A DISSERTATION ON THE NATURE of ANIMALS.
ALL our knowledge is derived from com|paring the relations and discrepancies which subsist between different objects. If brute animals had no existence, the nature of man would be still more incomprehensible. Having formerly considered man as a detached being, let us now institute a comparison between him and the other animals. Let us examine the na|ture of the animal world; let us investigate their organization, and study their general oeconomy. This inquiry will enable us to draw particular in|ferences, Page 209 to discover relations, to reconcile appa|rent differences, and, from a combination of facts, to distinguish the principal effects of the living machine, and lead us to that important science, of which man is the ultimate object.
I shall begin with explaining the subject, and by reducing it to its just limits.
The general properties of matter, being com|mon to animated as well as inanimated beings, belong not to our subject*. The qualities pos|sessed by plants as well as animals, ought like|wise to be rejected. It is for this reason that we have treated of nutrition, of growth, of re|production, and even of generation, properties common to the plant and animal, before enter|ing upon those qualities which are peculiar to, and constitute animated bodies.
In the next place, as many beings are com|prehended in the class of animals, whose orga|nization differs greatly from that of man, and the more perfect animals, we shall likewise keep these out of our view, and examine such only as make the nearest approaches to ourselves.
But, as man is not a simple animal, and as his nature is superior to that of other animals, we shall endeavour to investigate the cause of this superiority, in order that we may be enabled to distinguish what is peculiar to him, from what he possesses in common with other animated be|ings.
Page 210 Having thus circumscribed our subject, and lopt off its extremities, we shall proceed to the general division of it. Before giving a detail of the various parts, and of their functions, let us attend to the general results of the animal ma|chine; and, before reasoning upon the causes, let us enumerate and describe the effects.
An animal is distinguished by two modes of existence, that of motion, and that of rest, which alternately succeed one another during the whole of life. In the former, all the springs of the machine are in action; in the latter, all is at rest, excepting one part, and that part acts e|qually when the animal is asleep and when it is awake. This part, therefore, is absolutely necessary, since the animal cannot exist in any manner without it. This part is likewise inde|pendent of the other, because it can act alone; and the other part depends upon this, because it cannot act without its assistance. The one is a fundamental part of the animal oeconomy, because it acts continually, and without inter|ruption; the other is less essential, because it acts only by alternate intervals.
This first division of the animal oeconomy is general, and seems to be well founded. It is not so difficult to examine an animal when a|sleep, as when awake and in action. This di|stinction is essential, and not a simple change of condition, as in an inanimated body, which is equally indifferent to rest or motion; for an inanimated body would continue perpetually in Page 211 either of these states, unless it were constrained to change, by the application of some impelling or resisting force. But an animal changes its state by its own proper powers. It passes na|turally, and without restraint, from motion to rest, and from rest to motion. The moment of awaking returns as necessarily as that of sleep, and both happen independent of foreign causes; because the animal can exist during a certain time only in either state; and continued walking or sleeping would be equally fatal to life.
The animal oeconomy, then, may be divided into two parts; the first of which acts perpetually without any interruption, and the second acts by intervals only. The action of the heart and lungs, in animals which respire, and the action of the heart in the foetus state, constitute the for|mer; and the action of the senses, joined to the movements of the members, constitute the lat|ter.
If we conceive the existence of beings endow|ed by Nature with this first part of the animal oeconomy only, though deprived of sense and progressive motion, they would still be animated, and would differ in nothing from animals asleep. An oyster, or a zoophyte, which appear not to possess either external senses, or the power of progressive motion, are animals destined to sleep continually. A vegetable, in this view, is a sleeping animal: And, in general, every orga|nized being, deprived of sense and motion, may Page 212 be compared to an animal constrained by Nature to perpetual sleep.
Sleep, in the animal, therefore, is not an ac|cidental state induced by the exercise of its func|tions while awake: It is, on the contrary, an essential mode of existence, and serves as a basis to the animal oeconomy. Our being commen|ces with sleep; the foetus sleeps perpetually; and the infant consumes most of its time in that state.
Sleep, therefore, which appears to be a state purely passive, a species of death, is, on the con|trary, the original condition of animated beings, and the very foundation of life itself. It is not a privation of certain qualities and exertions, but a real and more general mode of existence than any other. With sleep our existence com|mences: All organized beings, which are not en|dowed with senses, remain perpetually in this condition; none exist in continued action; and the existence of every animal consists more or less of this state of repose.
If the most perfect animal were reduced to that part alone which acts perpetually, it would not differ, in appearance, from those beings to which we can hardly ascribe the name of Ani|mal. With regard to external functions, it would have a striking resemblance to a vegetable; for, though the animal and vegetable differ in external organization, they both exhibit the same results: They both receive nourishment, Page 213 grow, expand, and are endowed with internal movements and a vegetating life. On this sup|position, they would be equally deprived of progressive motion, action, and sentiment; and they would have no external or apparent cha|racter of animation. But, if this internal part be clothed with a proper cover, or, in other words, if it be endowed with senses and mem|bers, animal life will instantly manifest itself; and, in proportion to the quantity of sense and members contained in this cover, the animation will be more complete, and the animal more perfect. It is this envelope or cover, therefore, which constitutes the distinction between diffe|rent animals. The internal part, which is the basis of the animal oeconomy, is common to e|very animated being, without exception; and, as to its mōde, it is nearly the same in man and in all animals which consist of flesh and blood. But the external cover is exceedingly diversified, and the greatest differences originate from the extremities of this cover.
To illustrate this subject, let us compare the body of a man with that of a horse, an ox, &c. The internal part, which acts perpetually, name|ly the heart and lungs, or the organs of circula|tion and respiration, is nearly the same in man and in the animal. But the external cover is extremely different. The solids of the animal's body, though composed of parts similar to those of the human frame, differ prodigiously in Page 214 number, magnitude, and position. The bones are more or less shortened, rounded, lengthened, flattened, &c. Their extremities are more or less elevated, or hollowed; and several of them are sometimes united into one. Some, as the clavicles, are entirely wanting; the number of others is augmented, as the cartilages of the nose, the vertebrae, the ribs, &c. Of others, the num|ber is diminished, as the bones of the carpus, metacarpus, tarsus, metatarsus, phalanges, &c. which give rise to great varieties in the figure of animals, compared with that of the human body.
We will be still farther convinced, that the principal distinctions between the body of man, and those of the other animals, arise from the extremities, if we attend to the following cir|cumstances. Let us divide the body into three principal parts, the trunk, the head, and the members. The head and members, which are the extremities of the body, constitute the chief differences between man and the other animals. By examining these three principal parts, we find that the greatest differences in the trunk are found at its superior and inferior extremities; for the animals have no clavicles on the superior extremity of the trunk, and the inferior is ter|minated by a tail, which consists of a certain number of external vertebrae, which exist not in man. In the same manner, the inferior extre|mity of the head, or jaw-bones, and the superior, Page 215 or frontal bone, differ widely in man and the quadrupeds: The jaw-bones of most animals are greatly lengthened, and their frontal bones, on the contrary, are contracted. In fine, by comparing the members of a brute with those of a man, it is easy to perceive that they differ chiefly in their extremities; for, at the first glance of the eye, nothing has less resemblance to the human hand, than the foot of a horse or an ox.
Regarding the heart, therefore, as the centre of the animal machine, it is obvious that man resembles the other animals in this and the neighbouring parts; and that the farther from this centre, the differences become more consi|derable, till we arrive at the extremities, where they are by much the greatest. But, where this centre, or the heart itself, differs, then the ani|mal is infinitely removed from man, and posses|ses nothing in common with the creatures under consideration. In most insects, for example, the organization of this principal part of the animal oeconomy is singular. Instead of a heart and lungs, we find parts which perform similar func|tions, and for that reason have been regarded as analogous to those viscera, but which, in reality, are very different, both in their structure, and in the result of their action. Insects, accordingly, differ as much as possible from man and the qua|drupeds. A slight variation in the central parts is always accompanied with an amazing differ|ence Page 216 in the external configuration. The heart of a turtle is of a singular structure; and its figure is so extraordinary, that it has no resem|blance to any other creature.
In contemplating men, quadrupeds, birds, fishes, and reptiles, what a prodigious variety occurs in the figure and proportion of their bo|dies, in the number and position of their mem|bers, in the substance of their flesh, bones, and integuments? The quadrupeds have tails and horns; and all their extremities differ remark|ably from those of man. The cetaceous animals live in a different element; and, though they generate in a manner similar to the quadrupeds, their figure is extremely different, being totally deprived of inferior extremities. The birds dif|fer still more from man, by their beak, their fea|thers, their flying, and their multiplication by means of eggs. The fishes and amphibious ani|mals are still farther removed from the human figure; and the reptiles are entirely destitute of members. Thus we find, that the greatest di|versity consists in the envelope or external cover, the internal structure, on the contrary, being nearly the same: All animals are furnished with a heart, a liver, a stomach, intestines, and organs of generation. These, therefore, ought to be regarded as the most essential parts of the ani|mal oeconomy, because they are the most con|stant, and least subjected to variation.
Page 217 But it is worthy of remark, that, even in this cover, some parts are more constant than others. None of these animals are deprived of all the senses. In treating of the senses, we explained what might be their species of feeling. We know not the nature of their smelling and taste; but we are certain, that they are all endowed with the sense of seeing, and perhaps also with that of hearing. The senses, therefore, may be considered as another essential part of the animal oeconomy, as well as the brain, which is the ori|gin of all sensation. Even the infects, which differ so much in their central parts from other animals, have something analogous to a brain, and its functions are similar to those of the other animals: And those animals, as the oister, which seem to be deprived of a brain, ought to be re|garded as beings only half animated, and as forming the shade between animal and vege|table life.
Thus we have discovered the brain and the senses to be a second essential part of the animal oeco|nomy. The brain is the centre of the envelope or cover, as the heart is the centre of the internal part of the animal. It is from the brain that the external parts receive their power of moving and acting, by means of the spinal marrow and the nerves, which are only prolongations of this marrow: And, as the heart and the whole inte|rior parts communicate with the brain and ex|ternal Page 218 cover, by means of the distribution of blood-vessels, the brain has a similar communi|cation with the internal parts by the ramifica|tions of the nerves. This union is intimate and reciprocal; and, though the functions of the two organs be totally different, they cannot be sepa|rated, without instant destruction to the animal.
The heart, and the whole internal parts, act continually, without the smallest interruption, and independent of external causes. But the senses and envelope act only by alternate inter|vals, and successive vibrations excited by exter|nal causes. Objects act upon the senses, and this action is modified by the senses, and transported, in this modified form, to the brain, where the impression first receives the appellation of Sensa|tion: The brain, in consequence of this impres|sion, acts upon the nerves, and communicates the vibrations it receives; and these vibrations produce progressive motion, and all the other external actions of the body. When a body is acted upon by any cause, it is well known, that the body re-acts upon the cause. Thus objects act upon animals by means of the senses, and animals re-act upon objects by their external movements; and, in general, action is the cause, and re-action the effect.
The effect, it may be said, is not, in this case, proportioned to the cause: In solid bodies, which follow the laws of mechanism, action and re|action are always equal. But, in the animal Page 219 body, re-action, or external motion, seems to be incomparably greater than action; and, conse|quently, progressive motion, and the other ex|ternal movements, ought not to be regarded as simple effects of the impressions of objects upon the senses. To this objection I reply, that, though effects, in certain circumstances, appear to be proportioned to their causes; yet there are in nature innumerable instances where the effects have no proportion to their apparent causes. A single spark of fire will inflame a magazine of powder, and blow up a citadel. A slight friction produces, by electricity, a concussion so violent, that it is communicated to great distances, and affects equally a thousand persons at the same time. It is not, therefore, surprising that a slight impression on the senses should produce a violent re-action in the animal body, manifesting itself by external movements.
Causes which admit of measurement, and the quantity of whose effects can be exactly estima|ted, are not so numerous as those whose qualities and manner of acting are perfectly unknown; and, consequently, the proportion they may have to their effects must be equally unknown. To measure a cause, it must be simple; its action must be constant, and uniformly the same, or, at least, it must vary only according to a known law. Now, most effects in nature are produced by a combination of different causes, the action of which varies, and which observe no constant Page 220 law; and, of course, they can neither be mea|sured, nor estimated, but by endeavouring to ap|proach the truth by probable conjectures.
