The Nature of Knowledge

Animal Life

Dr. Binswanger's view of knowledge is wrong and it is partly based on his wrong understanding of the nature of animal life and its differences from human life, and he wrongly uses evolution as the ultimate argument for these views.

Everything Biology

Dr. Binswanger has reduced everything to biology. He regards all aspects of life, including, consciousness, conceptualization, and rationality, as well as pleasure and pain, survival mechanisms which evolved through natural selection.

"An organism's actions are adapted to securing its survival. Consciousness, like the heartbeat, is a biological activity that evolved because it promotes survival." [Page 37]

"Consciousness is biological equipment. Awareness evolved for its survival function--to guide the actions of conscious organisms. Directly or indirectly, the motive for knowing anything is to use it in action." [Page 332]

"The conceptual faculty, like consciousness in general, has a biological function. To understand concepts fully, we need to consider not only how they are formed and operate, but also the survival function they have." [Page 128]

"Man's capacity of(sic) abstraction and thought is the product of natural selection."
"The ability to abstract, conceptualize, and think is not only pro-survival, it is man's basic means of survival. [Page 40]

"...the conditions that fulfill bodily needs—eating nutritious food, gaining shelter and warmth, drinking when dehydrated—happen to produce pleasure, while damaging physical conditions—a wound, starvation, breaking a limb—happen to bring pain."
"Clearly, there has been a selection-pressure acting in evolution to align pleasure and pain with actions that promote or impair survival respectively." [Page 50]

To equate consciousness to a biological function is a failure to distinguish between the biological and the psychological, between the physical, which is what consciousness perceives, and consciousness, which is perception of the physical. [See the chapter, "Consciousness."]

What Dr. Binswanger might mean is that consciousness and rationality exist "for the sake of the biological," that is, to support the survival of the biological organism. Consciousness and rationality do support survival, but if that is the primary reason for them, they are reduced to existing for the sole sake of biology. But what justification is there for the view that anything that just naturally exists or occurs, exists or occurs for some purpose, or for the sake of anything? It is the equivalent of saying the stars exist to give us beauty at night and to make us happy on the basis that they do.

In human beings, the biological exists for the sake of consciousness, because it is our conscious experience of life that is our reason for living. Human beings must choose to live and for any choice they must have a reason for making it. Purpose pertains only to beings capable of having purposes and goals, that is, only to human beings.

While purpose cannot be objectively attributed to any animal attribute or behavior, if survival is going to be described as the purpose of any attribute or behavior of an organism, since any attribute or behavior is only possible if the organism survives it would be equally true that the purpose of survival is to make the organism's attributes and behavior possible.

Wherever a purpose is supposed relative to living organisms, the higher (more developed and complex attributes and behavior) are always the purpose of the more basic attributes and functions. Outside the context of human consciousness, there are no purposes in nature. Attributing "purpose" to such things as consciousness, or pain, or pleasure, is only possible from the human perspective, and whatever purpose such things can serve for human beings.

If anything has evolved, evolution cannot have a purpose and it cannot produce anything with a purpose: evolution cannot be teleological. The teleological begins and ends with volitional consciousness. Where there is no choice, there can be no purpose or ends or values.

Survival and Purpose

Dr. Binswanger holds that all aspects of life evolved to provide living organisms attributes that would provide them survival, and that survival is the ultimate objective or purpose. I'm sure that Dr. Binswanger does not regard evolution as teleological or that evolution is driven by some objective such as producing an organism with the maximum possibility of surviving.

Natural selection is a way of viewing the accidental result of some species being better at surviving then others, so are "selected" merely by surviving when the others perish. I cannot discuss evolution here (I will in the last two chapters) but will note the kind of survival evolution is concerned with is not the survival of individual organisms, that is, nature does not select species to survive because the individual organisms of the species survive. The results of evolution is frequently species that survive by killing off most of the individuals in each generation. Individual survival in the evolutionary scheme cannot be deduced from the theory of evolution. It is not, in any case, how Rand arrived at her understanding of the nature and importance of survival.

