The Three Instincts of Human Beings



Human beings are defined by what they are; not what they are not.  Having a clear understanding of what a human is, his instincts, organic and vital needs and all that is manifested from them is crucial for humanity to be aware of the purpose of life and finiteness of the human being.  An accurate and comprehensive understanding of these things will cause people to seek revival and progress in the path for humankind’s betterment.  Humanity wants practical solutions for systematic problems; humans need to have their affairs organized as well as their instincts and needs satisfied in the proper way so that society will be in harmony and justice will prevail.

Types of Instincts

Human beings have three types of instincts:

  1. The instinct of survival
  1. The instinct of procreation
  1. The instinct of worship

Instincts, such as the instinct of survival, manifest itself as an ensemble of organic and vital needs and drives.  These needs and drives are not instincts but aspects that emanate from the instincts.  The need to defend oneself from danger either by the “fight or flight” response is one example of a manifestation of the instinct of survival.  Other examples include having fear, courage, and hope; also, the desire to dominate and having power over others, the need for ownership, and many other manifestations are all included in the instinct of survival.

Emotions and attributes such as fear, courage and hope are used for the one’s survival.  If a person were to be in a situation where his life is in jeopardy, he can use fear to escape the imminent danger or use courage to fight his way out of the predicament.  Hope can be the yearning for things that will help an individual to survive.  The propensity to control and dominate over others stems from the individualistic drive to maintain one’s status, in order to increase one’s chances for survival and to reduce the likelihood of being subjected to undesirable conditions.  As for the need to possess things, the need to live in a place of shelter, to have food and clothing are all essential in maintaining one’s well being, which is important for survival.

Sexual desire, parenthood, and the kindness for family are some of the manifestations of the instinct of procreation.  Unlike the instinct of survival, the instinct of procreation is focused more on the survival and the continuation of one’s kind (humanity) as opposed to oneself.  Sexual desires can be satisfied through sexual intercourse -- sexual intercourse can ultimately lead to the birth of a new child, continuing the existence of humanity by means of procreation.  The love for one’s spouse is another aspect of the instinct of procreation.  The tendency of a parent to love and even risk his or her life in order to protect the child is an example of caring for someone who came about as a result of the act of procreation; accordingly, this love is reciprocated by the child to the parent as well to one’s relatives, such as in the kindness to family. 

From the monotheist to the atheist, the instinct of worship manifests itself as a reverence for something or someone that is regarded as higher than oneself.  The object of veneration can be God or many gods, objects, people and even ideas and beliefs.  Monotheists and polytheists believe in one god or many gods respectively; atheists or agnostics may not believe in God but the need to have their spiritual requirements fulfilled by the sanctification or devotion of something or someone such as an idea or a person exists in them as well.

Organic Needs Being Vital or Non-Vital

Hunger, thirst, sleep, sex, answering the call of nature, and many other organic and vital needs and drives are all manifestations of the different kinds of instincts.  Hunger, thirst, sleep, and answering the call of nature, which all emanate from the instinct of survival, are vital organic needs that must be fulfilled; not fulfilling them will cause the subsequent death of an individual.  Sexual desire, which comes from the instinct of procreation, should be fulfilled (in the proper manner), but not doing so is not vital for the survival of a person, although it will often cause the individual to be agitated.  The worship of an entity fulfils the spiritual needs of an individual, but not satisfying the instinct of worship will not cause the subsequent death of a person, because the satisfaction of spiritual needs is not vital, although for many, it is essential to have the needs met in order to have a peace of mind and be in a state of well being.

Some manifestations of one kind of instinct can also manifest itself in another kind of instinct.  Jealously can be part of the instinct of survival, as in the case of seeking leadership.  It can cause a person to be jealous over a spouse, which is a manifestation of the instinct of procreation.  It all depends on the situation at hand, which dictates what kind of instinct the manifestation is.

The need to satisfy organic needs is innate and independent of any external factors to stimulate the needs.  For example, the presence of food is not necessary to cause a person to be hungry for the reason that the need to consume food and drink is an innate aspect of an individual.  Furthermore, the organic needs cannot be satisfied at the expense of other organic needs.  For example, one cannot satisfy the need to eat and drink by sleeping, because the need to eat and drink cannot be satisfied in any other way except by consuming food and drinks.