I pretend not, therefore, to lay it down as a demonstrated fact, that progressive motion, and the other external movements of animals, have no other cause but that of the impressions of ob|jects upon the senses. I only say, that the fact is probable, and seems to be founded on strong analogies: For I find, that all organized beings, which are deprived of senses, are likewise depri|ved of the power of progressive motion, and that all those which are endowed with senses, enjoy likewise the loco-motive faculty. I also find, that this action of objects upon the senses often makes the animal move instantaneously, and even in|voluntarily; and that, when the movement is determined by the will, it is always the effect either of the immediate action of objects upon the senses, or of the remembrance of a former impression.
To render this matter more clear, let us analyze the physical laws of our own actions. When an object strikes any of our senses, and produces an agreeable sensation, and, of course, a desire, this desire must have a relation to some quality or mode of our enjoyment. We cannot desire an object in any other way than to have an inclina|tion to see, hear, taste, smell, or touch it; and this desire is only to gratify more fully either that sense with which we perceive the object, or some Page 221 of our other senses at the same time; or, in other words, to heighten the agreeableness of the first sensation, or to excite another, which is a new mode of enjoying an object: For, the moment we perceive our object, if we could fully enjoy it by all the senses at once, we would have no|thing to desire. Desire, then, originates from our being ill situated with regard to the object perceived. We are either too near or too di|stant from it. We, therefore, naturally change our situation; because, at the same time that we perceive the object, we also perceive the obstruc|tion to the full enjoyment of it, arising from the distance or proximity of our situation. Hence the movements we perform in consequence of desire, and the desire itself, proceed entirely from the impression made by the object upon our senses.
When we perceive an object with the eye, and have an inclination to touch it, if it be near, we seize it with our hand, and, if at a distance, we move forward in order to approach it. A man, when deeply occupied with study, if he be hungry, will lay hold of bread which he feels under his hand, and even carry it to his mouth and eat it, without being conscious of his having acted in this manner. These motions necessarily result from the first impression made by the ob|ject; and they would never fail to succeed the impression, if this natural effect were not opposed by other impressions, which, by acting at the Page 222 same time, often weaken and efface the action of the first.
An organized being, therefore, without sen|sation, as an oyster, which probably enjoys the sense of feeling very imperfectly, is deprived not only of progressive motion, but of sentiment and intelligence; because each of them would equal|ly excite desire, and this desire would manifest itself by external movements. I am uncertain whether beings deprived of senses have any per|ception of their own existence; if they have, it must be very imperfect, since they are unable to perceive the existence of others.
To illustrate this subject still farther, let us suppose a man, at the moment he wishes to ap|proach an object, suddenly deprived of all his members, would he not endeavour to trail his trunk along the ground in order to gratify his desire? Nay, were he reduced to a globular form, and actuated by the same desires, though depri|ved of every faculty of motion, he would still exert all his force to obtain a change of situa|tion: But, on this supposition, as he could only act against the point that supported him, he would still evince his passion by raising his body. Thus external and progressive motion depend not on the organization and figure of the body, since, whatever be the confirmation of any being, if endowed with senses and a desire of gratifying them, it would not fail to move.
Page 223 The facility, the quickness, the direction, and the continuation of motion, depend, it is true, upon external organization: But the cause, prin|ciple, and determination of it, proceed solely from desire, excited by the impression of objects upon the senses; for, if a man were deprived of sight, he would make no movement to gratify his eyes. The same thing would happen if he were de|prived of any of the other senses; and, if depri|ved of every sense, he would remain perpetually at rest; and no object would excite him to move, though, by his external conformation, he were fully capable of motion.
Natural wants, as that of taking nourishment, are internal movements, which necessarily excite desire or appetite. These movements may pro|duce external motion in animals; and, provided they are not entirely deprived of external senses, relative to these wants, they will act in order to supply them. Want is not desire; the former differs from the latter as cause differs from effect; desire, therefore, cannot be produced with|out the intervention of senses. Whenever an animal perceives an object fitted to supply its wants, desire is instantly excited, and action or motion succeeds.
The action of external objects must necessarily produce some effect; and it is easy to perceive that this effect is animal motion, since every time the senses are struck in the same manner, the same movements uniformly succeed. But how Page 224 does the action of objects excite desire or aver|sion? How shall we obtain a clear conception of the operation of that principle to which the senses communicate their notices? The senses are only the middle term between the action of objects and animal action. This principle, however, has the power of determining all our motions; for it can modify and alter the ani|mal action, and even sometimes counteract it, notwithstanding the impression of objects.
With regard to man, whose nature is so dif|ferent from that of other animals, this question is difficult to solve; because the soul participates all our movements; and it is not easy to distin|guish the effects of this spiritual substance from those produced solely by the material part of our frame. Of this we can form no judgment but by analogy, and by comparing our actions to the natural operations of the other animals. But, as this spiritual substance has been conferred on man alone, by which he is enabled to think and reflect, and, as the brutes are purely material, and neither think nor reflect, and yet act, and seem to be determined by motives, we cannot hesitate in pronouncing the principle of motion in them to be perfectly mechanical, and to de|pend absolutely on their organization.
I apprehend, therefore, that, in the animal, the action of objects on the senses produces an|other on the brain, which I consider as a ge|neral internal sense, that receives all the impres|sions Page 225 transmitted to it by the external senses. This internal sense is not only susceptible of vi|brations from the action of the senses, but is ca|pable of retaining, for a long time, the vibrations thus excited; and it is the continuation of these vibrations that constitute impressions, which are more or less deep, in proportion to the duration of the vibrations.
The internal sense, therefore, differs, in the first place, from the external senses by the facul|ty which it possesses of receiving every species of impression; while the external senses are only affected in one mode, corresponding to their con|formation: The eye, for instance, is not more affected with sound than the ear with light. 2dly, The internal sense differs from the external senses, by the duration of the vibrations excited by external causes. In every other article, both these species of senses are of the same nature. The internal sense of a brute, as well as its ex|ternal senses, are pure results of matter and me|chanical organization. Like the animal, man possesses this internal material sense; but he is likewise endowed with a sense of a very different and superior nature, residing in that spiritual substance which animates us, and superintends our determinations.
Hence the brain of an animal is a general sense, which receives all impressions transmitted to it by the external senses; and these impres|sions or vibrations continue longer in the internal Page 226 than the external senses. Of this we may easily form a conception, since the duration of impres|sions, even on the external senses, is very diffe|rent. The impression of light on the eye is well known to last much longer than that of sound on the ear. A rapid succession of sounds can be heard distinctly; but a succession of colours equally rapid confounds the eye. It is for this reason that the vibrations transmitted to the in|ternal sense by the eye are stronger than those conveyed by the ear, and that we describe ob|jects which we have seen in a more lively man|ner than those we have heard. The vibrations excited by objects on the eye seem to continue longer than those made upon any of the other senses; and, therefore, it appears to participate more of the nature of the internal sense. This might be proved by the quantity of nerves ex|panded on the eye; for it alone receives nearly as many as the three organs of hearing, smelling, and tasting.
The eye, therefore, may be regarded as a continuation of the internal sense. It consists, as was remarked in another place, almost en|tirely of nervous fibres, and is only a prolon|gation of the organ in which the internal sense resides. It is not, of course, surprising that it should make the nearest approach to this inter|nal sense. Its impressions are not only more durable, but, like the internal sense, it possesses Page 227 powers of a nature superior to those of the other senses.
The eye exhibits external marks of internal impressions. It expresses desire or aversion ex|cited by agreeable or disagreeable objects. Like the internal sense, it is active; but all the other senses are purely passive: They are simple or|gans, destined for the reception of external im|pressions, but incapable of preserving or reflect|ing them.
When any of the senses, it must be allowed, are long and strongly acted upon, the vibrations continue some time after the action of the ob|ject has ceased. But the eye possesses this power in a supereminent degree; and it is only exceed|ed by the brain, which not only preserves the impressions received, but propagates their ac|tion by communicating vibrations to the nerves. The external organs of sense, the brain, the spinal marrow, and the nerves, which are ex|panded over the whole body, ought to be re|garded as one continued mass, as an organic machine, of which the senses are the parts to which the action of external objects is applied. The brain is the fulcrum or basis; and the nerves are the parts which receive motion from the acting powers. But what renders this machine diffe|rent from all others is, that its fulcrum not only resists and re-acts, but is even active itself; be|cause it long retains received impressions. And, as this internal sense, the brain and its mem|branes, Page 228 is very large, and endowed with great sensibility, it can admit many successive and con|temporary vibrations, and retain them in the same order they were received; because each im|pression communicates vibrations to one part only of the brain, and successive impressions af|fect the same part, or contiguous parts, in a dif|ferent manner.
If we suppose an animal deprived of a brain, but endowed with an external sense of great ex|tent and sensibility, as an eye, for example, ha|ving a retina as large as the brain, and possessing the faculty of retaining received impressions; it is certain, that an animal of this kind would see, at the same time, both present objects, and those which it had formerly seen; because, on this supposition, the vibrations always remaining, and the extent of the retina being large enough to receive them on different parts, the animal would perceive, at the same time, both present and past objects; and would, therefore, be me|chanically determined to act according to the number or force of the vibrations produced by the images, corresponding with, or opposite to this determination. If the number of images fitted to excite desire surpassed those suited to produce aversion, the animal would necessarily be deter|mined to move, in order to gratify this appetite: But, if the number and force of different images were equal, the animal, having no superior mo|tive, would remain at rest. I say, that all this Page 229 would happen mechanically, and without the intervention of memory; for, by seeing and be|ing acted upon by all the images at the same time, those which correspond with desire would be opposed by those that correspond with aver|sion, and from this equilibrium, or from the ex|cess in number or force of one set of images a|bove another, the animal could alone be deter|mined to rest or to action.
From these facts it appears, that, in brutes, the internal sense differs only from the external senses, by the faculty it possesses of retaining re|ceived impressions. This faculty is alone suffi|cient to explain all the actions of animals, and to give us some idea of what passes within them. It likewise demonstrates the essential and infinite difference between them and us, and, at the same time, enables us to distinguish what we possess in common with them.
Animals have some senses of exquisite acute|ness; but, in general, they are not all equal to those of man: And, it is worthy of remark, that the degrees of excellence in the senses fol|low not the same order in the brute, as in the human species. The sense most analogous to thinking is that of touch; and this sense is more perfect in man than in the other animals. The sense of smelling is most analogous to instinct and appetite; and the brute enjoys it in a supe|rior degree. Hence man should excell in know|ledge, and the brute in appetite. In man, the Page 230 first sense for excellence is touching, and smel|ling is the last: In the brute, the sense of smel|ling is the first, and that of touching is the last. This difference has a perfect correspondence to the nature of each. The sense of seeing is ex|ceeding imperfect and delusive, without the aid of that of touching; and the former, according|ly, is less perfect in the brute than in man. The ear, though perhaps equally well constructed in the animals as in man, is not nearly so useful to them, because they are deprived of speech, which, in man, depends on the ear, an organ which gives activity to this sense, and enables him to communicate his ideas: But hearing, in the brute, is a sense almost entirely passive. Hence man enjoys the senses of touching, seeing, and hearing, more perfectly, and that of smelling more imperfectly, than the animal; and, as taste is an internal smelling, and is more analogous to appetite than any of the other senses, the animals also possess it in a superior degree, as ap|pears from their invincible aversion against cer|tain aliments, and their natural appetite for such as correspond to their constitutions: But man, if he were not instructed, would eat the fruit of the mancinella like an apple, and the hemlock like parsley.
The excellence of the senses is the gift of na|ture; but art and habit may bestow on them a greater degree of perfection. A musician, whose ear is accustomed to harmony, is shocked with Page 231 discord: A painter, with one glance of his eye, perceives a number of shades which escape a com|mon observer. The senses and even the appetites of animals may also be improved. Some birds learn to sing, and to repeat words; and the ar|dor of a dog for the chace may be increased by rewarding him for his labours.
But this excellence and improvement of the senses are most conspicuous in the brute, who always appears to be more active and intelligent in proportion to the perfection of his senses. Man, on the contrary, has too great a portion of reason and genius to bestow much attention to the improvement of his ear or his eye. Persons who are short-sighted, dull of hearing, or insen|sible of smell, suffer not, for that reason, any diminution of capacity: An evident proof that man is endowed with something superior to an internal animal sense, which is a material organ, similar to the external organs of sensation, and differs from them only by the faculty of retaining received impressions. But the soul of man is a superior sense, or spiritual substance, totally dif|ferent, both in its action and essence, from the nature of the external senses.
