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A Review
Henri Louis Bergson's Book
Creative Evolution
Chapter II: The Divergent Directions of the
Evolution of Life, Torpor, Intelligence, Instinct
Topic 25: The Nature of Instinct
by Doug Renselle
Doug's Pre-review Commentary
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Chapter I II
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Topic 25...............The Nature of Instinct


(Most quotes verbatim Henri Louis Bergson, some paraphrased.)

(Relevant to Pirsig, William James Sidis, and Quantonics Thinking Modes.)


"Inversely, in the course of embryonic life itself (especially when the embryo lives freely in the form of a larva), many of the acts accomplished must be referred to instinct. The most essential of the primary instincts are really, therefore, vital processes. The potential consciousness that accompanies them is generally actualized only at the outset of the act, and leaves the rest of the process to go on by itself. It would only have to expand more widely, and then dive into its own depth completely, to be one with the generative force of life.

"When we see in a living body thousands of cells working together to a common end, dividing the task between them, [both] living each for itself [and] at the same time as for the others, preserving itself, feeding itself, reproducing itself, responding to the menace of danger by appropriate defensive reactions, how can we help thinking of so many instincts? And yet these are the natural functions of the cell, the constitutive elements of its vitality. On the other hand, when we see the bees of a hive forming a system so strictly organized that no individual can live apart from the others beyond a certain time, even though furnished with food and shelter, how can we help recognizing that the hive is really, and not metaphorically, a single organism, of which each bee is a cell united to the others by invisible bonds? The instinct that animates the bee is indistinguishable, then, from the force that animates the cell, or is only a prolongation of that force. In extreme cases like this, instinct coincides with the work of organization. [And intellect works to set one free from instinct's communal trap.]

"Of course there are degrees of perfection in the same instinct. Between the humble-bee, and the honey-bee, for instance, the distance is great; and we pass from one to the other through a great number of intermediaries, which correspond to so many complications of the social life."

(Our brackets, underline, and bold.)

Bergson restarts his footnote counts on each page. So to refer a footnote, one must state page number and footnote number.

Our bold and color highlights follow a code:

  • black-bold - important to read if you are just scanning our review
  • green-bold - we see Bergson suggesting axiomatic memes
  • violet-bold - an apparent classical problematic
  • blue-bold - we disagree with this text segment while disregarding context of Bergson's overall text
  • gray-bold - quotable text
  • red-bold - our direct commentary

"But the same diversity is found in the functioning of histological elements belonging to different tissues more or less akin. In both cases there are manifold variations on one and the same theme. The constancy of the theme is manifest, however, and the variations only fit it to the diversity of the circumstances.

"Now, in both cases, in the instinct of the animal and in the 'vital properties of the cell, the same knowledge and the same ignorance are shown. All goes on as if the cell knew, of the other cells, what concerns itself; as if the animal knew, of the other animals, what it can utilize—all else remaining in shade. It seems as if life, as soon as it has become bound up in a species, is cut off from the rest of its own work, save at one or two points that are of 'vital concern to the species just arisen. Is it not plain that life goes to work here exactly like consciousness, exactly like memory? We trail behind us, unawares, the whole of our past; but our memory pours into the present only the odd recollection or two that in some way complete our present situation. Thus the instinctive knowledge which one species possesses of another on a certain particular point has its root in the very unity of life, which is, to use the expression of an ancient philosopher, a " whole sympathetic to itself." It is impossible to consider some of the special instincts of the animal and of the plant, evidently arisen in extraordinary circumstances, without relating them to those recollections, seemingly forgotten, which spring up suddenly under the pressure of an urgent need.

"No doubt many secondary instincts, and also many varieties of primary instinct, admit of a scientific explanation. Yet it is doubtful whether science, with its present methods of explanation, will ever succeed in analyzing instinct completely."


"The reason is that instinct and intelligence are two divergent developments of one and the same principle, [quanton(instinct,intelligence)] which in the one case [instinct] remains within itself, in the other [intelligence] steps out of itself and becomes absorbed in the utilization of inert matter. This gradual divergence testifies to a radical incompatibility, [rather, quantum complementarity] and points to the fact that it is impossible for intelligence to re-absorb instinct. That which is instinctive in instinct cannot be expressed in terms of intelligence, nor, consequently, can it be analyzed.