"There is only one fundamental alternative in the universe: existence or nonexistence--and it pertains to a single class of entities: to living organisms. The existence of inanimate matter is unconditional, the existence of life is not: it depends on a specific course of action. Matter is indestructible, it changes its forms, but it cannot cease to exist. It is only a living organism that faces a constant alternative: the issue of life or death." [The Virtue of Selfishness, "1. The Objectivist Ethics"]

She was writing in terms of ethics and was making the point that values only matter where there is some kind of alternative and that the only existents that faced any kind of alternative were living organisms, and that alternative was, "life or death." She makes the further point that the only living creatures that actually consciously face the alternative of life or death are human beings, and therefore the only ones who needed or are capable of having a code of ethics.

"The standard of value of the Objectivist ethics—the standard by which one judges what is good or evil—is man's life, or: that which is required for man's survival qua man."

I want to emphasize that Ayn Rand frequently used this phrase, "man's survival qua man;" she used it at least five times in The Virtue of Selfishness alone.

While it is true the only existents for which there is an alternative, to exist or not exist, are living organisms, there is only one organism that actually faces that alternative as a choice. All other organisms are required by their natures to live in a certain way to survive, and that same nature (instinct) makes them live in that way, and they have no choice about it. Only human beings ever have to make the choice to be or not to be.

But for a human being it is not a choice of simply surviving or not, which is the reason why Ayn Rand emphasized that it is surviving, "qua man," that is, as a human being.

The reason is explained by Rand:

"Such is the meaning of the definition: that which is required for man's survival qua man. It does not mean ... "survival at any price." [The Virtue of Selfishness, "1. The Objectivist Ethics"]

She repeats the same thought in Galt's speech:

"Man's life, as required by his nature, is not the life of a mindless brute, of a looting thug or a mooching mystic, but the life of a thinking being—not life by means of force or fraud, but life by means of achievement—not survival at any price, since there's only one price that pays for man's survival: reason." [Emphasis mine.] [Atlas Shrugged, Part Three / Chapter VII, "This Is John Galt Speaking"]

Let me summarize: Man's life, as required by his nature, is life by means of achievement, not survival at any price. According to Binswanger's hypothesis, however, [and anyone else who accepts the premise that survival is the ultimate principle], "life at any price," is exactly what the ultimate principle of life would be. If survival is not the ultimate principle, (and it is not), than something else must be.

It is obvious why Rand emphasized that it is, "man's survival qua man," that is the ultimate value, not just survival. Except for human beings there is no reason or purpose for anything. In the physical world nothing matters. It is only to human life that anything matters, because most life just exists, not able to care if it exists or not. It is only human consciousness to which anything really matters, and it is only to human beings that questions of values or purposes pertain.

Purpose and meaning do not begin with life, or even consciousness. Purpose and meaning begin with the only beings capable of having purposes or understanding meaning. If the reason for consciousness and the human mind were for the sake of survival, it would make consciousness and the human mind nothing more than functions subservient to perpetuating life. But that view is all wrong. Nothing is of value just because it exists, not even life. There are no intrinsic values.

The only organisms that have a purpose are human beings, and their purpose is to enjoy their life by being all they possibly can be as a human beings, which is the only way they can enjoy them. To fulfill that purpose a human being must have a mind with which to think and make choices and to gain the knowledge necessary to think with and about. To have a mind a human being must be conscious, and to be conscious a human being must be living, and to be living a human being must be a physical organism.

Survival is not the ultimate value or purpose. If anything, the physical is a support mechanism for life, the biological is a support system for consciousness, and consciousness is a necessary condition for the human mind. Binswanger's view makes consciousness and the human mind exist for the sake of biological survival, making the perpetuation of protoplasm the ultimate reason for everything.

The ultimate purpose of life for any organism is to live successfully as the kind of organism it is, but no animal is conscious of any such purpose. For human beings it means enjoying ones life to the fullest by being all one can possibly be as a human being, in achievement, in knowledge, in integrity, and in every other virtue. To achieve that ultimate purpose one must live, but for human beings, living is only a proximate end, a means to the ultimate end. Life is not the only proximate end, to fulfill their ultimate purpose, a human being must also be physical, conscious, and have a mind, and must develop and maintain all those attributes.