We mean not, however, to maintain that man is not possessed of an internal material sense, a|nalogous to the external senses. Inspection a|lone is sufficient to establish this point. In man, the brain is proportionally larger than in any other animal, which is an evident proof of his Page 232 being endowed with this internal material sense. What I mean to inculcate, is, that this sense is infinitely superior to the other. It is subject to the commands of the spiritual substance, which, at pleasure, suppresses, or gives rise to all its o|perations. In the animal, this sense is the prin|ciple which determines all its movements; but, in man, it is only an intermediate and secondary cause of action.
But, let us examine more closely the powers of this internal material sense. When we have once fixed the extent of its action, every thing beyond this limit must, of necessity, originate from the spiritual sense, and we will be furnish|ed with a criterion for distinguishing what we possess in common with the other animals, and in what articles we excell them.
The internal material sense receives indiffe|rently every impression conveyed by the exter|nal senses. These impressions proceed from the action of objects, and quickly pass through the external senses, where they only excite momen|tary vibrations. But their progress stops at the brain, and produce, in this organ of the internal sense, vibrations which are both distinct and du|rable. These vibrations give rise to desire or aver|sion, according to the present state and disposition of the animal. Immediately after birth, the young animal begins to respire, and to feel a desire for food. The organ of smelling receives the ef|fluvia of the milk contained in the dugs of the Page 233 mother. Vibrations are excited in this sense by the odorous particles, and these vibrations are transmitted to the brain, which, in its turn, acts upon the nerves; and the animal is thus stimu|lated to make the proper movements, or, in o|ther words, to open its mouth, in order to pro|cure the nourishment desired. The senses pe|culiar to appetite being more obtuse in man than in the brutes, the new-born child feels only the desire of taking nourishment, which he announ|ces by crying. But he is incapable of procu|ring it himself; neither is he stimulated by the sense of smelling; his mouth must be applied to the breast, before he can use the means of gra|tifying his appetite. Then, indeed, the senses of smelling and of touching communicate vibra|tions to the brain, which, by re-acting on the nerves, stimulates the child to make the neces|sary motions for receiving and sucking the milk. It is only by the senses of appetite, namely, those of smelling or tasting, that the brute animal is apprised of the presence of nourishment, or of the place where it is to be found. Its eyes are not yet open; and, though they were, they would not, at first, be capable of determining it to use the proper efforts. The eye, which is a sense more analogous to intelligence than to ap|petite, is open in man from the moment of birth; but remains shut, in most other animals, for se|veral days. The senses of appetite, on the con|trary, are more perfect and mature in the young Page 234 animal than in the infant. This affords another proof, that, in man, the organs of appetite are less perfect than those of intelligence; and that, in the animal, the organs of intelligence are more imperfect than those of appetite.
The same remark may be made with regard to progressive motion, and all the other exter|nal movements. It is long before the infant can use its members, or has strength enough to change place. But a young animal soon ac|quires these faculties. These powers, in the a|nimal, are all relative to appetite, which is ve|hement, quickly unfolded, and the sole princi|ple of motion. But appetite, in man, is feeble, long before it is unfolded, and ought not to have such influence, as intelligence, upon the deter|mination of his movements. Man, therefore, is, in this respect, later in arriving at maturity.
Hence, every circumstance, even in physics, concurs in demonstrating that the brutes are ac|tuated by appetite only, and that man is influ|enced by a superior principle. The only doubt that remains is the difficulty of conceiving how appetite alone should produce, in animals, effects so similar to those produced in men by intelli|gence; and how to distinguish the actions we perform in consequence of our intellectual powers, from those which originate from the force of appetite. I despair not, however, of being able to remove this difficulty.
Page 235 The internal material sense, as formerly re|marked, retains, for a long time, the vibrations it receives. This sense, the organ of which is the brain, is common to every animal, and re|ceives impressions transmitted to it by each of the external senses. When an object acts upon the senses, this action produces lasting vibrations in the internal sense, and these vibrations com|municate motion to the animal. When the impression proceeds from the senses of appetite, the movement is determined, the animal either advances to lay hold of the object, or flies to a|void it. This motion may be uncertain, when the impression is transmitted by the senses ana|logous to intelligence, as the eye, and the ear. When an animal sees or hears for the first time, he feels the impression of light or of sound; but the motions produced must be uncertain, because these senses have no relation to appetite. It is only by repeated acts, and after the animal has joined to the impressions of seeing or hearing those of smelling, tasting, or touching, that he feels a determination to approach or retire from objects which experience alone renders analo|gous to his appetite.
To illustrate this subject, let us examine the conduct of an animal that has been instructed by man. A dog, for example, though excited by the most violent appetite, will not venture to wrest, from the hand of his master, the object that would gratify him; but he, at the same time, Page 236 makes a number of movements in order to ob|tain it. Does not the dog, in this case, seem to combine ideas? Does he not appear to desire, and to fear, in a word, to reason nearly in the same manner as a man, when violently tempted to take what belongs to another, but is restrained by the fear of punishment? This is the vulgar mode of accounting for the conduct of animals. We naturally transfer our own motives to ani|mals, when placed in similar circumstances; and the analogy is said to be well founded, because in man, and in the animal, the conformation of both the internal and external senses is simi|lar. Though this analogy, however, were just, is not something more required? Is it not neces|sary that the animals should, on some occasions, do every thing which we perform? But the con|trary is evident: Animals never invent, nor bring any thing to perfection; of course, they have no reflection; they uniformly do the same things in the same manner. This destroys the force of the analogy so much, that we may even doubt of its reality: We ought, therefore, to inquire, whether the actions of brutes proceed not from principles entirely different from those which actuate men, and whether their senses alone are not sufficient to produce their actions, with|out the necessity of ascribing to them the powers of reflection.
Their internal sense is strongly agitated by e|very thing that relates to their appetites. A Page 237 dog would instantly seize the object he desires, if his internal sense retained not impressions of pain, that had formerly accompanied this action. But the animal has received new qualities from external impressions: This prey is not presented to a simple dog, but to a dog that has been beat: Every time he implicitly obeyed the dictates of appetite, has been followed with blows: The impressions of pain, therefore, uniformly accom|pany those of appetite, because they have always been made at the same time. The animal being thus acted upon at once by two contrary impul|ses, which mutually destroy each other, he re|mains in equilibrio, between two equal powers. The cause determining him to motion being coun|terbalanced, he makes no effort to obtain the object of his desire. But, though the vibrations occasioned by appetite and aversion, or by plea|sure and pain, destroy the effects of each other, a third vibration, which always accompanies the other two, is renewed in the brain of the animal, by the action of his master, from whose hand he has often received his food: And, as this third vibration is not counterbalanced by any opposite power, it becomes a cause sufficient to excite motion. The dog is, therefore, determined to move towards his master, and to frisk about till his appetite be fully gratified.
In the same manner, and upon the same prin|ciples, may all the actions of animals, however complicated they appear, be explained, without Page 238 the necessity of attributing to them either thought or reflection. Their internal sense is sufficient to produce every motion they perform. One thing only remains to be illustrated, and that is the nature of their sensations, which, according to the present doctrine, must be very different from ours. Have the animals, it may be ask|ed, no knowledge, no sentiment, or no conscious|ness of their existence? Since you pretend to explain all their actions by mechanism, do you not reduce them to mere machines, or insensible automatons?
If I have properly explained myself, the read|er ought to perceive, that, so far from depriving animals of all powers, I have already allowed them the possession of every thing but thought and reflection. Their feelings are even more exquisite than ours. They are conscious of their actual or present existence; but they have no knowledge of that existence which is past. They have sensations; but they want the faculty of comparing them, or of forming ideas; for ideas are only the results of the association or compa|rison of sensations.
Let us consider each of these articles separate|ly. The feelings of animals are more exquisite than those of man. This, I imagine, has al|ready been sufficiently proved by what was re|marked concerning the excellence of their senses relative to appetite; by their natural and invin|cible aversion against certain objects, and their Page 239 uniform and determined attachment to others; and by their faculty of instantly distinguishing with certainty what is salutary or noxious. A|nimals, therefore, as well as men, are capable of pleasure and pain. They have no knowledge of good and evil; but they feel the distinction. Whatever is agreeable to them is good, and whatever is disagreeable is bad. Both are only relations conformable or repugnant to their na|ture and organization. The pleasure of tickling, and the pain of an wound, are common to us and the animals; because they depend absolutely upon an external material cause, namely, a weak|er or stronger action in the nerves, which are the organs of sensation. Every thing that acts gently on these organs gives pleasure; and every thing that acts with violence is the cause of pain. All sensations, then, are sources of pleasure, when they are temperate and natural; but, when too violent, they produce pain, which, in physics, is the extreme, rather than the opposite of plea|sure.
Disagreeable sensations are excited by a light too brilliant, too near an approach to fire, loud noises, strong smells, insipid or coarse victuals, and hard friction. But a gentle light, a mode|rate heat, a soft sound, a delicate perfume, a fine favour, and slight friction, produce sensations of the most agreeable kind. Thus every gentle application to the senses is pleasure, and every shock, or violent impression, is pain. As the Page 240 causes, therefore, which give rise to violent im|pressions, occur more seldom in nature than those that produce soft and moderate movements; and as animals, by the exercise of their senses, soon acquire the habit of avoiding hurtful objects, and of distinguishing and approaching such as are a|greeable to them, the sum of agreeable sensations must exceed that of the disagreeable; and there|fore the quantity of pleasure must be greater than that of pain.
If animal pleasure consists of whatever flatters the senses, and if, in physics, what flatters the senses be every thing that corresponds to nature; if, on the other hand, pain be whatever wounds the organs, and is repugnant to nature; if, in a word, pleasure be physical good, and pain phy|sical evil, it is evident, that every sentient being must enjoy more pleasure than pain; for every thing that corresponds with his nature, contri|butes to his preservation, or supports his exist|ence, is pleasant; and every thing that tends to his destruction, to derange his organization, or to change his natural condition, is pain. It is by pleasure alone, therefore, that a sentient be|ing can continue to exist; and, if the sum of agreeable sensations surpassed not that of the dis|agreeable, deprived of pleasure, he would first languish for want of good, and, loaded with pain, he would next perish by a superabundance of evil.
Page 241 In man, physical good and evil constitute the smallest part of his pleasures and pains. His i|magination, which is never idle, is a constant source of unhappiness; for it presents to the mind nothing but vain phantoms, or exaggerated pictures. More occupied by these illusions than by real objects, the mind loses both its faculty of judging and its empire: It compares chime|ras only; it sees only at second hand, and often sees impossibilities. The will, of which the mind has now no command, becomes a burden: In sine, his extravagant desires are real pains, and his vain hopes are at most but false pleasures, which vanish as soon as the mind resumes its fa|culty of discerning and of judging without pas|sion.
Thus, when we search for pleasure, we create to ourselves pain; we are miserable from the moment we desire to augment our happiness. Good exists only within ourselves, and it has been bestowed on us by Nature; evil is external, and we go in quest of it. The peaceable enjoy|ment of the mind is our only true good: We cannot augment this good, without the danger of losing it: The less we desire, the more we possess: Whatever we wish beyond what Nature has bestowed on us is pain; and nothing is plea|sure but what she offers us.
Now, pleasures innumerable are constantly presented to us by Nature: She has provided for our wants, and fortified us against pain: Physi|cal Page 242 good infinitely exceeds physical evil. It is not, therefore, realities, but chimeras, which we ought to dread. Neither bodily pain, nor disease, nor death, are formidable; but agitation of mind, the passions, and languor, are the only evils we have to apprehend.
The animals have only one mode of acquiring pleasure, the exercise of their sensations to gratify their desires. We also possess this faculty: But we are endowed with another source of pleasure, the exercise of the mind, the appetite of which is the desire of knowledge. This source of plea|sure would be more pure and copious, were its current not interrupted by our passions, which destroy all contemplation. Whenever they ob|tain the ascendant, reason is silenced, or only makes feeble and unavailing efforts. We, of course, lose all relish of truth; the charm of illu|sion augments; error fortifies its dominion, and drags us on to misery: For what misery can be greater than no longer to see things as they are, to have the faculty of judging perverted by pas|sion, to act only according to its dictates, to ap|pear, consequently, unjust or ridiculous to others, and, lastly, to be obliged to despise ourselves, whenever we can command a moment's re|flection?
In this state of darkness and illusion, we would willingly change the nature of the soul; she has been bestowed on us for the purposes of know|ledge, and we would employ her only for those Page 243 of sensation. If we could extinguish her light entirely, instead of regretting the loss, we would envy the condition of idiots. As we only rea|son by intervals, and as these intervals are bur|densome to us, and pass in secret reproaches, we wish to suppress them. Thus, proceeding always from illusion to illusion, we voluntarily seek to lose sight of ourselves, and to terminate the whole by forgetting our existence.
