture are shared between people to facilitate interpersonal, emergent thought. This thinking often takes an asynchronous form, being processed in pieces over time and space.

With this background, the instantiation of ideology appears to birth a wave of distributed cognition. Like with individual cognition, we should expect to find instinct as the drive of distributed cognition. If one of the core qualities of instinct is being taken at face value as good and worthy, then perhaps the part of ideology closest to instinct is its dogma.

Now, one might argue here that the instinct behind distributed cognition must be the emergent collective of individual instinct; but the phenomenon of groupthink could in theory allow the blind acceptance of emergent cognitive undertakings.

Update 1:

Perhaps the meaning of instinct ought to be clarified. The intent within this context is not instrumental goals or social norms, but the set of intrinsic, innate goals or natures of an agent. Such instinct is presumed immutable, unchanged by learning or experience, although the relative expression between competing instincts can be modulated. Indeed some instincts are social in nature, where their full expression may shine in the light of emergent group behaviour, but their origin is taken as biological, rather than cultural. In terms of nature and nurture, instinct here is meant as nature alone.

Update 2:

The following thought experiment helps to emphasise the primary point of concern.

Event 1: A person or group, driven by instinct, develops an ideology.

Event 2: A group, possibly external to the first, receives this ideology in written form and starts following its advice.

Event 3: Groupthink sets in, with the written text taken as dogma and accepted as part of the group's norms and or identity.

Event 4: Time passes, and culture undergoes semiotic changes.

Event 5: Individuals periodically defer to the dogma, which is no longer taken in its original sense.

Concern: The dogma is being treated as the will of the people, but it clearly differs from the current or even past instincts of the group; yet from the perspective of distributed cognition, the dogma acts as something of an instinct. Hence, an abstract animal of semantic decay, or exogenous nature, has arisen.

With that said: Is ideological dogma an example of exogenous instinct?

  • Ideological dogmas developed from philosophical schools may not be examples of any endogenous or exogenous instincts formed intersubjectively within certain group of people. And not every dogma will inevitably cause the phenomenon of group think to arrive at some bad decisions. Some closer to truth dogmas were refined and highly unintuitive at the time of creation through numerous philosophical contemplations and practices, otherwise you'll easily get those common group think phenomenon due to common psychological nature and potent environmental influences... Commented Jan 29, 2022 at 4:22
  • @DoubleKnot -- The intended focus is not about truth and viability, but origin and agency. The main concerns are (1) the form and identity of the mind; and (2) the nature and origin of the impetus.
    – Michael
    Commented Jan 29, 2022 at 18:53
  • Your immutable nature spec is about the necessary instinct, but an ideological dogma may not be solely driven by such primitive instincts. For example, Ataraxia ideology is not developed naturally in any group, nevertheless it became a firm and well-known Pyrrhonic dogma. I'd even observe that if one doesn't have such examined ideology but only let immutable natures develop within a group, no matter how many groups one participates, one would endure similar and familiar ebbs and flows. A deeper issue is your event 2's Kripkenstein rule following, many unqualified ones may mix in any group. Commented Jan 30, 2022 at 4:25
  • @DoubleKnot -- Generally the relative expression of instincts can be modulated by the expected return from experienced paths. The desire for energy efficiency, including of the brain, must be an instinct on some level. Ataraxia, or freedom from cognitive dissonance, in the strict sense, would minimise brain metabolism and stress; as such, paths giving this result have intrinsic reward, which can shape future decisions. The right life path could thus lead to discovering ataraxic principles through modulation of relative expression maximising energy conservation of the brain.
    – Michael
    Commented Feb 1, 2022 at 20:22
  • Re your "maximising energy conservation of the brain", energy conservation is a proven physical law and I don't understand how one's mind can maximize the conserved (constant) energy quantity. A curious person with strong Need for Cognition (NFC) nature will try to learn everything possible instinctly. Maybe psychology can accurately model brain state in a hard determinism way one day, but philosophy may guide or lead to somewhat similar general conclusion way ahead like in physics. The competing Stoic dogma replaced Ataraxia with Apatheia and it's hard to say which one fits your ideal model.. Commented Feb 2, 2022 at 1:52

1 Answer 1


is ideological dogma an example of exogenous instinct?

To a large extent ideological dogma belongs to group instinct, so it would be harder to conceive as emerging exogenously from individuals.
C. Fred Alford describes the primality of the group here (also detailed here):

the group, not the individual is the most fundamental reality in society. Political theorists should realize that the group is the state of nature and that civil society is the product of the individual's attempt to develop a sense of self.

With the group or tribe as the primary evolutionary unit its instincts and members are unified, generally following the leader (sometimes the leader of the moment). After individuating, an individual can see the dogma but it is a process of the group they have separated from. It is the old thinking, not really exogenous instinct coming from the individual(s). Nevertheless there are some higher group faculties that the individual can observe and there may be communication from the individuated individual back to the group.

Alford describes some basic group behaviours which roughly tie up with the four pack behaviours in Elias Canetti's Crowds & Power, e.g. hunting pack, war pack, lamenting pack. I would include uncritical acceptance of dogma as a basic group behaviour, after all who needs an unruly tribe? A pack can be switched from one mode to another ('The transmutation of packs'), either by natural events or a charismatic/hysterical group member. So too can the content of dogma be changed but the propensity to uncritically accept it is an immutable group instinct.

So to clearly refer back to your question, ideological dogma is a result of group instinct.

  • I have replied by adding to my post addressing the 'instrumental separation' between the group instinct to uncritically accept dogma and the mutability of the specific ideologies. Commented Jan 29, 2022 at 14:29
  • In your update 2 you are describing a specific dogma that has become outdated. Someone has to come along with an update, such as happened with Abraham. The update is a communication to the group. The ideology is part of the group existence. Commented Jan 29, 2022 at 20:33
  • The group iis most readily conceived as a tribe in evolutionary time. As Konrad Lorentz put it, the instincts are phylogenetic, reasoning being a relatively late addition to tribal life in evolutionary timespan. A tribe would conceive of itself as a whole. Obviously groups can be much bigger now, which introduces new problems. Commented Jan 29, 2022 at 20:58
  • If the tribe mind is the collective mind of the tribe, then the extended tribe mind would include cultural artifacts such as texts. In this context, old dogma could be seen as an outdated thought of the extended tribe mind.
    – Michael
    Commented Jan 29, 2022 at 21:17
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    A person can also affiliate with many tribes simultaneously now, in varying degrees and roles, creating many complex and dynamic collective minds and distributed cognitive processes.
    – Michael
    Commented Jan 29, 2022 at 21:27

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