"A man born blind, who had lived among others born blind, could not be made to believe in the possibility of perceiving a distant object without first perceiving all the objects in between. Yet vision performs this miracle. In a certain sense the blind man is right, since vision, having its origin in the stimulation of the retina, by the vibrations of the light, is nothing else, in fact, but a retinal touch. Such is indeed the scientific explanation, for the function of science is just to express all perceptions in terms of touch. But we have shown elsewhere that the philosophical explanation of perception (if it may still be called an explanation) must be of another kind.(1) Now instinct also is a knowledge at a distance. It has the same relation to intelligence that vision has to touch. Science cannot do otherwise than express it in terms of intelligence; but in so doing it constructs an imitation of instinct rather than penetrates within it.

"Any one can convince himself of this by studying the ingenious theories of evolutionist biology. They may be reduced to two types, which are often intermingled. One type, following the principles of neo-Darwinism, regards instinct as a sum of accidental differences preserved by selection: such and such a useful behavior, naturally adopted by the individual in virtue of an accidental predisposition of the germ, has been transmitted from germ to germ, waiting for chance to add fresh improvements to it by the same method."

Note (1) - Matière et mémoire, chap. i.

(Our brackets, bold, and color.)

We strongly disagree! Bergson shows extreme classicism here. His last sentence says, "dichon(instinct, intelligence)."

Again, we disagree! They are quantum complementary interrelationships, not classical dichotomous concepts. Bergson is calling instinct and intellect "a SOM platypus." That phrase arises from Robert M. Pirsig's discussion of platypi in Lila. See p. 101 of Lila, Bantam hardbound 1st ed., 410 total pages.




We agree that classical science does what Bergson says. We think that quantum science commences a means of interpenetrating, i.e., compenetrating both instinct and intelligence. Our quantons (as distinguished from SOM's platypi or dichons) offer explicitly that meme of quantum included-middle interpenetration of both instinct and intelligence.

169 "The other type regards instinct as lapsed intelligence: the action, found useful by the species or by certain of its representatives, is supposed to have engendered a habit, which, by hereditary transmission, has become an instinct. Of these two types of theory, the first has the advantage of being able to bring in hereditary transmission without raising grave objection; for the accidental modification which it places at the origin of the instinct is not supposed to have been acquired by the individual, but to have been inherent in the germ. But, on the other hand, it is absolutely incapable of explaining instincts as sagacious as those of most insects. These instincts surely could not have attained, all at once, their present degree of complexity; they have probably evolved; but, in a hypothesis like that of the neo-Darwinians, the evolution of instinct could have come to pass only by the progressive addition of new pieces which , in someway, by happy accidents, came to fit into the old. Now it is evident that, in most cases, instinct could not have perfected itself by simple accretion: each new piece really requires, if all is not to be spoiled, a complete recasting of the whole. How could mere chance work a recasting of the kind? I agree that an accidental modification of the germ may be passed on hereditarily, and may somehow wait for fresh accidental modifications to come and complicate it. I agree also that natural selection may eliminate all those of the more complicated forms of instinct that are not fit to survive. Still, in order that the life of the instinct may evolve, complications [quantum awareness and primitive 'choices' of organisms and their antecedents] fit to survive have to be produced. Now they will be produced only if, in certain cases, the addition of a new element brings about the correlative change [via quantum cohesion] of all the old elements. No one will maintain that chance could perform such a miracle: in one form or another we shall appeal to intelligence [quantum awareness]." (Our brackets and bold.)

"We shall suppose that it is by an effort, more or less conscious, that the living being develops a higher instinct. But then we shall have to admit that an acquired habit can become hereditary, and that it does so regularly enough to ensure an evolution. The thing is doubtful, to put it mildly. Even if we could refer the instincts of animals to habits intelligently acquired and hereditarily transmitted, it is not clear how this sort of explanation could be extended to the vegetable world, where effort is never intelligent, even supposing it is sometimes conscious. And yet, when we see with what sureness and precision climbing plants use their tendrils, what marvelously combined manœuvres the orchids perform to procure their fertilization by means of insects,(1) how can we help thinking that these are so many instincts?