Uninterrupted passion is madness; and mad|ness is the death of the soul. Violent passions, with intervals, are paroxysms of folly, diseases of the mind, whose danger consists in their fre|quency and duration. Wisdom is only the sum of these intervals of health which we enjoy be|tween the paroxysms of passion, and this sum is not entirely made up of happiness; for we then perceive that the mind has been diseased; we accuse our passions; we condemn our actions. Folly is the germ of misery, and wisdom un|folds it. Most people who call themselves un|happy, are passionate men, or, in other words, fools, who have some intervals of reason, during which they perceive their folly, and, of course, feel their misery: And as, in the elevated con|ditions of life, there are more false appetites, more vain pretensions, more disordered passions, more abuse of the mind, than in the inferior, men of birth and opulence must unquestionably be the most unhappy.
Page 244 But, let us turn from these melancholy ob|jects, these humiliating truths, and consider the wise man, who alone merits examination. He is both master of himself and of events. Con|tent with his condition, he desires not to live in any other manner than he has always lived: Possessed of sufficient resources, he seldom re|quires the aid of others. Occupied perpetually in exercising the faculties of his mind, he im|proves his understanding, cultivates his genius, acquires fresh sources of knowledge; and, being neither tormented with disgust nor remorse, he enjoys the universe, by enjoying himself.
Such a man is, doubtless, the happiest being in nature. To the pleasures of the body, which he possesses in common with the other animals, he joins those of the mind, that are peculiar to him. He has two modes of being happy, which mutually aid and fortify each other; and if, by disease or accident, he be afflicted with pain, he suffers less than the fool: He is supported by the strength of his mind, and reason affords him consolation: Even in suffering pain, he has the pleasure of perceiving that he is able to en|dure it.
Health, in man, is more feeble and precarious than in any other animal. He is oftener sick; his sickness is of longer duration; and he dies at every age. The brutes, on the contrary, seem to run through the space allotted to their exist|ence with firm and equal steps. This circum|stance Page 245 appears to proceed from two causes, which, though very different, mutually contribute to produce the same effect. The first is the agita|tion of mind occasioned by the derangement of our internal material sense. The passions have an influence on health, and introduce disorder into the vital principles. The majority of men lead either a timid or contentious life, and most of them die of chagrin. The second is the im|perfection of those of our senses which are analo|gous to appetite. The brute animals distinguish better what is agreeable to their nature: They are never deceived in the choice of their ali|ment; they never exceed in their pleasures; guided only by the perception of their actual wants, they remain satisfied, and never search for new sources of gratification. But man, inde|pendent of wishing for excess in every article, independent of that ardour with which he seeks to destroy himself by attempting to force nature, is not so alert in distinguishing the effects of par|ticular species of food. He despises simple ali|ment, and prefers compounded dishes, because his taste is corrupted, and because he has con|verted the sense of pleasure into an instrument of debauchery, which can only be gratified by irritation.
It is not, therefore, surprising that we are more subject to diseases than the brutes, since we cannot, like them, distinguish so easily what is noxious or salutary to our frame. Our experi|ence, Page 246 in this article, is less certain than their sen|timent. Besides, we even abuse those sensations of appetite, which they possess in a more perfect degree: In brutes, these sensations are the means of health and preservation; but, in man, they be|come the causes of malady and destruction. In|temperance alone is more fatal to man than the united force of all the other evils incident to hu|man nature.
By these considerations we are led to believe, that the feelings of animals are more determined and more exquisite than ours; for, though it were allowed that brutes frequently poison them|selves, it must likewise be granted, that they ne|ver take poison but when concealed among other food, or when so pressed with hunger, that they eat whatever is presented to them; and many instances have occurred where animals have perished for want, rather than eat what was re|pugnant to their constitution.
The superior strength of sentiment in brutes may be still farther proved, by attending to their sense of smelling, which, in most animals, is so powerful, that they smell farther than they see: They not only scent actual objects at a distance, but they can trace them by their effluvia long after they are gone. Such a sense is an univer|sal organ of perception; it is an eye that sees objects, not only where they are, but where they have been. In a word, it is a sense by which the animal is enabled to distinguish with certain|ty Page 247 what is agreeable to its nature, and by which it perceives what is fitted to gratify its appetite. Hence brute animals enjoy, in a superior degree, the senses relative to appetite; and, of course, have feelings more exquisite than those of men. They are likewise conscious of their actual ex|istence; but retain no consciousness of their past existence. This latter proposition, as well as the first, merits consideration.
In man, consciousness of existence is composed of the perception of actual existence, as well as remembrance of past existence. Remembrance is a perception equally present with the first im|pression; it even sometimes affects us more strongly than actual sensations. As these two species of sensation are different, and as the mind has the faculty of comparing and forming ideas from them, the consciousness of our existence is more certain and extensive, in proportion to the number and frequency of past objects recalled by the memory, and to the frequent combining and comparing of them with each other, and with present objects. Each object is accompanied with a certain number of sensations, or different existences, relative to the different states in which it was originally perceived. This number of sensations, by the comparison made between them by the mind, becomes a succession or train of ideas. The idea of time, and indeed every other idea, originates from the comparison of our sensations. But this train of ideas, or of Page 248 existences, often presents itself to us in an order or arrangement very different from that in which our sensations were received. It is the arrange|ment of our ideas that we perceive, and not the order of our sensations; and in this consist chiefly the differences of character and of ge|nius; for two men, though similar in organiza|tion, and educated in the same manner, and though they received their sensations in the same order, might, notwithstanding, think very dif|ferently. As the temperament of their minds was not the same, and as each combined and compared similar sensations in a manner peculiar to himself, the general results of these compari|sons, or the ideas, genius, and character acqui|red, would likewise be different.
Some minds are peculiarly active in compa|ring sensations and forming ideas. Such men are always the most ingenious, and, if not pre|vented by circumstances, make the most brilliant figure in life. There are others, whose minds being more obtuse, allow every sensation to e|scape, but such as make strong impressions: These men have less genius and vivacity than the former. Lastly, there are other men, and these constitute the multitude, who have so little activity of mind, and so great an aversion from thinking, that they never compare or combine sensations, at least, quickly. The sensations must be strong, and repeated a thousand times, before their minds can be roused to compare Page 249 them, or to form ideas. These men are exceed|ingly stupid, and only differ from the brutes by the small number of ideas which their minds have formed with so much labour.
The consciousness of our existence being thus composed not only of our actual sensations, but of the train of ideas which results from a com|parison of our sensations, and of our past exist|ences, it is evident, that the more ideas a man possesses, he is more certain of his existence; that his existence is proportioned to his genius; and that, by the power alone of reflection, we are conscious of our former existence, and that we will continue to exist, the idea of future be|ing only the inverse comparison of the present with the past; for, in this view, the present is past, and the future present.
Now, the power of reflection being denied to brutes, it is obvious, that they cannot form ideas, and, consequently, that their consciousness of their existence must be less certain and less extensive than ours; for they have no idea of time, no knowledge of the past, or of the future. Their consciousness of existence is simple; it depends solely on the sensations which actually affect them, and consists of the internal feelings produced by these sensations.
We may, perhaps, acquire some notion of the consciousness of existence which animals possess, by reflecting on our own condition, when Page 250 strongly occupied with any object, or so vio|lently agitated with passion as to preclude every reflex idea of ourselves. This condition is ex|pressed by saying, A man is absent, or out of himself. We are out of ourselves when fully immersed in actual sensations, and especially when these sensations are violent, rapid, and leave the mind no leisure to reflect. In this state, we feel every degree of pleasure and pain; we even retain the consciousness of our existence, without any sensible participation of the mind. This condition, in which we have only momen|tary impressions of our existence, is the habitu|al state of animals; deprived of ideas, and fur|nished with sensations, they know not their ex|istence, but they feel it.
To illustrate this difference more fully, let us compare the powers and actions of brute ani|mals with those of man. Like us, they have senses, and receive impressions from exernal objects. They have also an internal sense, an organ which retains the vibrations excited by these impressions; and, consequently, sensations, which, like ours, may be renewed, and are more or less strong and durable. Still, however, they have neither imagination, understanding, nor memory; because they possess not the power of comparing their sensations, and because these three faculties of the mind depend upon this power.
Page 251 Have brute animals no memory? The con|trary, I shall be told, is demonstrably evident: Do they not recollect, after long absence, the persons with whom they have lived, the places where they dwelt, the roads they frequented? Do they not remember the chastisements they had suffered, the caresses they had received, the lessons they had been taught? Every thing con|curs in showing that, though deprived of imagi|nation and reason, they possess an active, exten|sive, and, perhaps, more faithful memory than our own. But, however striking these appear|ances may be, and however strong the prejudices to which they have given rise. I imagine it is capable of demonstration that they are deceitful, and that the brutes have no knowledge of past events, no idea of time, and, of course, no me|mory.
In man, memory originates from the faculty of reflection; for our remembrance of past e|vents supposes not only a continuation of the impressions made upon the internal material sense, or a renewal of former sensations, but likewise the comparison the mind makes between its sensations, or the ideas it forms. If memory consisted not in the renovation of past sensations, these sensations would be represented in our in|ternal sense, without leaving any determined impressions; they would be exhibited without order or connection, like the ravings of persons mad or intoxicated, where objects are so de|ranged Page 252 and confused, that no remembrance of them is retained; for we cannot remember things that have no relation to those which have preceded or followed them. No isolated sensa|tion, however strong, can leave any traces on the mind. Now, it is the mind alone that ascer|tains the relations of objects, by the comparison it makes between them, and connects our sen|sations by a continued train of ideas. Memory, therefore, consists in a succession of ideas, and necessarily supposes the existence of the power by which they are produced.
But, to leave no room for doubt on this im|portant point, let us examine that species of re|membrance left by our sensations, when unac|companied with ideas. Pain and pleasure are sensations of the purest and strongest kind; yet our recollection of these feelings is feeble and confused. We only remember that we felt pleasure or pain; but our remembrance is indi|stinct: We cannot figure either the species, the degree, or the duration of those feelings which af|fected us so powerfully; and still less are we able to have clear ideas of those which have been seldom repeated. A violent pain, for example, which is felt but once, continues only a few moments, and differs from all former pains, would neces|sarily be soon forgot. We might recollect that we felt a great pain; but, while we distinctly remembered the circumstances which attended it, Page 253 and the time when it happened, we would have only a faint impression of the sensation itself.
Why is every thing that passed in our infancy entirely obliterated? Why do old men recollect what happened in their youthful years better than what occurred during their old age? Can there be a stronger proof that sensations alone are insufficient for the production of memory, and that it has no existence but in the train of ideas which the mind forms from its sensations? In infancy, our sensations are perhaps as lively and rapid as in middle age; yet they leave little or no traces behind them; because, at this period, the power of reflection, which alone forms ideas, is almost totally inactive; and, when it does act, its comparisons are superficial, and it is incapable of reducing objects to any regular arrangement. At the age of maturity, reason is fully unfold|ed, because the power of reflection is at its me|ridian. We then derive from our sensations all the fruit they can produce, and we form various orders of ideas and chains of thought, each of which, by being frequently revolved, makes an impression so deep and indelible, that, when old age arrives, the same ideas recur with more force than those derived from present sensations; be|cause, at that period, our sensations are slow and feeble, and the mind itself participates the lan|guor of the body. Infancy is totally occupied with the present time: In mature years, we en|joy equally the past, the present, and the future; Page 254 and, in old age, we have but slight feelings of the present, we turn our eyes to futurity, and only live in the past. Do not these differences depend entirely on the arrangement the mind has made of its sensations; and are they not more or less connected with the faculty we possess, at different ages, of forming, acquiring, and retain|ing ideas? Neither the prattling of the child, nor the garrulity of old age, have the tone of reasoning, because they are equally deficient in ideas; the first is yet unable to form them, and the last has lost the faculty.
An idiot, whose senses and bodily organs ap|pear to be perfectly sound, possesses, in common with us, every kind of sensation, and, if he li|ved in society, and were obliged to act like other men, he would possess them in the very same or|der. But, as these sensations give rise to no i|deas; as there is no correspondence between his mind and his body; and, as he has not the facul|ty of reflection; he is, of course, deprived of me|mory, and of all knowledge of himself. With regard to external powers, this man differs not from the brutes; for, though he has a soul, and possesses the principle of reason, as this principle remains inactive, and receives no intelligence from the bodily organs, it can have no influence on his actions, which, like those of the brute animals, are solely determined by his sensations, and by the consciousness of his actual existence and present wants. Thus, an idiot and a brute Page 255 are beings whose operations are in every respect the same; because the latter has no soul, and the former makes no use of it: Both want the power of reflection, and, consequently, have neither understanding, imagination, nor memo|ry; but they both possess sensations, feelings, and the faculty of moving.