To describe anything purposive outside the context of the human mind introduces a form of mystic teleology (as Dr. Binswanger does). There is no meaning, purpose, value, or reason for anything except to the human mind.

It is true life is an alternative, but a true alternative requires the ability to choose. Whether or not an organism survives depends on what it does, but the animal has no choice about it—it must do what it does because instinct determines what it does.

A human's purpose is not a biological one. Biology provides the physical aspects of an organism, but it is life that makes it an organism, and it is consciousness that determines its purpose and nature; for man it is the mind that is the reason for living, because for man, mere survival is not living, and because even to live a human being must choose to live, and to choose anything, a human being must have a reason. Though the reason will be different for every human being, those reasons will all be versions of the same principles, to be and achieve all one can as a human being. [For the moral individual, death is preferable to living as anything less than fully human. What evolutionary selection pressure produced that?]

Analyzing Dr. Binswanger's Assertions

The first quote above, from page 37, is a little different from the others. The others say that consciousness, reason, etc. evolved and that they have biological and survival functions, but the first quote claims, "consciousness, like the heartbeat, is a biological activity."

Biological means physical; biology is a physical science. To call consciousness a biological activity, "like the heartbeat," implies that consciousness is a phenomenon of the physical, or at least produced by the physical.

If this is what he means here, it is wrong. He writes similar things in other places as well, (the first part of the quote on page 332, "Consciousness is biological equipment," for example), but they all contradict his very explicit statements that conscious activity cannot be analyzed into physical events.

"An overall conscious activity—e.g. a thought process—can be analyzed into its stages or aspects, but not into any physical events, not even brain events. ... there is no way to reduce the seeing, or the internal "hearing," or the understanding to one or more physical sub-actions—not without leaving out the essential, conscious aspect." [Pages 43 - 44]

I'm going to assume that wherever Dr. Binswanger refers to consciousness, or any other attribute of life, consciousness, or the human mind as "biological" he means, "for the sake of the biological, that is, it's survival," and not that it is actually physical or biological itself, on the basis that he regards survival, or the preservation of the biological, the ultimate reason for all attributes of life. If he ever means more than that, he would be holding a contradiction of his own explicit view of consciousness.

All the following quotes (from above) are Dr. Binswanger's, on which I comment following them:

"An organism's actions are adapted to securing its survival. Consciousness, like the heartbeat, is a biological activity that evolved because it promotes survival."

Except for humans, no animal has a purpose. Animals actions are determined by their instinctive programming which insures their survival in the appropriate environment. That action is not "adapted" to anything (who made that adaptation?), it simply is. If an animals instinctive behavior did not result in its survival, it simply would not be.

"Consciousness is biological equipment. Awareness evolved for its survival function—to guide the actions of conscious organisms. Directly or indirectly, the motive for knowing anything is to use it in action."

If the only reason for consciousness is survival, it is a mistake. The longest living organisms on the planet are plants.

"The conceptual faculty, like consciousness in general, has a biological function. To understand concepts fully, we need to consider not only how they are formed and operate, but also the survival function they have."

In the sense that all a human choice requires knowledge, and concepts are the basic elements of knowledge, concepts are necessary to human survival, but survival for human beings is only a means to an end, the end of living successfully and happily in this world, which is being all one can possibly be as a human being. Survival is hardly the most important aspect of concepts, or of life.

"Man's capacity of abstraction and thought is the product of natural selection." ... "The ability to abstract, conceptualize, and think is not only pro-survival, it is man's basic means of survival.

The last part is true, because for man, the only means to everything of value is his mind, but reason alone is not the whole means, because knowledge (which is all that man has to reason with or reason about) and volition (which requires and enables a human being to make all his choices consciously) are the total means to success as a human being. Reason is necessary to the proximate end of living, but more importantly it is the only means to achieving the ultimate end of living supremely as a human being.