"This is not saying that the theory of the neo-Darwinian must be altogether rejected, any more than that of the neo-Lamarckians. The first are probably right in holding that evolution takes place from germ to germ rather than from individual to individual; the second are right in saying that at the origin of instinct there is an effort (although it is something quite different, we believe, from an intelligent effort). But the former are probably wrong when they make the evolution of instinct an accidental evolution, and the latter when they regard the effort from which instinct proceeds as an individual effort. The effort by which a species modifies its instinct, and modifies itself as well, must be a much deeper thing, dependent solely neither on circumstances nor on individuals. [Here, Bergson's query appears to miss a necessary quantum intuition. We think he has that intuition, but uses a writing style which tries to argue from multiple, worthy, and some legacy perspectives. It is good, and fair, but sometimes confusing.] It is not purely accidental, although accident [rather, quantum ensemble stochasticity] has a large place in it; and it does not depend solely on the initiative of individuals, although individuals collaborate in it. [latter is very quantum]"

Note (1) - See the two works of Darwin, Climbing Plants and The Fertilization of Orchids by Insects.

(Our brackets, bold, and color. Bergson's parentheses.)










Consider how quantum awareness and local autonomous coobsfecting choice combined with quantum cohesion resolve both these issues: evolution is by choice—not accident, and individuals make their choices based upon quantum coherent influences of other 'local' individuals. This evolute selection process scales from Planck lengths to beyond cosmic parsecs.


"Compare the different forms of the same instinct in different species of hymenoptera. The impression derived is not always that of an increasing complexity made of elements that have been added together one after the other. Nor does it suggest the idea of steps up a ladder. Rather do we think, in many cases at least, of the circumference of a circle, from different points of which these different varieties have started, all facing the same centre, all making an effort in that direction, but each approaching it only to the extent of its means, and to the extent also to which this central point has been illumined for it. [Reader, consider Bergson's quasi-omnimensional quantum description here.] In other words, instinct is everywhere [i.e., quantum omnimensionally] complete, but it is more or less simplified [i.e., quantum locally consistent], and, above all, simplified differently [i.e., no two quantons are ever identical]. On the other hand, in cases where we do get the impression of an ascending scale, as if one and the same instinct had gone on complicating itself more and more in one direction and along a straight line, the species which are thus arranged by their instincts into a linear series are by no means always akin. Thus, the comparative study, in recent years, of the social instinct in the different apidae proves that the instinct of the meliponines is intermediary in complexity between the still rudimentary tendency of the humble bees and the consummate science of the true bees; yet there can be no kinship between the bees and the meliponines.(1) Most likely, the degree of complexity of these different societies has nothing to do with any greater or smaller number of added elements. We seem rather to be before a musical theme, which had first been transposed, the theme as a whole, into a certain number of tones. and on which, still the whole theme, different variations had been played, some very simple, others very skilful. [A very quantum Li-la dance, indeed.]"

Note (1) - Buttel-Reepen, "Die phylogenetische Entstehung des Bienenstaates" (Biol. Centralblatt, xxiii. 1903), p. 108 in particular.

(Our brackets.)