If it shall still, however, be asked, Do not idiots and brutes often act as if they were deter|mined by the knowledge of past objects? Do they not recollect the person with whom they have lived, the places where they dwelt, &c.? Do not these actions necessarily imply the exer|tions of memory? and, does not this prove that memory flows not from the power of reflec|tion?
The reader ought to recollect, that I have al|ready distinguished two species of memory, which, though they resemble each other in their effects, proceed from very different causes: The first is occasioned by the impressions of our ide|as; and the second, which I would rather call reminiscence than memory, is only a renewal of our sensations, or of the vibrations that produced them. The first is an emanation of the mind, and, as already remarked, is more perfect in man than the second. But the latter is only a renovation of the vibrations of the internal ma|terial sense; and it alone is possessed by idiots and brute animals. Their former sensations are re|newed by actual sensations; the principal and Page 256 present recall the accessory and past images; they feel as they formerly felt, and consequently act as they formerly acted; they perceive the present and the past; but they have not the ca|pacity of distinguishing, or comparing objects, and, of course, have no proper knowledge of them.
I am aware that dreams will be adduced as another proof of the memory of brutes. It is undeniable, that the objects which occupy ani|mals when awake, are likewise presented to them during sleep. Dogs bark in their sleep; and, though this barking be feeble, it is easy to distin|guish the sounds peculiar to the chace, to anger, to desire, to complaint, &c. It is, therefore, unque|stionable, that dogs have a lively and active me|mory, and very different from what has been a|bove described, since it acts independent of ex|ternal causes.
To obviate this difficulty, we must examine the nature of dreams, and inquire whether they proceed from the mind, or depend solely on our internal material sense. If we can prove that they reside entirely in the latter, the objection will not only be removed, but a new demon|stration will be furnished against the understand|ing and memory of brutes.
Idiots, whose minds are totally inactive, dream like other men: Dreams, therefore, are produ|ced independent of the mind. Brute animals, though they have no mind, not only dream, but Page 257 I am tempted to think that all dreams are inde|pendent of mind. Let any man reflect upon his dreams, and endeavour to discover why the parts of them are so ill connected, and the events so ridiculous and absurd. The chief reason, I have always thought, proceeds from this circum|stance, that dreams are entirely derived from sen|sations, and not from ideas. The idea of time, for example, never enters into dreams: Persons whom we never saw are represented; we even see those who have been long dead in the same form as when they were alive; but they are al|ways connected with present objects and persons, or with those which are past. It is the same with the idea of place: In dreams we never see per|sons where they are; objects must be seen where they are not, or they cannot be perceived at all. If the mind acted, it would instantly reduce this chaos of sensations to order. But, instead of acting, the mind generally allows these illusory representations to succeed each other in the order they occur; and, though each object appears in lively colours, the succession is often confused, and always chimerical. If, however, the mind be half roused by the absurdity of the represen|tations, or by the mere force of the sensations, a glimmering of light breaks in upon the dark|ness, and produces a real idea in the midst of chimeras; we then begin to dream, or rather to think, that the whole may be only a dream. Though this action be only a feeble exertion of Page 258 the mind, it is neither a sensation nor a dream; it is a real thought or reflection; but, as it has not strength enough to dissipate the allusion, it mixes with, and becomes part of the dream, and allows the succession of images to proceed; so that, when we awake, we imagine we have dreamed what we in reality thought.
In dreams we see much, but seldom under|stand: Though we feel in the most lively man|ner, we never reason: Images and sensations succeed each other; but the mind never unites or compares them. We have, therefore, sensa|tions, but no ideas; for ideas are the results of compared sensations. Hence dreams reside on|ly in the internal material sense; they are pro|duced without the intervention of the mind; and, therefore, constitute a part of that material or purely animal reminiscence which we have formerly mentioned. Memory, on the contra|ry, cannot exist without the idea of time, with|out the actual comparison of former ideas; and, since ideas enter not into dreams, it is obvious, that they can neither be a consequence, nor an effect, nor a proof of memory. But, though i|deas should sometimes accompany dreams, though the somnambulists, who walk, speak sensibly, answer questions, &c. in their sleep, should be quoted to prove that ideas are not so entirely ex|cluded from dreams as I pretend, it is sufficient for my purpose that dreams may be produced by the renewal of sensations alone, without the intervention of mind: For then brute animals Page 259 can only have dreams of this species; and these dreams, instead of supposing the existence of memory, indicate, on the contrary, nothing more than a material reminiscence.
I am, however, far from believing that som|nambulists are really occupied with ideas: The mind seems to take no part in their actions; for, though they go about and return, they act without reflection or knowledge of their situ|ation. They are neither conscious of the dan|gers nor inconveniencies which accompany their expeditions. The animal faculties are alone em|ployed, and even not the whole of them. A somnambulist, therefore, is in a more stupid state than that of an idiot; because he exerts only a part of his senses; but an idiot employs the whole, and enjoys extensively every species of feeling: And as to the people who speak during sleep, they never say any thing new. The an|swering some trivial questions, the repetition of some common phrases, prove not the action of the mind: All this may be performed indepen|dent of the thinking principle. Why may not a man asleep speak without thinking, since per|sons fully awake, especially when occupied with passion, utter many things without reflection?
With regard to the occasional cause of dreams, or the reason why former sensations are renew|ed, without being excited by present objects, it may be remarked, that we never dream during a profound sleep. Every thing is then extin|guished; Page 260 we sleep both externally and internally. But the internal sense sleeps last, and awakes first; because it is more active, and more su|sceptible of impressions than the external senses. We dream most, when our sleep is least perfect and profound. Former sensations, especially those which require no reflection, are renewed. The internal sense, occupied with actual sensa|tions, on account of the inactivity of the exter|nal senses, exercises itself with its past sensations. The strongest always present themselves first; and the stronger they are, the supposed situations become more keenly interesting. It is for this reason that dreams are almost perpetually either dreadful or ravishing.
It is not even necessary that the external senses should be absolutely lulled, before the internal sense can exert its independent powers: The simple inaction of these senses is sufficient to pro|duce this effect. The habit of going to repose at stated times often prevents us from sleeping easily. The body and its members are softly extended without motion; the eyes are involved in darkness; the tranquility of the place, and the silence of the night, render the ear useless; the other senses are equally inactive; all is in a state of repose, but nothing as yet entirely lulled or asleep. In this condition, and when the mind is also unoccupied with ideas, the internal material sense alone exerts itself. This is the season of illusive images and fleeting shades. We are a|wake, Page 261 and yet we feel the effects of sleep. If we be in health and vigour, the succession of i|mages and illusions is enchanting. But, when the body is disordered, or fatigued, the images are of a different nature: We are then torment|ed with hideous and threatening phantoms, which succeed each other with equal whimsicalness and rapidity. This scene of chimeras may be cal|led a magic lanthorn which fills the brain with illusions, when void of all other sensations: The objects of this scene are more lively, numerous, and disagreeable, in proportion to the weakness of the body and delicacy of the nerves; for, the vibrations occasioned by real sensations being, in a state of weakness or disease, much stronger and more disagreeable than in a healthy state, the re|presentations of these sensations, produced by a renewal of the same vibrations, must likewise be more lively and painful.
In fine, we remember dreams for the same reason that we remember former sensations: The only difference between us and the brutes is, that we can distinguish dreams from ideas or real sen|sations; and this capacity of distinguishing is a result of comparison, an operation of memory, which includes the idea of time. But the brutes, who are deprived of memory and of the faculty of comparing past and present time, cannot di|stinguish their dreams from their actual sensa|tions.
Page 262 In the article concerning the nature of man, I imagine I have proved, in a satisfactory man|ner, that animals possess not the power of reflec|tion. Now, the understanding, which is a re|sult of this power, may be distinguished by two different operations: The first is the faculty of comparing sensations, and forming ideas from them; and the second is the power of comparing the ideas themselves, and forming a chain of reasoning. By the first operation, we acquire particular ideas, or the knowledge of sensible ob|jects: By the second, we form general ideas, which are necessary for the acquisition of abstract truths. The brute animals possess neither of these faculties, because they have no understanding; and the understanding of the bulk of mankind seems to be limited to the first of the above ope|rations.
If all men were equally capable of comparing and generalizing ideas, they would equally exhi|bit their ingenuity by new productions, which would be always different from those of others, and often more perfect; all men would be en|dowed with inventive powers, or, at least, with the capacity of improving and perfecting. But this is by no means the case: Reduced to a ser|vile imitation, most men execute only what they have seen performed by others; they think only from memory, and in the same order as others have thought; their understanding is limited en|tirely Page 263 to form and imitation, and their power of reflecting is too feeble for invention.
Imagination is another faculty of the mind: If, by imagination, we understand the power of comparing images with ideas, of illuminating our thoughts, of aggrandizing our sensations, of painting our sentiments, in a word, of perceiving with rapidity all the qualities and relations of objects, this power is the most brilliant and most active faculty of the mind, and the brutes are still more devoid of it, than either of understand|ing or memory. But there is another species of imagination, which depends solely on corporeal organs, and is common to us with the brutes, namely, that tumultuary emotion excited by ob|jects analogous or opposite to our appetites, that lively and deep impression of the images of ob|jects, which perpetually and involuntarily re|curs, and forces us to act, like the brutes, with|out deliberation or reflection. By this represen|tation of objects, which is more active than their presence, every thing is exaggerated, and paint|ed in false colours. This species of imagination is the grand enemy of the human mind: It is the source of illusion, the mother of those pas|sions which, in spite of the efforts of reason, rule over us, and render us the unhappy theatre of a perpetual combat, in which we are almost con|stantly vanquished.
The internal man is double. He is composed of two principles, different in their nature, and opposite in their action. The mind, or prin|ciple of all knowledge, wages perpetual war with the other principle, which is purely material. The first is a bright luminary, attended with calmness and serenity, the salutary source of science, of reason, and of wisdom. The other is a false light, which shines only in tempest and obscurity, an impetuous torrent, which involves in its train nothing but passion and error.
The animal principle is first unfolded. As it is purely material, and consists in the duration of vibrations, and the renewal of impressions formed in the internal material sense, by objects analogous or opposite to our appetites, it begins to act, and to guide us, as soon as the body is capable of feeling pain or pleasure. The spiri|tual principle appears much later, and is only unfolded and brought to maturity by means of education: It is by the communication of others thoughts alone that the child becomes a thinking and rational creature. Without this communi|cation, it would be stupid or fantastical, according to the natural inactivity or activity of its internal material sense.
Page 265 Let us view a child when left at full liberty, and removed from the observation of his guide. We may judge of what passes within him from his external actions. He neither thinks nor re|flects. He follows indifferently every path to pleasure. He obeys all the impressions of ex|ternal objects. He acts without reason. Like the young animals, he amuses himself by run|ning and bodily exercise. He goes and returns, without design or preconceived project. His actions are desultory, and without order or con|nection. But, when called upon by his parents, or those who have learned him to think, he in|stantly composes himself, gives a direction to his actions, and shows that he has retained the thoughts which had been communicated to him. The material principle has absolute sway during infancy, and would continue to reign alone through life, if the spiritual principle were not unfolded and put in motion by education.
It is easy, by reflection, to perceive the ex|istence of these two principles. There are mo|ments, and even hours and days, in which we can distinguish with certainty both their exist|ence, and the contrariety of their action. I re|fer to those times of indolence, of fatigue, or disgust, when we are unable to form any deter|mination, when our actions and desires are dia|metrical opposite; to that condition or disease called vapours, with which the sedentary and idle are so often affected. If we examine ourselves Page 266 when in this state, we will seem to be divided into two distinct beings, the first of which, or the rational faculty, blames what is done by the second, but has seldom force enough to overcome it; the latter, on the contrary, being composed of all the illusions of sense and imagination, com|mands, and often overpowers the former, and forces us to act contrary to our judgment, or makes us remain idle, though we have a desire of acting.