"...the conditions that fulfill bodily needs—eating nutritious food, gaining shelter and warmth, drinking when dehydrated—happen to produce pleasure, while damaging physical conditions—a wound, starvation, breaking a limb—happen to bring pain." ... "Clearly, there has been a selection-pressure acting in evolution to align pleasure and pain with actions that promote or impair survival respectively." [Page 50]

[NOTE: This theme of basing everything on biological survival supported by evolutionary theory was also the basis of Dr. Binswanger's earlier book, The Biological Basis of Teleological Concepts. This is Dr. Binswanger's own view; it is not the view of Ayn Rand or her Objectivism. The view entails mistakes that are both philosophical and logical. These mistakes are discussed in the last chapter on "Evolution."]

No conscious experience "causes" anything, not even in animals. Whatever (and however) an animal consciously experiences things, including pain and pleasure, it does not cause the animal to do anything. What the animal does might be in response to what it consciously experiences, but the behavior is determined by its instinct, not by the perception.

There is a mistake here about the nature of pain and pleasure. Generally pain and pleasure follow actions and are the consequence of an animals behavior, not the motivators of it. Desires are the motivators. Pain, when extreme, might motivate action, but pleasure is generally not, except for human beings, who are able to learn which things cause pleasure thus learning to desire them for that sake.

No one can know what an animal's conscious experience is or what kind of experience of pain or pleasure is possible to them, or even if they actually have such experiences. Since instinct will determine what they do, pain and pleasure would not be necessary to determine their behavior but would enable them to directly experience and enjoy their life, but I doubt if an evolutionary reason for that could be found. Why would evolution care if organisms enjoyed their lives or not?

About Animal Life

Dr Binswanger uses animals to illustrate his belief that consciousness is primarily a survival mechanism. I comment on them only because it illustrates how wrong premises can easily lead to lengthy rationalizations.

Though Dr. Binswanger writes a lot about animals, there is one word that describes the nature of animals he never uses. That is the word instinct. I have no idea how Dr. Binswanger could be ignorant of the instinctive nature of animals, when Rand especially emphasized the distinction between human rational/volitional consciousness and an animal's instinctive nature. See, "The Nature of Instinct," below.

[NOTE: On three readings I did not discover the word instinct used even once in How We Know. It is certainly possible I missed it. It also is not listed in the index.]

"1. Consciousness enables the animal to integrate all the various parts of its body to pursue its overall goal in relation to the perceived environment as a whole. When the lion undertakes the chase, all its muscular activity is coordinated to that single effort. And the lion chases its prey through a terrain, not as a simple stimulus-response mechanism. A plantís parts react 'locally'—the leaf may curl to preserve heat on a cold day, but a plant cannot pull up roots and move to a warmer locale." [Pages 38-39]

Consciousness does not "direct" the action of any animal. In all animals except man, it is instinct that directs the action of the animal, and in man it is volition. Both are in response to what is perceived, but consciousness is only awareness of existence, it is perception, and nothing more.

Four different kinds of animals (a cheetah, a hawk, a wilderbeast, and an elephant, for example) perceiving the same scene will all behave differently. Except for minor differences in the physiological aspects of their neurological systems, what they perceive is identical. How each animal behaves is determined by their individual preprogrammed instinctive natures, not by what they perceive.

It is not an animal's consciousness that integrates "all the various parts of its body to pursue its overall goal in relation to the perceived environment as a whole," or coordinates "its muscular activity ... to that single effort." Even in humans, consciousness does not coordinate one's muscular activity." If consciousness had to do all the coordinating and integrating Dr. Binswanger attributes to it, no animal would ever catch anything. All of an animal's behavior is an automatic response to whatever it is conscious of. It is instinct and physiology that automatically performs all the integrating and coordinating of bodily functions Dr. Binswanger is attributing to consciousness and the animal does not need to be, and probably is not, conscious of any of it, except for the results of the behavior itself which it directly perceives.