Why the Number of Instincts and Needs is not Indefinite

Many psychologists and scientists have contended that the human being has an indefinite amount of instincts.  Consequently, many of these psychologists and scientists went on to formulate false theories based on their interpretation of instincts.  The false theories and premises that they postulated have influenced society and its education; effectively, many attempts at rectifying the problems within a society were rendered futile because of the misunderstanding of the various aspects of the human being; satisfying the instincts and needs of humans in a way that does not lead to further problems was something that became elusive due to the lack of understanding and incorrect concepts.

One such example of such misunderstanding is the assertion that the brain is divided into segments that have distinct aptitudes; some brains have certain aptitudes that other brains may not have. Therefore, some will have a proclivity to a certain behavior while others will not, such as the inclination to be violent manifesting itself in some people and not in others.  The truth of the matter is that the brain is one unit and the disparity of ideas comes as a result of the disparity of things that are perceptible through the senses and are understood by the previous information retained by the mind. There is no aptitude in one brain that is not found in another; all brains that are sound and healthy contain the ability to think about every matter whenever the tangible reality, senses, and previous information are made available to the brain. However, brains vary in their ability to digest and assess information, for example, the existence of divergence in the power of the senses – as in the natural variation in eyesight. Therefore, it would be possible to feed any person with any type of data and he or she would have the ability to digest such data; hence, the claims that psychologists and scientists make about these aptitudes and their relationship with instincts are groundless.

An act such as murder or adultery cannot be justified by the claim that one has a predisposition to commit these acts, because while the instincts and needs require satisfaction, the instincts do not force a person to take a specific method in the fulfillment of these instincts, needs and drives.  The need to satisfy one’s hunger does not require a person to eat a specific food or object; it is a matter of choice of an individual to eat meat or vegetables; whether the individual chooses to eat a specific food or not is dictated by choice and not by instincts.  Therefore, it is erroneous to link the method one chooses to satisfy the instincts and needs to a biological or genetic element in one’s physiological composition.

However, fulfilling these instincts and needs should not conflict with their purpose and natural disposition.  For example, it would be wrong for someone to satisfy the need to consume food by eating rocks or poison, because doing such a thing is not harmonious with the purpose of the instinct and natural disposition of a human being and will lead to problems, such as death and other health-related issues.   The same goes for other instincts and needs; they cannot be satisfied in a way that goes against is purpose and natural disposition.

Evidently, psychology’s interpretation of the instincts and its claims about the brain are inaccurate; as a result, such erroneous views lead to the belief that humans have an indefinite amount of instincts and are inclined to do certain behavior because of these instincts and genetic and biological factors.  There are only three instincts and anything else other than these three are merely aspects of these instincts; for instance, fear, domination, and ownership are aspects of the instinct of survival; sanctification and worship are aspects of the spiritual instinct; and parent- and brotherhood are aspects of the instinct of procreation.


Contrary to what many people believe, the instincts of human beings do not number more than the three nor do they cause an individual to be prone to acting a certain way.  As was stated earlier, the three instincts of humans have many aspects and manifestations; they are not distinct instincts and the assertion that humans have an indefinite number of instincts is inaccurate.  No one is born with the tendency to murder or lie; people choose to commit certain behavior because of the choices they make that are usually based on an adherence to the beliefs that shape their mentality and conduct.

The satisfaction of the needs and instincts must be done in a way that agrees with the human being’s natural disposition and purpose.  It is mandatory -- for the betterment of humankind -- to implement a system that can address the need for humanity to satisfy the needs and instincts in a way that agrees with man’s nature and does not lead to deviant behavior and the consequent corruption of society.  The quest to solve the problems of humanity must begin with understanding the correct concepts of what a human is and his relationship to this life and what preceded and what is to follow this life.  Consequently, the true progress of humanity can be realized to the point where human beings are dignified at the level of a human being and not anything less than that; human progress should not be determined by the technological or scientific achievements of a society, but how human rights are observed and enforced so that no human is treated less than a human.


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