When the rational faculty reigns, a man feels a tranquil possession of himself and his affairs; but he perceives, at the same time, that this is only acquirable by a kind of involuntary abstrac|tion from the presence of the other principle. But, when the irrational principle assumes the dominion, we resign ourselves with ardour to dis|sipation, to appetite, and to passion, and hardly reflect upon the very objects which occupy us so entirely. In both these states, we are happy: In the first, we command with satisfaction; and, in the second, we have still greater pleasure in obeying. As only one of these principles is then in action, and is not opposed by the other, we are sensible of no internal conflict; our existence appears to be simple, because we feel but one impulse: It is in this unity of action that our happiness consists; for, whenever reason accuses our passions, or when the violence of passion makes us hate the admonitions of reason, we then cease to be happy; we lose the unity of Page 267 our existence, in which alone tranquillity con|sists; an internal conflict commences; the two persons oppose each other; and the two princi|ples manifest themselves by producing doubts, inquietude, and remorse.
We may hence conclude, that the most mise|rable of all states takes place, when these two sovereign powers of human nature exert equally their greatest efforts, and produce an equilibrium. This is that ultimate point of disgust, which makes a man abhor himself, and leaves no other desire but that of ceasing to exist, no other power but that of arming with fury against himself.
What a dreadful condition! I have painted its darkest shade. But how many black clouds must precede? All the situations adjacent to this state of equilibrium, must be replete with melan|choly, irresolution, and misery. Even the body itself falls a victim to the agitations produced by these internal conflicts.
The happiness of man consists in the unity of his internal frame: During infancy, he is happy, because the material principle reigns alone, and is in perpetual action. The constraints, remon|strances, and even the chastisements of parents, affect not the basis of happiness in children. No sooner do they obtain their liberty, than they re|sume all the spring and gaiety which they re|ceive from the novelty and vivacity of their sen|sations. If a child were entirely left to himself, Page 268 his happiness would be complete; but it would cease, and be succeeded with a long train of mi|sery. We are therefore obliged to lay him un|der certain restraints, which frequently make him uneasy; but these transitory pains are the germs of all his future good.
In youth, when the mental principle begins to act, and might even serve for our guide, a new material sense springs up, and assumes such an absolute dominion over all our faculties, that the soul seems to yield itself a willing victim to the impetuous passions excited by this sense. The material principle now gains a more complete command than it formerly possessed; for it not only subdues reason, but perverts it, and employs it as an instrument of gratification: We neither think nor act, but with a view to approve and to satisfy this passion. As long as this intoxi|cation continues, we are happy: External oppo|sition and difficulties seem to corroborate the u|nity of this internal principle; they fortify the passion; they fill the intervals of languor; they rekindle the flame, and turn all our views to the same object, and all our powers towards the ac|complishment of the same end.
But this happy scene passes away like a dream; the charm vanishes; and disgust and a frightful void succeed the plenitude of agreeable feelings with which we had been occupied. The mind, when roused from this lethargy, recognises itself with difficulty. It has lost by slavery the habit Page 269 of commanding, together with its strength. It even loves servitude, and goes in quest of a new tyrant, a fresh object of passion, which, in its turn, soon disappears, and is succeeded by ano|ther, whose duration is still shorter. Thus excess and disgust continue to multiply; pleasure flies from our embrace; the organs are debilitated, and the material sense, in place of governing, has not even the power to obey. After a youth spent in this manner, nothing remains but an enervated body, a feeble and esseminate mind, and a total incapacity of employing either.
It has been remarked, that, in the middle pe|riod of life, men are most subject to those lan|guors of mind, that internal malady which is distinguished by the name of vapours. At this age, we still search after the pleasures of youth. This is the effect of habit, and not of any natu|ral propensity. In proportion as we advance in years, instead of pleasure, we more frequently feel the incapacity of enjoyment. Our desires are so often contradicted by our weakness, that we condemn both our actions and the passions which we wish in vain to gratify.
It is, besides, at this age, that cares and solici|tude arise: We then assume a certain state, or, in other words, either from chance or choice, we enter upon a particular course of life, which it is always shameful to abandon, and often dange|rous to pursue. We proceed, therefore, between two rocks equally formidable, contempt and a|version. Page 270 The efforts we make to avoid them weaken our powers, and throw a damp upon our spirits: For, after long experience of the injustice of men, we acquire the habit of regard|ing every individual as necessarily vicious; and, after we are accustomed to prefer our own re|pose to the opinions of the world, and after the heart, rendered callous by the frequent wounds it has received, has lost its sensibility, we easily arrive at that state of indifference, that indolent tranquillity, of which we would formerly have been ashamed. Ambition, the most powerful motive of elevated minds, which is regarded at a distance as the noblest and most desirable of all objects, and which stimulates us to the per|formance of great and useful actions, has no at|tractions to those who have approached it, and proves a vain and deceitful phantom to those who fall behind in the pursuit. Indolence takes place of ambition, and seems to offer to all men an easier acquisition of more solid good. But it is preceded by disgust, and followed by languor, that dreadful tyrant of thinking minds, against which wisdom has less influence than folly.
It is hence apparent, that the difficulty of re|conciling man to himself originates from his be|ing composed of two opposite principles; and that this is the source of his inconstancy, irreso|lution, and languor.
Brute animals, on the contrary, whose nature Page 271 is simple and purely material, feel no internal conflicts, no remorse, no hopes, no fears.
If we were deprived of understanding, of me|mory, of genius, and of every faculty of the soul, nothing would remain but the material part, which constitutes us animals. We would still have wants, sensations, pleasure, pain, and even passions; for what is passion but a strong sensation, which may every moment be renew|ed? Now, our sensations may be renewed in an internal material sense; we would, therefore, possess all the passions, at least all those which the mind, or principle of intelligence, can nei|ther produce nor foment.
But the great difficulty is to distinguish clear|ly the passions peculiar to man from those which are common to him and the brutes. Is it cer|tain, or even probable, that the animals have passions? Is it not, on the contrary, agreed, that every passion is a strong emotion of the mind? Ought we not, therefore, to search somewhere else, than in the spiritual principle, for the seeds of pride, of envy, of ambition, of avarice, and of all the other passions which govern us?
To me it appears, that every thing which go|verns the mind is extraneous to it; that the principle of intelligence is not the principle of sentiment; that the seeds of the passions exist in our appetites; that all illusions proceed from the senses, and reside in our internal material sense; that, at first, the mind has no participation in Page 272 these illusions, but by its silence; and that, when the mind does give any countenance to them, it is subdued, and, when it assents, it is totally per|verted.
Let us then distinguish man's physical from his moral passions: The one is the cause; the other the effect. The first emotion originates in the internal material sense: The mind may receive, but it cannot produce this emotion. Let us likewise distinguish instantaneous emotions from those that are durable, and we shall, at once, perceive, that fear, horror, anger, love, or ra|ther the desire of enjoyment, are sensations, which, though durable, depend solely on the im|pressions of objects upon our senses, combined with the subsisting impressions of our former sensations; and, consequently, that those passions must be common to us and the other animals: I say, that the actual impressions of objects are combined with the subsisting impressions of our former sensations; for nothing is horrible or alluring, either to man or the brutes, when seen for the first time. This is fully proven by ex|perience: A young animal will run into the flames the first time a fire is presented to it. A|nimals acquire experience only by reiterated acts, the impressions of which remain in their internal sense; and, though their experience be not natural, it is not less sure, and even renders the animal more circumspect; for a great noise, a violent motion, an extraordinary figure, sud|denly, Page 273 and for the first time, seen or presented, produce in the animal a shock, the effect of which resembles the first expressions of fear: But this feeling is instantaneous; and, as it cannot be combined with any former sensation, it can only excite a momentary vibration, and not a durable emotion, which the passion of fear ne|cessarily implies.
A young inhabitant of the forest, when sud|denly struck with the sound of a hunter's horn, or with the report of a gun, starts, bounds, and flies off, solely from the violence of the shock which he felt. But, if this noise ceases, and has been attended with no injury, the animal recog|nises the ordinary silence of nature; he composes himself, stops, and returns to his peaceable re|treat. But age and experience soon render him timid and circumspect. If he feels himself wounded or pursued, after hearing a particular sound, the painful sensation is preserved in his internal sense; and, whenever he again hears the same noise, the painful sensation is renewed, and, combining with the actual impression, pro|duces a durable passion, a real fear; the animal flies with all his speed, and often abandons for ever his former abode.
Fear, then, is a passion of which brute ani|mals are susceptible, though they feel not our rational or foreseen apprehensions. The same remarks apply to horror, anger, and love; though brutes have none of our reflex aversions, our Page 274 durable resentments, or our constant friendships. Brute animals possess all those primary passions, which suppose no intelligence, no ideas, and are founded only on the experience of sentiment, or repeated feelings of pleasure and pain, and a renewal of former sensations of the same kind. Anger, or natural courage, is remarkable in those animals who have exerted their strength, and found it superior to that of others. Fear is the offspring of weakness; but love is common to all animals. Love is an innate desire, the soul of nature, the inexhaustible fountain of existence, the germ of perpetuity infused by the Almighty into every being that breathes the breath of life. It softens the most ferocious and obdurate hearts, and penetrates them with a genial warmth. It is the source of all good; by its attractions it unites the most savage and brutal tempers, and gives birth to every pleasure. Love! Thou di|vine flame! Why dost thou constitute the hap|piness of every other being, and bring misery to man alone? Because this passion is only a phy|sical good. Notwithstanding all the pretences of lovers, morality is no ingredient in the com|position of love. Wherein does the morality of love consist? In vanity; the vanity arising from the pleasure of conquest, an error which pro|ceeds from our attempts to exalt the importance of love beyond its natural limits; the vanity of exclusive possession, which is always accompa|nied with jealousy, a passion so low, that we u|niformly Page 275 wish to conceal it; the vanity proceed|ing from the mode of enjoyment, which only multiplies efforts, without increasing our plea|sures. There is even a vanity in relinquishing the object of our attachment, if we first wish to break it off. But, if we are slighted, the humi|liation is dreadful, and turns into despair, after discovering that we have been long duped and deceived.
Brute animals suffer none of these miseries. They search not after pleasure where it is not to be found. Guided by sentiment alone, they are never deceived in their choice. Their desires are always proportioned to the power of gratifica|tion. They relish all their enjoyments, and at|tempt not to anticipate or diversify them. But man, by endeavouring to invent pleasures, de|stroys those which correspond to his nature; by attempting to force sentiment, he abuses his be|ing, and creates a void in his heart which no|thing can afterwards fill up.
Thus, every thing that is good in love belongs to the brutes as well as to man; and, as if this passion could never be pure, the animals even seem to feel a small portion of jealousy. Jea|lousy, in the human species, always implies some distrust of ourselves, a tacit acknowledgment of our own weakness. The animals, on the con|trary, seem to be jealous in proportion to their force, ardour, and habits of pleasure; because our jealousy proceeds from ideas, and theirs from Page 276 sentiment. They have enjoyed, and they desire to enjoy more. They feel their strength, and they beat off all that endeavour to occupy their place. Their jealousy is not the effect of reflec|tion. They turn it not against the object of their love. They are only jealous of their pleasures.
But, are animals limited solely to those pas|sions we have described? Are fear, anger, hor|ror, love, and jealousy, the only permanent af|fections they are capable of feeling? To me it appears, that, independent of these passions, of which natural sentiment, or rather the experi|ence of sentiment, renders animals susceptible, they possess other passions, which are commu|nicated to them by education, example, habit, and imitation. They have a species of friend|ship, of pride, and of ambition. And though, from what has been said, it is apparent that the operations they perform are not the effects of thought or reflection; yet, as the habits we have mentioned seem to suppose some degree of in|telligence, and to form the shade between man and the brute creation, this subject merits a careful examination.
Can any thing exceed the attachment of a dog to his master? Some of them have been known to die on the tomb in which he had been laid. But, (not to quote prodigies or he|roes), with what fidelity does the dog attend, follow, and protect his master! With what anxi|ety does he seek his caresses! With what doci|cility Page 277 and alacrity does he obey him! With what patience does he suffer his ill humour, and even his chastisements, though often unjust! With what gentleness and humility does he endeavour to regain his favour! In a word, what agitation and chagrin does the dog discover when his master is absent; and what excess of joy on his return! In all these expressions, is it possible to mistake the genuine characters of friendship? Are these characters equally strong and ener|getic, even in the human species?
This friendship, however, is the same with that of a lady for her goldfinch, of a child for its toy, or a dog for its master. Both attach|ments are equally blind and void of reflection: That of animals is only more natural, because it arises from their wants; while that of the other is nothing but an insipid amusement, in which the mind has no share. These puerile attach|ments are kept alive by habit, and acquire all their strength from a vacancy of brain. A taste for whims, the worship of idols, and, in a word, an attachment to inanimated objects, indicate the highest degree of stupidity; and yet there are many makers and worshippers of idols; and many are fond of the soil which they have tilled.