"2. Consciousness enables the animal to bridge space, in the sense that the animal can respond to distant objects. The lion sees and smells its distant prey, crouches down, and begins to stalk."

He used a plant to illustrate the limits of the non-conscious relative to the conscious organisms, but when a plant turns its leaves toward the sun, isn't it responding to a distant object?

"3. Consciousness enables the animal to bridge time, by responding now and over a span of time to a goal that it will not reach and utilize until later."

Plants do the same thing when they store nutrients in their roots over the winter to be used in the spring. When an animal acts in ways that have future use and consequences it has no consciousness of those future results. It does them because it is programmed to do them. A bird does not build a nest because it's making plans for its future family.

"4. Consciousness enables the animal to guide its actions according to the continuing changes in its goal and the requirements of reaching it. The lion uses an integrated perceptual awareness, involving sight, smell, and hearing, to adjust to the changing position of its prey in the perceived terrain.

What does he mean by consciousness enabling, "the animal to guide its actions according to the continuing changes in its goal?" Does the animal consciously do this? Wouldn't that be volition? Is Binswanger really arguing that animals choose what they do based on what they are conscious of. Of course an animal changes what it is doing in response to changes in what it is perceiving, but the animal does not consciously, "guide its actions;" the changes are guided by instinct alone.

5. "Consciousness enables the animal to expand the range of its actions: the organism as a whole is sensitive to minute changes in its environment. The lion's prey (switching here to its point of view) sees the rustle of a few stalks of grass, catches the lion's scent, feels fear, and bolts away. Perceptual awareness enables the animal to respond not just to separate stimuli but to the whole situation in the whole environment."

How does Binswanger know what the prey feels? No one knows what another organism "feels." On detecting the presence of a predator an animal's instinct might cause it to bolt, but even the detection of the predator is an instinctive event. Such creatures are born with the ability for that detection--it is not knowledge.

[NOTE: Binswanger no doubt invokes "feelings" here as a motivator, based on his view of animal conscious behavior discussed below.]

6. "Consciousness enables the animal to learn—i.e. to acquire new knowledge. The ability to learn greatly reduces the time required for the adaptation of the organism to its environment. Instead of this adaptation requiring natural selection over hundred of thousands of generations, an animal can learn in seconds what is the survival-significance of a novel stimulus and can adjust its behavior accordingly. The adjustment is also swiftly reversible; what formerly meant danger but now is safe can be treated accordingly."

An animal's instinctive behavior can be altered to some extent by experience, but to what degree and in what ways is determined by their instinctive programming, and it is never very much. To call it "learning" is simply a mistake about the nature of learning. [See the chapter on "Knowledge."] If animals could really learn the way Dr. Binswanger suggests, the hound dog would not have to be taken to the vet every year to have the porcupine quills removed from its nose and our neighbor's dog would not have be treated to remove the skunk smell every few months. So-called animal "learning" is extremely limited, and not real learning at all, which is only possible to humans by means of language.

Binswanger uses these kinds of arguments to suggest animal consciousness provides them a kind of, "cognizance," which suggests that human knowledge is really only an advance on the cognitive nature of animals, and not, as Rand correctly observed, a difference in kind. He even provides a kind of schematic diagram to illustrate the similarity between animal and human, "cognizance."

Dr. Binswanger's Illustration

[From page 364]

Animal consciousness:

world-->sensory processing-->perception-->perceptual association-->emotion-->bodily action-->world

Vs. human consciousness:

world-->sensory processing-->perception-->conceptual integration-->emotion-->bodily action-->world

I would agree essentially with the first three steps of the schematics for humans and animals, the rest is wrong for both.

The first mistake is placing emotions before bodily action. Emotions are bodily actions themselves which are perceived. I don't think this is a mistake on Binswanger's part. He apparently believes an animals emotional response to what is perceived directs bodily action. No one knows what animals feel, and no feeling directs any action in animals or man.

