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Yearbook for Eastern and Western Philosophy

Ed. by Feger, Hans / Dikun, Xie / Ge, Wang

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Criticism of Gehlen’s Theory of Instinct-Reduction and Phenomenological Clarification of the Concept of Instinct as the Genetic Origin of Embodied Consciousness

Lee Nam-In
Published Online: 2018-01-20 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/yewph-2017-0025


In the past 20 years, the concept of instinct has been discussed in respect to various disciplines such as evolutionary biology, evolutionary psychology, linguistics, ethics, aesthetics, and phenomenology, etc. However, the meaning of instinct still remains unclarified in many respects. In order to overcome this situation, it is necessary to elucidate the genuine meaning of instinct so that the discussion of instinct in these disciplines can be carried out systematically. The objective of this paper is to establish the genuine concept of instinct on the basis of a phenomenological criticism of A. Gehlen’s theory of instinct-reduction. Moreover, it seeks to show that this concept is the genetic origin of the embodied consciousness. According to Gehlen, instinct is defined as Instinkthandlung. However, this definition of instinct is problematic in the formal logical sense, since the definiendum (the instinct) is already included in the definiens (Instinkthandlung). Moreover, it faces different kinds of serious material problems. Criticizing Gehlen’s theory of instinct systematically, I will show that instinct should be redefined as “the innate living force that urges a species of living being to pursue a certain kind of object,” and I will attempt to clarify this definition of instinct in a more detailed manner by offering 11 points. Thereafter, I will argue that Gehlen’s theory of instinct-reduction has to be replaced by the theory of instinct-enlargement in human beings. Finally, I will point out that the genuine concept of instinct is nothing other than the genetic origin of the embodied consciousness.

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Published Online: 2018-01-20

Published in Print: 2017-12-20

Citation Information: Yearbook for Eastern and Western Philosophy, Volume 2017, Issue 2, Pages 355–371, ISSN (Online) 2196-5897, ISSN (Print) 2196-5889, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/yewph-2017-0025.

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