"As to the original theme, it is everywhere and nowhere. [quanton(everywhere,nowhere)] It is in vain that we try to express it in terms of any idea: it must have been, originally, felt rather than thought. [rather, originally, it was quantumesque] We get the same impression before the paralyzing instinct of certain wasps. We know that the different species of hymenoptera that have this paralyzing instinct lay their eggs in spiders, beetles or caterpillars, which, having first been subjected by the wasp to a skilful surgical operation, will go on living motionless a certain number of days, and thus provide the larvae with fresh meat. In the sting which they give to the nerve-centres of their victim, in order to destroy its power of moving without killing it, these different species of hymenoptera take into account, so to speak, the different species of prey they respectively attack. The Scolia, which attacks a larva of the rose-beetle, stings it in one point only, but in this point the motor ganglia are concentrated, and those ganglia alone: the stinging of other ganglia might cause death and putrefaction, which it must avoid.(1) The yellow-winged Sphex, which has chosen the cricket for its victim, knows that the cricket has three nerve-centres which serve its three pairs of legs—or at least it acts as if it knew this. It stings the insect first under the neck, then behind the prothorax, and then where the thorax joins the abdomen.(2) The Ammophila Hirsuta gives nine successive strokes of its sting upon nine nerve-centres of its caterpillar, and then seizes the head and squeezes it in its mandibles, enough to cause paralysis without death.(3) The general theme is "the necessity of paralyzing without killing"; the variations are subordinated to the structure of the victim on which they, are played. No doubt the operation is not always perfect."

Note (1) - Fabre, Souvenirs entomologiques, 3e série, Paris, 1890, pp. 1-69.

Note (2) - Fabre, Souvenirs entomologiques, lre série, 3e édition, Paris, 1894, pp. 93 ff.

Note (3) - Fabre, Nouveaux souvenirs entomologigues, Paris, 1882, pp. 14 ff.

(Our brackets and bold.)

"It has recently been shown that the Ammophila sometimes kills the caterpillar instead of paralyzing it, that sometimes also it paralyzes it incompletely.(1) But, because instinct is, like intelligence, fallible, because it also shows individual deviations, it does not at all follow that the instinct of the Ammophila has been acquired, as has been claimed, by tentative intelligent experiments. Even supposing that the Ammophila has come in course of time to recognize, one after another, by tentative experiment, the points of its victim which must be stung to render it motionless, and also the special treatment that must be inflicted on the head to bring about paralysis without death, how can we imagine that elements so special of a knowledge so precise have been regularly transmitted, one by one, by heredity? If, in all our present experience, there were a single indisputable example of a transmission of this kind, the inheritance of acquired characters would be questioned by no one. As a matter of fact, the hereditary transmission of a contracted habit is effected in an irregular and far from precise manner, supposing it is ever really effected at all.

"But the whole difficulty comes from our desire to express the knowledge of the hymenoptera in terms of intelligence. It is this that compels us to compare the Ammophila with the entomologist, who knows the caterpillar as he knows everything else—from the outside, and without having on his part a special or vital interest. The Ammophila, we imagine, must learn, one by one, like the entomologist, the positions of the nerve-centres of the caterpillar—must acquire at least the practical knowledge of these positions by trying the effects of its sting. But there is no need for such a view if we suppose a sympathy (in the etymological sense of the word) between the Ainmophila and its victim, which teaches it from within, so to say, concerning the vulnerability of the caterpillar."

Note (1) - Peckham, Wasps, Solitary and Social, Westminster, 1905, pp. 28 ff.

(Our bold. Bergson's parentheses.)

"This feeling of vulnerability might owe nothing to outward perception, but result from the mere presence together of the Ammophila and the caterpillar, considered no longer as two organisms, but as two activities. It would express, in a concrete form, the relation of the one to the other. Certainly, a scientific theory cannot appeal to considerations of this kind. It must not put action before organization, sympathy before perception and knowledge. But, once more, either philosophy has nothing to see here, or its role begins where that of science ends.

