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In comparing man with the other animals, we need not enter here into the physiological questions whether the difference between the body of an ape and the body of a man is one of degree or of kind. However that question is settled by physiologists we need not be afraid. If the structure of a mere worm is such as to fill the human mind with awe, if a single glimpse which we catch of the infinite wisdom displayed in the organs of the lowest creature gives us an intimation of the wisdom of its Divine Creator far transcending the powers of our conception, how are we to criticise and disparage the most highly organized creatures of His creation, creatures as wonderfully made as we ourselves? Are there not many creatures on many points more perfect even than man? Do we not envy the lion's strength, the eagle's eye, the wings of every bird ? If there existed animals altogether as perfect as man in their physical structure, nay, even more perfect, no thoughtful man would ever be uneasy. His true superiority rests on different grounds. “I confess,” Sydney Smith writes, “I feel myself so much at ease about the superiority of mankind — I have such a marked and decided contempt for the understanding of every baboon I have ever seen — I feel so sure that the blue ape without a tail will never rival us in poetry, painting, and music, that I see no reason whatever that justice may not be done to the few fragments of soul and tatters of understanding which they may really possess." The playfulness of Sydney Smith in handling serious and sacred subjects has of late been found fault with by many: but humor is a safer sign of strong convictions and perfect safety than guarded solemnity.
With regard to our own problem, no one can doubt that certain animals possess all the physical requirements for articulate speech. There is no letter of the alphabet which a parrot will not learn to pronounce." The fact, therefore, that the parrot is without a language of his own, must be explained by a difference between the mental, not between the physical, faculties of the animal and man; and it is by a comparison of the mental faculties alone, such as we find them in man and brutes, that we may hope to discover what constitutes the indispensable qualification for language, a qualification to be found in man alone, and in no other creature on earth.
I say mental faculties, and I mean to claim a large share of what we call our mental faculties for the higher animals.
These animals have sensation, perception, memory, will, and intellect, only we must restrict intellect to the comparing or interlacing of single perceptions. All these points can be proved by irrefragable evidence, and that evidence has never, I believe, been summed up with greater lucidity and power than in one of the last publications of M. P. Flourens, “ De la Raison, du Génie, et de la Folie:” Paris,
1 "L'usage de la main, la marche à deux pieds, la ressemblance, quoique grossière, de la face, tous les actes qui peuvent résulter de cette conformité d'organisation, ont fait donner au singe le nom d'homme sauvage, par des hommes à la vérité qui l'étaient à demi, et qui ne savaient comparer que les rapports extérieurs. Que serait-ce, si, par une combinaison de nature aussi possible que toute autre, le singe eût eu la voix du perroquet, et, comme lui, la faculté de la parole? Le singe parlant eût rendu muette d'étonnement l'espèce humaine entière, et l'aurait séduite au point que le philosophe aurait eu grand'peine à démontrer qu'avec tous ces beaux attributs humains le singe n'en était pas moins une bête. Il est donc heureux, pour notre intelligence, que la nature ait séparé et placé, dans deux espèces très-différentes, l'imitation de la parole et celle de nos gestes." — Buffon, as quoted by Flourens, p. 77.
1861. There are no doubt many people who are as much frightened at the idea that brutes have souls and are able to think, as by “the blue ape without a tail." But their fright is entirely of their own making. If people will use such words as soul or thought without making it clear to themselves and others what they mean by them, these words will slip away under their feet, and the result must be painful. If we once ask the question, Have brutes a soul? we shall never arrive at any conclusion; for soul has been so many times defined by philosophers from Aristotle down to Hegel, that it means everything and nothing. Such has been the confusion caused by the promiscuous employment of the ill-defined terms of mental philosophy that we find Descartes representing brutes as living machines, whereas Leibniz claims for them not only souls, but immortal souls. “ Next to the error of those who deny the existence of God," says Descartes, “there is none so apt to lead weak minds from the right path of virtue, as to think that the soul of brutes is of the same nature as our own; and, consequently, that we have nothing to fear or to hope after this life, any more than flies or ants; whereas, if we know how much they differ, we understand much better that our soul is quite independent of the body, and consequently not subject to die with the body.”
The spirit of these remarks is excellent, but the argument is extremely weak. It does not follow that brutes have no souls because they have no human souls. It does not follow that the souls of men are not immortal, because the souls of brutes are not immortal; nor has the major premiss ever been proved by any philosopher, namely, that the souls of brutes must
necessarily be destroyed and annihilated by death. Leibniz, who has defended the immortality of the human soul with stronger arguments than even Descartes, writes: -“ I found at last how the souls of brutes and their sensations do not at all interfere with the immortality of human souls; on the contrary, nothing serves better to establish our natural immortality than to believe that all souls are imperishable."
Instead of entering into these perplexities, which are chiefly due to the loose employment of ill-defined terms, let us simply look at the facts. Every unprejudiced observer will admit that
1. Brutes see, hear, taste, smell, and feel ; that is to say, they have five senses, just like ourselves, neither more nor less.
They have both sensation and perception, a point which has been illustrated by M. Flourens by the most interesting experiments. If the roots of the optic nerve are removed, the retina in the eye of a bird ceases to be excitable, the iris is no longer movable; the animal is blind, because it has lost the organ of sensation. If, on the contrary, the cerebral lobes are removed, the eye remains pure and sound, the retina excitable, the iris movable. The eye is preserved, yet the animal cannot see, because it has lost the organs of perception.
2. Brutes have sensations of pleasure and pain. A dog that is beaten behaves exactly like a child that is chastised, and a dog that is fed and fondled exhibits the same signs of satisfaction as a boy under the same circumstances. We can only judge from signs, and if they are to be trusted in the case of children, they must be trusted likewise in the case of brutes.
3. Brutes do not forget, or as philosophers would
say, brutes have memory. They know their masters, they know their home; they evince joy on recognizing those who have been kind to them, and they bear malice for years to those by whom they have been insulted or ill-treated. Who does not recollect the dog Argos in the Odyssey, who, after so many years' absence, was the first to recognize Ulysses ? 1
4. Brutes are able to compare and to distinguish. A parrot will take up a nut, and throw it down again, without attempting to crack it. He has found that it is light; this he could discover only by comparing the weight of the good nuts with that of the bad : and he has found that it has no kernel; this he could discover only by what philosophers would dignify with the grand title of syllogism, namely, “all light nuts are hollow; this is a light nut, therefore this nut is hollow."
5. Brutes have a will of their own. I appeal to any one who has ever ridden a restive horse.
6. Brutes show signs of shame and pride. Here again any one who has to deal with dogs, who has watched a retriever with sparkling eyes placing a partridge at his master's feet, or a hound slinking away with his tail between his legs from the huntsman's call, will agree that these signs admit of but one interpretation. The difficulty begins when we use philosophical language, when we claim for brutes a moral sense, a conscience, a power of distinguishing good and evil ; and, as we gain nothing by these scholastic terms, it is better to avoid them altogether.
7. Brutes show signs of love and hatred. There are well-authenticated stories of dogs following their
1 Odyssey, xvii. 300.