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GENERAL VIEW

CHAPTER I.

OF DIFFERENT WRITERS

OPINIONS ON THE SUBJECT: THE ARRANGEMENT PROPOSED. INSTINCT CONTRASTED WITH REASON.

SECT. I.

General view of different Writers opinions on the Subject: the Arrangement proposed.

In surveying the diversified classes of phenomena, which are presented to the view in the wide field of Natural History, none appear more interesting than the acts of the Brute creation. It is natural therefore

to compare these acts, which have generally been supposed to result from a peculiar principle, named Instinct, with the operations of Human Reason.

It is scarcely necessary to remark, that very confused notions exist upon this subject, not only in the works of the learned, but in the minds of the multitude; some referring the actions of the Brute exclusively to Instinct, and the actions of Man exclusively to Reason; some considering the boundaries of these principles perfectly distinct, yet too nice to be ascertained; and others, of no mean authority, asserting, that there is no difference between them,-one set

of writers classing Reason among the Institicts, and another set maintaining that every act of the lower animals is an act of Reason, such, in kind, as it is exhibited in Man. Now, we may observe, that obscurity, in a greater or less degree, has been cast over every subject, when men have stepped beyond the proper business of philosophy in explaining causes or hidden operations, and establishing specific distinctions often depending on words, instead of classifying or arranging facts. Without pretending that I shall be able to throw any new light upon so intricate a subject, in which, it is obvious, there is a great deal that is never likely to be understood; I shall endeavour to distinguish and classify the phenomena in question, according to the most impartial view I may be qualified to take, and the best means of information within my reach.

The arrangement, therefore, which I propose to myself in the elucidation of the subject, will comprise the following considerations: viz. 1st. How far Reason appears to differ from Instinct. 2ndly. How far the actions of some Brutes may be entitled to the appellation of Reasoning. And 3rdly, how far the perfect Instinct of the lower animals bears an analogy to that most exalted principle in Man, by which we are taught to believe, that his nature is capable of being dignified. I shall, therefore, bring forward some facts and illustrations from Natural History, in order to show, that there is a power which operates in the physical economy of brute animals

with consummate wisdom; not only adapting the structure to their peculiar habits, and to the climate, element, and situation in which they are designed to live; but directing them with wonderful precision in the choice of food, and in the care and preservation of their offspring, by many complicated labours. I shall endeavour to point out the difference in effect, between this power and the variable and inconstant operations of human Reason; and shall consider the evidence we have of Reasoning in the lower animals, and of Instinct in Man.

In looking downwards from man, and surveying what may be called his physical relation to the inferior works of creation, I shall notice the analogy that appears to subsist between the operations of instinct, and the laws of brute and organized matter, exhibited in gravitation and in the unconscious motions of vegetable and animal life. We shall thus have grounds for considering, how far man seems to answer the end and design of his existence, as a rational being, compared with the inferior orders of animated nature, which are accounted irrational or governed by instinct.

But in looking upwards from man, and surveying his higher and moral, or, as they may be termed, his spiritual relations, we shall consider, if Reason is so inadequate to procure the present happiness of man, and preserve order and harmony in the world, what means and power it possesses to procure an intimate knowledge of the Creator, and the final reward of

eternal happiness. If it should indeed be found to be insufficient, it might be fair to inquire what principle it is, by whose operation and influence man is brought to a nearer acquaintance with his Maker, instructed in his duties, and enabled to perform them.

For most of the facts I am to produce, relative to the instinct of animals, I shall be indebted to several writers on Natural History and Physiology.

Des Cartes, with some other philosophers, imagined that all the actions of the lower animals might be explained by the simple laws of mechanism. Hence he considers them as machines wholly devoid of life and sentiment, like a clock or orrery, but so curiously constructed by the Creator, that the mere impressions of light, sound, and other external agents on their organs of sense, produced a series of motions in them, and caused them to execute those various operations which had before been ascribed to an internal principle of life.

Buffon partly adopts the opinion of Des Cartes, but admits the brute animals to have life, and the faculty of distinguishing between pleasure and pain, together with a strong inclination to the one, and aversion to the other. By these inclinations and aversions he undertakes to account for all, even the most striking operations of animals.

Other philosophers, as Helvetius and Darwin, have endeavoured to show that most of the actions of brutes were performed by a process of reasoning analogous to that in man. *

* Rees Cyclop. Art. Instinct.

In a new system of Natural History of Animals, published at Edinburgh in 1791, it is laid down that "the laws of analogical reasoning do not justify the opinion, that the brutes act, on any occasion, absolutely without design." And, on the other hand, it has been maintained by Smellie, in his Philosophy of Natural History; "that between reason and instinct there is no difference, and that the reasoning faculty is itself the necessary result of instinct."

Some have considered that a material structure, or simple arrangement of organs, endowed with the principle of life, or living organic structures possessing vital properties, give rise to all the phenomena of which we see the brutes to be capable; and that it is not necessary to have recourse to a principle which they affirm to be mysterious and inexplicable like that of Instinct and others, as I before stated, in attempting to raise the dignity of human nature far above the brute, without giving themselves any trouble to analyse their respective actions, have thought to establish the grand distinction, by assigning exclusively to man the faculty of Reason, and exclusively to the brute, the blind or unerring principle of Instinct.

We may perhaps find that all these philosophers have pushed their conclusions too far, by attempting to generalise too much; and while we are almost compelled to smile at some of their notions, we cannot but believe that some of them erred in seeking to mark distinctions between the structure and nature of the

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