All attachments, therefore, are acquired with|out the intervention of the mind; for they uni|formly arise when we think least, and they ac|quire force, and become habitual, by want of reflection. If an object pleases our senses, we Page 278 instantly love it; and, if this object continues for some time to occupy our attention, we con|vert it into an idol.
But friendship necessarily implies the power of reflection. It is of all attachments the most worthy of man, and the only one which degrades not his nature. Friendship is the offspring of reason. The impressions of sense have no share in its production. It is the mind of our friend that we love; and to love a mind, implies that we have one, and that we have employed it in the investigation of knowledge, and in distin|guishing the qualities of different minds. Friend|ship, therefore, supposes, not only the existence of an intelligent principle, but the actual exer|tions of this principle in reflecting and reason|ing.
Thus friendship belongs only to man; and, though the brutes may be allowed to have at|tachments, sentiment alone is sufficient to attach them to those whom they often see, and by whom they are fed and taken care of. It is still more sufficient to attach them to objects with which they are obliged to be much connected. The attachment of mothers to their young pro|ceeds from their being long occupied in car|rying them in the womb, and in produ|cing and suckling them. In some species of birds, the fathers seem to have an attachment for their offspring, and to provide for the mo|thers during incubation: This attachment ori|ginates from their being employed in building Page 279 the nest, and from the pleasure they receive from the females, which continue in season long after impregnation. But, in the other animals, whose season of love is short, whenever it is past, the males have no attachment to the females. Where there is no nest, no common operation to be performed, the fathers, like those of Spar|ta, have no regard to their posterity.
The pride and ambition of animals are effects of their natural courage, or of the sentiments a|rising from their strength, agility, &c. Large animals seem to despise the audacious insults of the smaller ones. Their courage and ardour are even capable of being improved by education and example; for they are susceptible of every thing, except reason. In general, brute animals can learn to repeat the same action a thousand times, to perform in succession what they only did by intervals, to continue an action a long time, which they were accustomed to finish in an instant, to do voluntarily what at first was the effect of force, to perform habitually what they once executed by chance, and to do, of their own accord, what they see performed by others. Of all the results of the animal ma|chine, that of imitation is the most admirable. It is the most delicate, as well as the most exten|sive principle of action, and makes the nearest approach to thought: And though, in animals, the cause of it be purely material, its effects have always been astonishing. Men never admired Page 280 the apes, till they saw them imitate human ac|tions. It is not, indeed, an easy matter to distin|guish some copies from the originals. There are, besides, so few who can clearly perceive the difference between genuine and counterfeit ac|tions, that, to the bulk of mankind, the apes must always excite surprise and humiliation.
The apes, however, are more remarkable for talents than genius. Though they have the art of imitating human actions, they are still brutes, all of which, in various degrees, possess the talent of imitation. This talent, in most a|nimals, is entirely limited to the actions of their own species. But the ape, although he belongs not to the human species, is capable of imitating some of our actions. This power, however, is entirely the effect of his organization. He imi|tates the actions of men, because his structure has a gross resemblance to the human figure. What originates solely from organization and structure, is thus ignorantly ascribed, by the vul|gar, to intelligence and genius.
By the relations of motion, a dog learns the habits of his master; by the relations of figure, an ape mimics human gestures; and, by the re|lations of organization, a goldfinch repeats mu|sical airs, and a parrot imitates speech, which forms the greatest external difference between one man and another, and between man and the other animals; for, by means of language, one man discovers a superiority of knowledge and Page 281 genius, while others express by it nothing but confused or borrowed ideas; and, in an idiot, or in a parrot, it serves only to mark the last degree of stupidity, the incapacity, in either, to produce thought or reflection, though both be endowed with proper organs for expressing what passes within them.
It is still easier to prove that imitation is a re|sult of mere mechanism. The most perfect imi|tation depends on the vivacity with which the internal material sense receives the impressions of objects, and the facility of expressing them by the aptness of external organs. Men whose senses are most delicate and easily affected, and whose members are most agile and flexible, make the best actors, the best mimics, the best monkeys. Children, insensibly, and without re|flection, imitate the actions, the gestures, and the manners of those with whom they live: They are extremely alert in repeating and coun|terfeiting. Most young people, though they see only with the eyes of the body, are very dexte|rous in perceiving ridiculous figures. They are struck with every strange form or new represen|tation. The impression is so strong that they relate it with enthusiasm, and copy it with ease and with gracefulness. Children, therefore, pos|sess, in a superior degree, the talent of imitation, which supposes more perfect organs, and a more happy disposition of members, to which nothing is so repugnant as a strong dose of good sense.
Page 282 Thus, among men, those who reflect least, have generally the strongest imitative talents. It is not, therefore, surprising, that this talent should appear in those animals who have no reflection. They ought even to possess it in the highest de|gree of perfection, because they have nothing to oppose its operation, no principle to excite a de|sire of differing from each other. Among men, all the diversity of character, and variety of ac|tion, proceed entirely from the mind. But brute animals, who have no mind, and consequently are destitute of that principle which can alone give rise to variety of character, or of personal accomplishments, must, when they resemble each other in organization, or are of the same species, do the same things in the same manner, and i|mitate one another more perfectly than one man can imitate the actions of another man. Of course, the talent of imitation possessed by the brute animals, so far from implying thought or reflection, proves that they are absolutely depri|ved of both.
It is, for the same reason, that the education of animals, though short, is always successful. They soon acquire, by imitation, all the know|ledge of their parents. They not only derive experience from their own feelings, but, by means of imitation, they learn the experience acquired by others. Young animals model them|selves entirely upon the old: They see the latter approach or fly, when they perceive particular Page 283 objects, hear certain sounds, or smell certain odours. At first, they approach or fly without any other determining principle but that of imi|tation; and afterwards they approach or fly of their own accord, because they have then acqui|red the habit of flying or approaching, whenever they feel the same sensations.
Having thus compared man with the brutes, when taken individually, I shall now compare man in society with the gregarious tribes, and endeavour to investigate the cause of that species of industry which is so remarkable in some ani|mals, even of the lowest and most numerous or|ders. What marvellous feats are not daily a|scribed to certain insects? The talents and wis|dom of the bee are admired with envy: They are said to possess an art peculiar to themselves, the art of perfect government. A bee-hive, say the eulogists of this insect, is a republic where every individual labours for the community, where every thing is distributed and arranged with a foresight, an equity, and a prudence, that is truly astonishing: The policy of Athens itself was not more perfect, or better conducted: The more we examine these insects, they exhibit fresh objects of admiration; an unalterable and uni|form system of government, a profound respect for the sovereign, an anxious attention to his wellfare and inclinations, an ardent love to their country, an incredible assiduity in labouring for the public good, the greatest disinterestedness, Page 284 joined to the strictest oeconomy, the finest geo|metry, combined with the most elegant architec|ture, &c. But, were I to run over the annals of this republic, and to retail all the incidents in the oeconomy of these insects, which have excited the admiration of their historians, I should never come to an end.
Independent of that attachment which men acquire for their favourite subjects, the more they observe, and the less they reason, their ad|miration is proportionally augmented. Can any thing be more gratuitous than this blind admira|tion of bees, than the pure republican principles ascribed to them, than that singular instinct which rivals the most sublime geometry, which solves, without hesitation, the difficult problem of build|ing, in the most solid manner, in the least possible space, and with the greatest possible oeconomy? These eulogies are not only excessive, but ridi|culous: A bee ought to hold no higher rank in the estimation of a naturalist, than it actually holds in nature. This wonderful republic, there|fore, must always appear, in the eye of reason, to be only an assemblage of small animals, which have no other relation to man, but that of fur|nishing him with wax and honey.
I here blame not curiosity, but absurd excla|mation, and false reasoning. To examine the operations of bees, to observe the progress of their labours, to describe their generation, their metamorphoses, &c. these are objects worthy the Page 285 attention of philosophers. But it is the morali|ty, and even the theology ascribed to insects, that I cannot hear with patience: It is the marvel|lous feats first invented, and then extolled by naturalists, which I wish to examine: It is the in|telligence, the foresight, and even the knowledge of futurity, which have, with so much com|plaisance, been falsely lavished upon them, that I must endeavour to reduce to their just value.
The genius of solitary bees, it is allowed on all hands, is vastly inferior to that of the grega|rious species; and the talents of those which as|sociate in small troops, are less conspicuous than of those that assemble in numerous bodies. Is not this alone sufficient to convince us, that the seeming genius of bees, is nothing but a result of pure mechanism, a combination of movements proportioned to numbers, an effect which appears to be complicated, only because it depends on millions of individuals? Has not every congru|ity, and even disorder itself, the appearance of harmony, when we are ignorant of the cause? From apparent order to actual intelligence, there is but one step; for men are always more dis|posed to admire, than to reason.
It must, therefore, be admitted, that bees, ta|ken separately, have less genius than the dog, the monkey, and most other animals: It will likewise be admitted, that they have less docility, less attachment, and less sentiment; and that they possess fewer qualities relative to those of Page 286 the human species. Hence we ought to acknow|ledge, that their apparent intelligence proceeds solely from the multitude united. This union, however, presupposes not intellectual powers; for they unite not from moral views: They find themselves assembled together without their con|sent. This society, therefore, is a physical as|semblage ordained by Nature, and has no depen|dence on knowledge or reasoning. The mother bee produces at one time, and in the same place, ten thousand individuals, which, though they were much more stupid than I have supposed them, would be obliged, solely for the preserva|tion of their existence, to arrange themselves into some order. As they all act against each other with equal forces, supposing their first move|ments to produce pain, they would soon learn to diminish this pain, or, in other words, to afford mutual assistance: They, of course, would exhi|bit an air of intelligence, and of concurring in the accomplishment of the same end. A super|ficial observer would instantly ascribe to them views and talents which they by no means pos|sess: He would explain every action: Every o|peration would have its particular motive, and prodigies of reason would arise without number; for ten thousand individuals produced at one time, and obliged to live together, must all act in the very same manner; and, if endowed with feeling, they must acquire the same habits, assume that arrangement which is least painful Page 287 or most easy to themselves, labour in their hive, return after leaving it, &c. Hence the origin of the many wonderful talents ascribed to bees, such as their architecture, their geometry, their order, their foresight, their patriotism, and, in a word, their republic, the whole of which, as I have proved, has no existence but in the imagi|nation of the observer.
Is not Nature herself sufficiently astonishing, without ascribing to her miracles of our own creation? Are not the works of the Almighty sufficient to demonstrate his power? and do we imagine that we can enhance it by our weak|ness? If possible, this is the very way to degrade his perfections. Who gives the grandest idea of the supreme Being; he who sees him create the universe, arrange every existence, and found nature upon invariable and perpetual laws; or he who inquires after him, and discovers him conducting and superintending a republic of bees, and deeply engaged about the manner of fold|ing the wings of a beetle?
Some animals unite into societies, which seem to depend on the choice of those that compose them, and, consequently, make a nearer approach to intelligence and design than that of the bees, which has no other principle than physical neces|sity. The elephants, the beavers, the monkeys, and several other species of animals, assemble in troops, for defending each other, and for the purpose of carrying on some common operations. If these Page 288 societies were less disturbed, and, if they could be observed with equal ease as that of the bees, we should doubtless discover wonders of a very dif|ferent nature, which, notwithstanding, would be only effects of physical laws. When a multi|tude of animals of the same species are assembled in one place, a particular arrangement, a certain order, and common habits, must be the necessary results*. Now, every common habit, so far from having intelligence for its cause, implies nothing more than a blind imitation.
Society, among men, depends less upon phy|sical than moral relations. His weakness, his wants, his ignorance, and his curiosity, soon taught him the necessity of associating: He soon found that solitude was a state of war and of danger; and he sought for safety, peace, and society. He augmented his own power and his knowledge, by uniting them with those of his fellow-creatures. This union was the best use he ever made of his rational faculties. Man commands the universe solely because he has learned to govern himself, and to submit to the laws of society.
Every thing has concurred to render man a social animal: Though large and polished socie|ties certainly depend upon custom, and some|times on the abuse of reason, they were unque|stionably preceded by smaller associations, which had no basis but that of nature. A family is a Page 289 natural society, which has deeper and more per|manent foundations, because it is accompanied with more wants, and more causes of attachment. Man differs from the other animals: When he comes into the world, he hardly exists. Naked, feeble, and incapable of action, his life depends on the aid of others. The weaknesses of in|fancy continue long. The necessity of support is converted into a habit, which, of itself, is ca|pable of producing a mutual attachment between the child and its parents. But, as the child ad|vances, he gradually acquires more force, and has less need of assistance. The affection of the parents, on the contrary, continues, while that of the child grows daily less. Thus love de|scends more than it ascends. The attach|ment of the parent becomes excessive, blind, and invincible; and that of the child remains cold and inactive, till the seeds of gratitude are unfolded by reason.