Where Binswanger has "perceptual association" for animals, it ought to be "instinct." It is instinct that determines an animal's behavior in response to what it is conscious of (perceives). Animals do not make associations, they simply perceive what there is to perceive and instinctively respond to it. Even animal "learning" is determined by instinct. It will come to associate some past experience with new ones if their instinctive programming enables that kind of association, but there is very little of that even in the most advanced animals.

[NOTE: A note here about the nature of instinct.... In some ways instinct is more mysterious than the human mind. Animals are born with all the "knowledge" they need about what constitutes food, how to acquire it, how to groom themselves, and sometime each other, how to mate and raise their young, etc. How all that "knowledge" is provided is not known.]

[NOTE: A note about animal consciousness. Anything said about animal consciousness is of course conjecture. No one can know what an animal's consciousness is like. There are reasons to suppose, within the limits of the context, that animals' consciousnesses are like our own, but it cannot be known. Conjectures about how such consciousness work are interesting, but certainly must not be used as a basis for explaining human consciousness in philosophy.]

Emotion for both animals and man should be illustrated by a separate arrow from perception.

Where Binswanger has "conceptual integration" for man, it ought to be "mental processing." Human perception includes at all times, not only what a man perceives through what Binswanger calls, "sensory processing," but the continuous feed of percepts provided from memory in the form of words by which concepts are perceived. It is the mind, particularly volition, that determines human behavior including one's thinking. It is the mental process of thinking and judgment in the context of knowledge by which volitional action (choices) are made. Here are corrected schematics, which only suggest the process. They must not be viewed as complete.

Animal consciousness:

world-->neurological action-->perception-->instinct-->bodily action-->world
                                   \       (program)
                                     \-->physiological reactions (emotion)

Vs. human consciousness:

world-->neurological action-->perception-->mental processing-->bodily action-->world
                               /    \        (volition)
                     memory-->/      \
                                      \-->physiological reactions (emotion)

Where Binswanger has world, it should be world and body, because both animals (we assume) and humans (we know) consciously perceive the states of their body such as nausea, balance, hunger, desires, and emotions.

To what extent, if any, memory feeds animal consciousness cannot be known. Perhaps it only works as input to instinct.

I changed "sensory processing" to "neurological action" since every supposed meaning of sensation is essentially incorrect, and at our present level of scientific knowledge, beyond the fact it is the neurological system, including the brain, that provides the physiological aspects of perception, we do not yet understand how it operates.

The diagram is deceptive in another way. It suggests that conscious perception is something that is a product of neurological action and occurs in the mind or head. What the neurological action provides is not a product called consciousness, it provides direct consciousness perception of the physical world (both external and internal). There are certainly physiological events in the brain associated with conscious perception, but consciousness is not an, "event in the head," it is the event of being directly consciousness of all that is perceived.

We really do not know what an animal's emotions are. We know they do not include any of the human emotions that are dependent on concepts, like guilt, shame, pride, anticipation, or nostalgia, etc. which is why animals do not laugh, blush, or cry. (Animal whining is not human crying.) In any event, an animal's emotions do not lie between instinct and overt action, and certainly do not lie between human volition and overt action. Dr. Binswanger's diagram suggests the ultimate driver of behavior is feelings, a view vehemently rejected by Rand.

The Nature of Instinct

What directs all human behavior is volition, the necessity and ability to consciously choose all one does. What directs all animal behavior is instinct, the automatic program of behavior that directs all of an animal's action in response to whatever it is conscious of. This is the most profound of the differences between human beings and all other creatures. It is one of the things that Ayn Rand emphasized in her philosophy.

"Man comes on earth unarmed. His brain is his only weapon. Animals obtain food by force guided by instinct. Man has no claws, no fangs, no horns, no great strength of muscle, and no instinct to guide him. ... But it is the nature of the rational faculty that it implies choice and the possibility of error. Instinct is infallible within the limits of its sphere. Nature gives an animal both the means and the method of survival; he cannot do wrong in his method; he does what he must; if he is confronted by a fact outside the provisions of his instinct, he can do nothing and he perishes. ... An animal cannot act against his instinct nor suspend it. He enjoys a safety man can never have—the invariable operation of his means of survival. He cannot act against his own nature. Man can. Man can stop his source of existence. Man can choose not to act as a rational being. Man can choose not to function as a man." [The Journals of Ayn Rand, Part 3—Transition Between Novels, "8—The Moral Basis Of Individualism."]

