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This article examines the ambiguous relationship between the notions of “instinct” and “intelligence” in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century natural history and zoology. It pays particular attention to the ways in which the instinct/intelligence antithesis was employed in debates over the nature of humans versus animals, from Buffon and Condillac to the entomologist Jean-Henri Fabre. It also examines the function of this conceptual binary in social theory, like that of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the socialist utopian Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. By highlighting instances in which the distinction between instinct and intelligence collapsed, it reveals some of the conceptual bridges that established a secret continuum between them.