Variations in Theory

As is often the case with ideas that have long been believed by both scientists and the public, instinct theory has separated into several theories. The earliest form was accepted by Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosopher and scientist. He wrote in his Politics that "a social instinct is implanted in all men by nature" and stated that "a man would be thought a coward if he had no more courage than a courageous woman, and a woman would be thought loquacious if she imposed no more restraint on her conversation than the good man." The first comment declares an inherent quality of people; the second, inherent qualities of men and women. Very likely, Aristotle's beliefs were based on observation of people around him—a good beginning but not a sufficient basis for making factual comments about people in general.

Aristotle's views were those of a scientist of his day. Centuries later, a scientist would not hold such views, but a layperson very well might. Over the many centuries since Aristotle expressed his views on instinct theory, "popular" versions of it have been more influential than the cautious versions offered by later scientists.

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