Rand makes three important points about instinct: 1. instinct determines all an animal's behavior, 2. instinct is infallible within contextual limits, and 3. an animal cannot go against its instinct, that is, its own nature. These three aspects of instinct are in direct contradistinction to human nature because 1. man must consciously choose his behavior by means of acquired knowledge and rational choice, 2. man's knowledge is fallible (but unlimited), and 3. man can defy his own nature and act as his own destroyer.

Animal's do not have (or need) knowledge because knowledge is only needed by beings required by their nature to consciously choose their behavior. Animal behavior is guided (directed would be the better term) by its instinct. It isn't as though instinct informed the animal about what to do, instinct determines the behavior directly and the animal has no choice in the matter, it cannot defy its own nature; it cannot behave contrary to the behavior determined by its instinctive program.

These facts about instinct contradict at least three of Dr. Binswanger's premises: 1. that animals have a kind of knowledge (cognition); 2. that animal consciousness guides animal behavior; and 3. that survival is the reason for all animal behavior. This last may not be obvious; it is because instinct is the reason for all animal behavior, which under normal circumstances will result in the animal's survival. What an animal does is not to survive (or to fulfill any other purpose), it does what it does because it cannot do anything else.

[NOTE: For the record, Rand does use the word instinct colloquially, and frequently. She never intends for that use to be mistaken for the possibility that human beings have some kind of instinct. She also uses the term "instinct" for all those kinds of unthinking behavior of men who have rejected their own nature and allowed chance impressions and unidentified feelings to determine their habitual ways of behaving and thinking.]

For example:

"Every living thing is motivated by the instinct of self-preservation. This is implicit in the mere fact of life. Life is a matter of motion and activity; a living thing not motivated by self-preservation would not and could not preserve itself. But a plant's or an animal's method of survival is automatic, i.e., instinctive; therefore its motive is an instinct. Man's survival is not achieved instinctively; therefore an instinct is inadequate to motivate it. His motive must be conscious." [The Journals of Ayn Rand, Part 3—Transition Between Novels, "8—The Moral Basis Of Individualism."]

There is a mistake in that paragraph. An animal's instinct will provide it self-preservation, but it is not "motivated" by the instinct of self-preservation. Motives pertain to choice. An animal does not need any motivation since it does not choose any of its behavior. Self-preservation is the result of its instinctive behavior which automatically fits the requirements of the organism's nature, but the animal is not aware of either.

Since all the quotes I've used from Rand have been from her Journals, I provide one more from her published work. I often prefer her journals, because they often reveal a depth of her thinking sometimes lacking in her published works.

"Man has no automatic code of survival. His particular distinction from all other living species is the necessity to act in the face of alternatives by means of volitional choice. He has no automatic knowledge of what is good for him or evil, what values his life depends on, what course of action it requires. Are you prattling about an instinct of self-preservation? An instinct of self-preservation is precisely what man does not possess. An 'instinct' is an unerring and automatic form of knowledge. A desire is not an 'instinct A desire to live does not give you the knowledge required for living. And even man's desire to live is not automatic: your secret evil today is that that is the desire you do not hold. Your fear of death is not a love for life and will not give you the knowledge needed to keep it." [For The New Intellectual, from Atlas Shrugged, "This is John Galt Speaking."]

There is another small mistake in this paragraph, probably rhetorical. Instinct is not "knowledge" of any kind; it is an automated pattern of behavior that if chosen would require knowledge, but since no choice is required or possible, there is no knowledge involved.

In general, I agree with Ayn Rand's understanding of instinct, which Dr. Binswanger apparently does not even recognize. Dr. Binswanger's complete neglect of the nature of animal instinct has apparently led him astray concerning the natures of survival, consciousness, and knowledge.