Re: Patriarchy: Re: What Matriarchy?

Gerold Firl (
26 Jul 1996 23:40:30 GMT

In article <>, writes:

|> Bryant wrote:

|> > In article <>, <> wrote:
|> >>Gerold Firl wrote:

|> >>> Instincts, in humans, are tendancies, not absolutes.

|> >>Instinct is unlearned behavior, not a predictor of behavior (ie a
|> >>tendency). Instinct is easily overshadowed by an animals capacity to
|> >>learn. Thus, instinct is never an absolute.

My image of the balance between instinctive and learned behavior has
the percentage of unmodified instinctive behavior increasing for
simpler organisms. How much room for learning is there in the life of
a mollusc?

Humans, on the other hand, spend many years learning the rudiments of
culture. Our instincts can be be dimly perceived beneath the complex
surface layers of learned culture, but there is a difference in scale
between the world of man and the world of an oyster.

|> > This is a naive view of the learning instinct. Learning is in large part the
|> > non-arbitrary information acquisition from evolutionarily relevant components
|> > of an organism's environment.

|> I have no idea what you mean by €learning instinct.€
|> Instinct is unlearned behavior. (ie it exists in complete form the
|> first time an animal reacts to an appropriate stimulus). Instinct
|> results from a neural organization which is specific to an animal€s
|> genotype. This does not mean that instinct is strictly genetic.
|> Genetic code is merely an information generating device and is in part
|> dependent on environment. Instinct is commonly identified by
|> stereotypical behavior. However, as I was pointing out to Firl that this
|> does not mean that instinct is stereotypical behavior. Instinctive
|> behavior can be modified through experience. This is called learning.

Sounds reasonable to me. But recall the context of the initial
discussion: the role of instinct in human behavior and social
structure. I was pointing out that we need not shy away from
acknowledging the reality of human instincts. Many in the social
sciences have created the shibboleth of "biological determinism"
(codified by some, like eric brunner, into "bio det" since they use it
with such regularity) to signify a supposed political program of class/
race/gender oppression, or some such thing. Large amounts of time,
effort, and public funding have been expended by these brunneroids to
try and establish an automatic connection between any attempt to delve
into the area of human instinct and the nefarious political agenda of
oppressive eurocentric/white male dominance.

For instance, if I were to suggest that the historical absence of
matriarchy (and when I say matriarchy, I don't refer to
matrilineality, I am talking about a society where authority and
leadership is vested preferentially in women) is related to a human
social instinct which far predates the development of genus homo,
there are people who will immediately assume that I am either a tool,
a stooge, or an active agent of a patriarchal system which attempts to
prevent women from exercising power and authority in contemporary
society. The noise generated by such assumptions interferes with the
search for truth and understanding.

|> Learning is the modification of behavior by experience (ie it depends on
|> experiences of an animal as it interacts with it€s environment).
|> However, it is not strictly determined by environment. It also depends
|> on genetics. The brain, through genetically determined development,
|> develops the ability to acquire learning at specific stages in the
|> animals development. This is what I termed as €capacity to learn.€

And I believe that this is related to bryants reference to a learning
instinct. There is a certain amount of artificiality involved in the
attempt to seperate instinctive and learned behavior, as both of you
are well aware. Nonetheless, there is value in using that dichotomy,
however simplistic, to illuminate different aspects of behavior.

Wilson describes one form of primate social behavior where, in a
threatening situation, the band focusses on the lead male and takes
their cues from him. If he moves towards the threat, the band follows;
if he flees, the band flees. This form of social threat response is
found in many different primate species, but many other forms also
exist. It seems very similar to human battle tactics throughout most
of history, where the death of one of the commanders meant the
immediate dissolution of the army. I've always wondered why that
happened, and I think that we may be seeing the effects of an ancient
primate threat response instinct. That instinct holds the army
together as long as the commander (alpha male) is confronting the
threat, but once he is gone, the army turns into a band of panicky
apes. Substitute a female commander and see if it still works.

|> My point: instinct is not an absolute (Firl€s reference, I believe, to
|> an absolute determinant of behavior vs a tendency toward a certain
|> behavior).


Here is a question for you: can you see the influence of any human
instincts in our lack of matriarchal precedents?

Disclaimer claims dat de claims claimed in dis are de claims of meself,
me, and me alone, so sue us god. I won't tell Bill & Dave if you won't.
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=---- Gerold Firl @ ..hplabs!hp-sdd!geroldf