Biology, Meaning of Words

Natural Instinct – How to understand the word ‘Natural’

natural instinct

Natural Instinct

The word Nature or Natural can have many different meanings. And, these words are often used when people talk about motherhood or natural instinct. So here is my attempt to unravel natural instinct. I think it is best to understand what the meaning of nature or natural in natural instinct is and how people use them.

First meaning

For example Nature can mean that something is biologically determined, as a natural instinct, a natural tendency or impulse. We also say that it is natural to breastfeed, because it is in our nature. For example, we say that women are naturally good with children because women have a motherly instinct, a natural instinct. So in this first sense Nature is innate, always elementary.

Second meaning

The second meaning of Natural is that it is unchanged or untouched and is still close to nature. It can be seen in a positive sense: it is not artificial, not processed, but even organic. It can also mean simple, innocent and naive. It can be negative if we mean rough, unrefined, unsophisticated and indigenous. Societies not belonging to the western world were described in this sense. Women as a sex have been more associated with this meaning.

Third meaning

A third meaning is when it is often done, or when it is the way most people do it. For example, people say that wishing best for your children is natural. In this sense, it is classic, archetypal or prototypical. It can be measured even by a statistical norm. This meaning may even shift from ‘what is done’ to ‘what should be done’. Natural can be used as an adverb (naturally) and become ‘necessarily’ or ‘by definition’ or ‘intrinsically’ or ‘inherently’, and then get a normative character. It is something that has become so normal, that it will be expected and if it is not there, it will become abnormal.

Meanings of Natural Instinct

Now that we know the meanings of the words natural, nature and naturalness, we can now read any meaning into natural instinct. The writer may have meant something else, however. Or the writer may not want to express something, but wants us to believe it. We can often not deduct the meaning from the context. When we read that something is natural, specifically natural for women or natural instinct, to behave in a certain manner, we often do not know what is meant. Is it biologically determined or a natural instinct (the first definition), or are women not so changed by society as men and they are closer to nature (second sense), or is it a behavior that is done by most (third) or should be done (fourth meaning). Natural instinct seems more tricky now, doesn’t it?

Here you you will find more about qualifying characteristics of natural instincts.

natural instinct
By Arup Malakar CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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