C.N. Douglas, comp. Forty Thousand Quotations: Prose and Poetical. 1917.


Instinct is intelligence incapable of self-consciousness.

John Sterling.

Instinct is the nose of the mind.

Mme. de Girardin.

We are too good for pure instinct.


Instinct is animal strength.

Daniel Webster.

Instinct is a great matter; I was a coward on instinct.


Instinct harmonizes the interior of animals, as religion does the interior of men.


Brutes find out where their talents lie: a bear will not attempt to fly.


And reason raise o’er instinct as you can, in this ’tis God directs, in that ’tis man.


  • Who taught the nations of the field and wood
  • To shun their poison and to choose their food.
  • Pope.

    The active part of man consists of powerful instincts.

    F. W. Newman.

    Tell me why the ant midst summer’s plenty thinks of winter’s want.


    A goose flies by a chart which the Royal Geographical Society could not mend.


    All our first movements are good, generous, heroical; reflection weakens and kills them.


    A bird sings, a child prattles, but it is the same hymn; hymn indistinct, inarticulate, but full of profound meaning.

    Victor Hugo.

  • A good man, through obscurest aspirations,
  • Has still an instinct of the one true way.
  • Goethe.

    Every animal is providentially directed to the use of its proper weapon.


    The instinct of brutes and insects can be the effect of nothing else than the wisdom and skill of a powerful, ever-living agent.


    An instinct is a propensity prior to experience and independent of instruction.


    An instinct is an agent which performs blindly and ignorantly a work of intelligence and knowledge.

    Sir W. Hamilton.

    By a divine instinct, men’s minds mistrust ensuing danger; as, by proof, we see the waters swell before a boisterous storm.


    Animals in their generation are wiser than the sons of men; but their wisdom is confined to a few particulars, and lies in a very narrow compass.


  • But honest instinct comes a volunteer;
  • Sure never to o’er-shoot, but just to hit,
  • While still too wide or short in human wit.
  • Pope.

    Five thousand years have added no improvement to the hive of the bee, nor to the house of the beaver; but look at the habitations and the achievements of men!


    An instinct is a blind tendency to some mode of action, independent of any consideration, on the part of the agent, of the end to which the action leads.


    There is not, in my opinion, anything more mysterious in nature than this instinct in animals, which thus rise above reason and fall infinitely short of it.


  • Learn from the birds what food the thickets yield;
  • Learn from the beasts the physic of the field;
  • Thy arts of building from the bee receive;
  • Learn of the mole to plough, the worm to weave.
  • Pope.

    To the present impulse of sense, memory, and instinct, all the sagacities of brutes may be reduced; though witty men, by analytical resolution, have chemically extracted an artificial logic out of their actions.

    Sir M. Hale.

    Beasts, birds, and insects, even to the minutest and meanest of their kind, act with the unerring providence of instinct; man, the while, who possesses a higher faculty, abuses it, and therefore goes blundering on.


    Reason shows itself in all occurrences of life; whereas the brute makes no discovery of such a talent, but in what immediately regards his own preservation or the continuance of his species.


    Instead of judgment, woman has rather a quick perception of what is fitting, owing to the predominance of her instinctive faculties. The quick perception, indeed, bears the stamp of instinct.

    Alexander Walker.

    Who taught the parrot his “Welcome?” Who taught the raven in a drought to throw pebbles into a hollow tree where she espied water, that the water might rise so as she might come to it? Who taught the bee to sail through such a vast sea of air, and to find the way from a flower in a field to her hive? Who taught the ant to bite every grain of corn that she burieth in her hill, lest it should take root and grow?


    How often we feel and know, either pleasurably or painfully, that another is looking on us, before we have ascertained the fact with our own eyes! How often we prophesy truly to ourselves the approach of friend or enemy just before either has really appeared! How strangely and abruptly we become convinced, at a first introduction, that we shall secretly love this person and loathe that, before experience has guided us with a single fact in relation to their characters!

    Wilkie Collins.