Thus human society, even when confined to a single family, implies the existence of the ra|tional faculty; that of gregarious animals, who seem to unite from choice and convenience, im|plies experience and sentiment; and that of in|sects, which, like the bees, are associated with|out design or motive, implies nothing at all. Whatever may be the effects of this latter asso|ciation, it is clear, that they have neither been foreseen nor conceived by the creatures which pro|duced them, and that they result solely from the Page 290 universal laws of mechanism established by the Almighty. Suppose ten thousand automatons assembled in the same place, all endowed with the same force, and determined, by a perfect resemblance in their external and internal struc|ture, and by a uniformity in their movements, to perform the same operation, a regular work would be the necessary result. They would exhibit the relations of regularity, of resem|blance, and of position; because these depend up|on the relations of motion, which we have sup|posed to be equal and uniform. The relations of juxta-position, of extension, and of figure, would also appear; because we have supposed a given and circumscribed place: And, if we be|stow on these automatons the smallest degree of sensation, just as much as is necessary to make them feel their existence, to have a tendency to self-preservation, to avoid what is hurtful, to de|sire what is agreeable, &c. their operations will be not only regular, proportioned, similar, and equal, but they will have the air of the highest symmetry, solidity, convenience, &c.; because, in the process of their labours, each of the ten thousand individuals has assumed that arrange|ment which was most commodious to itself, and has, at the same time, been obliged to act, and to arrange itself in the manner least incommo|dious to the rest.
Shall I enforce this argument still farther? The hexagonal cells of the bee, which have been Page 291 the subject of so much admiration, furnish an additional proof of the stupidity of these insects: This figure, though extremely regular, is no|thing but a mechanical result, which is often exhibited in some of the most rude productions of nature. Crystals, and several other stones, as well as particular salts, &c. constantly assume this figure. The small scales in the skin of the roussette, or great bat, are hexagonal, because each scale, when growing, obstructs the progress of its neighbour, and tends to occupy as much space as possible. We likewise find these same hexagons in the second stomach of ruminating animals, in certain seeds, capsules, and flowers, &c. If we fill a vessel with cylindrical grain, and, after filling up the interstices with water, shut it close up, and boil the water, all these cy|linders will become hexagonal columns. The reason is obvious, and purely mechanical. Each cylindrical grain tends, by its swelling, to occu|py as much space as possible; and therefore, by reciprocal compression, they necessarily assume an hexagonal figure. In the same manner, each bee endeavours to occupy as much space as pos|sible, in the limited dimensions of the hive; and, therefore, as the bodies of the bees are cylindri|cal, they must necessarily make their cells hex|agonal, from the reciprocal obstruction they give to each other.
The genius of bees has been estimated accor|ding to the regularity of their works. Bees are Page 292 said to be more ingenious than wasps, hornets, &c.; for, though the latter are acquainted with architecture, their fabrics are more rude and ir|regular. But it was not considered by the abet|tors of this opinion, that the greater or less re|gularity depends solely on the number and fi|gure, and not on the intelligence of these crea|tures. In proportion to the greatness of the number, there are more equal and opposite for|ces in action, and, of course, more mechanical restraint, and more regularity and apparent per|fection in their works.
Those animals, therefore, who most resemble man in figure and organization, notwithstand|ing the eulogists of insects, will still remain su|perior to all others, in their internal qualities: And, though these qualities be infinitely diffe|rent from those of man, though they are only, as has been proved, the results of experience and feeling; yet they greatly exceed the qualities of insects. As every operation of nature is con|ducted by shades, or slight gradations, a scale may be formed for ascertaining the intrinsic qua|lities of every animal, by taking, for the first point, the material part of man, and by placing the animals successively at different distances, in proportion as they approach or recede from that point, either in external form, or internal orga|nization. Agreeable to this scale, the monkey, the dog, the elephant, and other quadrupeds, will hold the first rank; the cetaceous animals, Page 293 who, like the quadrupeds, consist of flesh and blood, and are viviparous, will hold the second; the birds, the third, because they differ more from man than the quadrupeds or cetaceous a|nimals; and, were it not for oisters and polypi, which seem to be the farthest removed from man, the insects would be thrown into the low|est rank of animated beings.
But, if the animals be deprived of understand|ing, of genius, of memory, and of all intelli|gence; if their faculties depend on their senses, and be limited entirely to the exercise of expe|rience and of feeling, how can we account for that species of foresight which some of them seem to possess? Could feelings alone determine them to amass provisions in summer to nourish them during the rigours of winter? Does not this im|ply a comparison of time, a rational anxiety concerning their future comfort and subsistence; Why do birds build nests, if they know not that they will be useful for depositing their eggs and rearing their young? It is unnecessary to multi|ply facts of the same nature.
Before solving these questions, or reasoning concerning the above and similar facts, it is ne|cessary to ascertain their reality: Instead of be|ing retailed by lovers of the marvellous, if they had been examined by men of sense, and collect|ed by philosophers, I am persuaded, that all these pretended miracles would have soon disappeared, and that, by cool and dispassionate reflection, the Page 294 cause of each particular fact might have been discovered. But, let us admit the truth of all these facts; let us allow to the animals foresight, and even a knowledge of the future, can this be ascribed to their intellectual powers? If this were really the case, their intelligence would be great|ly superior to ours: For our foresight is entire|ly conjectural; our notions concerning futurity are always doubtful, and founded on probabi|lities. Hence brute animals, who see the future with certainty, since they determine before hand, and are never deceived, would be endowed with a principle of knowledge superior to the human mind. I ask, whether this conclusion be not equally repugnant to religion and to reason?
It is impossible, therefore, that the brutes have a certain knowledge of the future from an in|tellectual principle similar to ours. Why, then, ascribe to them, upon such slight grounds, a quality so sublime? Why unnecessarily degrade the human species? Is it not less unreasonable to refer the cause to mechanical laws, established, like the other laws of nature, by the will of the Creator? The certainty with which animals are supposed to act, and the stability and uniformity of their determinations, sufficiently evince them to be the effects of pure mechanism. To doubt, to deliberate, to compare, are the essential cha|racters of reason. But movements and actions which are always decisive, and always certain, Page 295 indicate, at the same time, both mechanism and stupidity.
But, as the laws of nature are only general effects, and, as the facts in question are limited and particular, it would be less philosophic, and more unworthy of the ideas we ought to enter|tain of the Creator, to embarrass his will thus gratuitously with a vast number of petty statutes, of which one must be enacted for bees, another for owls, a third for field-mice, &c. Should we not, on the contrary, exert all our efforts to reduce these particular effects to more general ones? And if that be impossible, let us record them, and wait patiently till new facts and new analogies enable us to investigate their causes.
Let us, however, examine if these facts be so inexplicable and so marvellous, or even if they be properly authenticated. The foresight a|scribed to ants is now discovered to be a vulgar error. They remain in a torpid state during winter. Their provisions, therefore, are only a superfluous mass, collected without design, and without any knowledge of the future; for, on the supposition of this knowledge, they would be endowed with the faculty of foreseeing what was perfectly useless. Is it not natural for ani|mals, that have a fixed abode, to which they are accustomed to transport their provisions, to col|lect more than they can consume? Is not feel|ing alone, guided by the habit they have acqui|red of transporting their food, in order that they Page 296 may use it in tranquillity, sufficient to account for this phaenomenon? Does not this demon|strate that they are only endowed with feeling, and not with reason? For the same reason, bees collect more wax and honey then they have oc|casion for: Man profits not, therefore, by their intelligence, but by their stupidity. Intelligence would necessarily determine them to collect no more than they could consume, and to save themselves the trouble of amassing a superfluous quantity, especially after they learn from expe|rience, that this labour is lost, that the overplus is uniformly taken from them, and that this a|bundance is the sole cause of the desolation and destruction of their society. What demonstrates this superfluous labour to be the effect of feeling alone is, that we can oblige them to work as much as we please. As long as there are flowers in any country, the bee continues to extract from them honey and wax. If bees were trans|ported from one region to another, so as to af|ford them a constant succession of fresh flowers, their labours would never cease. The amassing disposition of the bee, therefore, is not an effect of foresight, but a movement produced by feel|ing; and this movement is continued as long as the objects which give rise to it exist.
I have bestowed particular attention on the oeconomy of field-mice. Their holes are ge|nerally divided into two apartments; in one of them they deposit their young, and, in the Page 297 other, every thing that is agreeable to their pa|lates. When made by themselves, their holes are not large, and can receive only a small quan|tity of provisions: But, when they find a large space under the trunk of a tree, there they take up their abode, and fill it with all the grain, nuts, &c. they can collect. Hence the quan|tity of provisions amassed, instead of being pro|portioned to the wants of the animal, depend entirely on the capacity of the place where they happen to be deposited.
Thus the provisions of the ant, of the field|mouse, and of the bee, are discovered to be on|ly useless and disproportioned masses, collected without any view to futurity, and the minute and particular laws of their pretended foresight are reduced to the general and real law of feel|ing. The sagacity and foresight ascribed to birds originate from the same cause. To account for the construction of their nests, it is unnecessary to have recourse to a particular law established by the Almighty in their favour. To this ope|ration they are led by degrees. They first find a proper place, and then bring materials to ren|der it more commodious. The nest is only a place which they can distinguish from all others, and where they can live in tranquillity. Love is the sentiment that stimulates and directs them in this operation. The male and female require the aid of each other. They feel a strong mu|tual attachment; they endeavour to conceal Page 298 themselves, and to retire from the rest of the world, which is now become more dangerous to them than ever. They, therefore, retreat to the forest, to places the most obscure and inac|cessible; and, to render their situation more comfortable, they collect straw, leaves, &c. and form them, with incessant labour, into a common habitation. Some, less dexterous or less sensual, make coarse and rude nests; others, contented with what they find already made, have no o|ther habitation than the holes they meet with, or the nests which are presented to them. All those operations are effects of organization, and de|pend upon feeling, which, however exquisite in degree, can never produce reasoning; and still less can it produce that intuitive foresight, that certain knowledge of futurity, which have been ascribed to the feathered tribes.
This doctrine may be farther proved by a few familiar examples. Birds, instead of knowing the future, are even ignorant of what is past. A hen cannot distinguish her own eggs from those of another bird. She perceives not that the young ducks whom she has hatched belong not to her. She broods over chalk eggs, from which nothing can be produced, with equal in|dustry as if they were her own. She has no knowledge, therefore, either of the past or the future, and is still more deceived with regard to the present. Why do not domestic poultry make nests as well as other birds? Is it because Page 299 the male belongs to many females? or rather, is it not because, being accustomed to be out of the reach of inconvenience and danger, they have no occasion to conceal themselves, no habit of seeking for safety in retreat and solitude? This admits of proof by facts; for wild birds of the same species perform actions which are entirely neglected when in a domestic state. The wild duck and wood-hen build nests; but none are made by these birds when domesticated. The nests of birds, therefore, the cells of bees, the collections of food laid up by the ant, the field|mouse, &c. suppose not any intelligence in those animals, nor proceed from particular laws esta|blished for each species, but depend, like every other animal operation, on number, figure, mo|tion, organization, and feeling, which are gene|ral of laws of nature, and common to all animated beings.
It is by no means astonishing that man, who is so little acquainted with himself, who so often confounds his sensations and ideas, who so sel|dom distinguishes the productions of the mind from those of the brain, should compare himself to the brute animals, and make the only diffe|rence between them consist in the greater or less perfection of their organs: It is not surprising that he should make them reason, understand, and determine in the same manner with himself; and that he should attribute to them not only those qualities which he possesses, but even those Page 300 of which he is deprived. Let man, however, examine, analyze, and contemplate himself, and he will soon discover the dignity of his being; he will perceive the existence of his soul; he will cease to degrade his nature; he will see, at one glance, the infinite distance placed by the Supreme Being between him and the brutes.
God alone knows the past, the present, and the future. Man, whose existence continues but a few moments, perceives only these mo|ments: But a living and immortal power compares these moments, distinguishes and ar|ranges them. It is by this power that man knows the present, judges of the past, and foresees the future. Deprive him of this divine light, and you deface and obscure his being; no|thing will remain but an animal equally igno|rant of the past and the future, and affectable only by present objects.