"Whether it makes instinct a "compound reflex," or a habit formed intelligently that has become automatism, or a sum of small accidental advantages accumulated and fixed by selection, in every case science claims to resolve instinct completely either into intelligent actions, or into mechanisms built up piece by piece like those combined by our intelligence. I agree indeed that science is here within its function. It gives us, in default of a real analysis of the object, a translation of this object in terms of intelligence. But is it not plain that science itself invites philosophy to consider things in another way? If our biology was still that of Aristotle, if it regarded the series of living beings as unilinear, if it showed us the whole of life evolving towards intelligence and passing, to that end, through sensibility and instinct, we should be right, we, the intelligent beings, in turning back towards the earlier and consequently inferior manifestations of life and in claiming to fit them, without deforming them, into the molds of our understanding. But one of the clearest results of biology has been to show that evolution has taken place along divergent lines [Today, c. 2008, we refer this as biological phylogeny. Biologically (with a more quantum~perspective) phylogeny means N¤nsyn¤nym¤us Ev¤luti¤nary Omnihværgæncæ, NEO. More classically, "nonsynonymous divergence." Compare ontogeny, which is genesis of n¤væl quantal branches of ontic reality. Ontic and reality are redundant, actually and nonactually, yet we must learn to omnistinguish classical and quantum versions of them. Also compare Judah Folkman's angiogenesis: biological emergence of quantum~n¤væl blood vessels, especially regarding vessels needed to commence feedings of newly-metastasized cancers. Beware that ontic, just like philosophy may have defined classical semantic and quantum uncertain hermeneuticings. Compare onta and quanta. Compare ontology and quantology, nonanthropocentrically. Compare ontogeny and quantogeny (latter probably will have to be coined...), nonanthropocentrically. If your meaning is quantum QELR them as ¤ntihc and phil¤s¤phy. Doug - 3Apr2008.]. It is at the extremity of two of these lines—the two principal—that we find intelligence and instinct in forms almost pure." [Won't you agree 'form' is analytic e.g., as in 'formal,' and Bergson has just told us above that instinct is non analytic. Doug - 3Apr2008.]

(Our bold.)
175 "Why, then, should instinct be resolvable into intelligent elements? Why, even, into terms entirely intelligible? Is it not obvious that to think here of the intelligent, or of the absolutely intelligible, is to go back to the Aristotelian theory of nature? [Yes! If we choose to stay in a Classical Thing-king Mode. No! If we choose to adopt more highly evolved Quantum Think-king Modes.] No doubt it is better to go back to that than to stop short before instinct as before an unfathomable mystery. [Only unfathomable from a classical perspective.] But, though instinct is not within the domain of intelligence, it is not situated beyond the limits of mind. In the phenomena of feeling, in unreflecting sympathy and antipathy, we experience in ourselves—though under a much vaguer form, and one too much penetrated with intelligence—something of what must happen in the consciousness of an insect acting by instinct. Evolution does but sunder, in order to develop them to the end, elements which, at their origin, interpenetrated each other. More precisely, intelligence is, before anything else, the faculty of relating one point of space to another, one material object to another; [rather, quantons to quantons] it applies to all things [rather, quantons], but remains outside them [rather, as a quanton itself coinsides them]; and of a deep cause it perceives only the effects spread out side by side. Whatever be the force that is at work in the genesis of the nervous system of the caterpillar, to our eyes and our intelligence it is only a juxtaposition of nerves and nervous centres. It is true that we thus get the whole outer effect of it. The Ammophila, no doubt, discerns but a very little of that force, just what concerns itself; but at least it discerns it from within, quite otherwise than by a process of knowledge-by an intuition (lived rather than represented), which is probably like what we call divining sympathy. [Or rather, directly experiencing absolute quantum flux.]" (Our brackets.)

"'A very significant fact is the swing to and fro of scientific theories of instinct, from regarding it as intelligent to regarding it as simply intelligible, or, shall I say, between likening it to an intelligence "lapsed" and reducing it to a pure mechanism.(1) Each of these systems of explanation triumphs in its criticism of the other, the first when it shows us that instinct cannot be a mere reflex, the other when it declares that instinct is something different from intelligence, even fallen into unconsciousness. What can this mean but that they are two symbolisms, equally acceptable in certain respects, and, in other respects, equally inadequate to their object? [Reader, we can see quantum reality's many truths in this query. We can also see how QTMs have evolved significantly beyond their predecessor's, CTMs', capabilities.] The concrete explanation, no longer scientific, but metaphysical, must be sought along quite another path, not in the direction of intelligence, but in that of "sympathy.""

Note (1) - See, in particular, among recent works, Bethe, "Dürfen wir den Ameisen und Bienen psychische Qualitäten zuschreiben?" (Arch. f. d. ges. Physiologie, 1898), and Forel, "Un Aperçu de psychologie comparée" (Année psychologique, 1895).

(Our brackets and bold.)
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