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OF CERTAIN ACTIONS IN THE LOWER ANIMALS, IN SOme degree DISTINGUISHABLE FROM THE OPERATIONS OF INSTINCT.
On the effects of Human Intercourse on the lower Animals.
HAVING given a few examples of Instinct, or of a power operating above the conscious intelligence of the creature, I shall for the present digress from my immediate subject to notice certain actions of the lower animals; some of which seem to be referable to human instruction, some to a conscious intelligence or modified rationality in the creature, some to natural acuteness of the organs of sense, and some to the operation of a sense or faculty which appears to be altogether inexplicable.
It is pretty obvious that Instinct acts more immediately and determinately in the lower animals, like the appetites in man, for the preservation of the
individual and the multiplication of the species. The lower animals have also their appetites; but these are wisely placed under the government of Instinct, while the appetites of man require the controul of his higher principles.
The means which the brutes have of procuring food, of defending themselves from danger, and of providing for their offspring, are conducted with admirable skill and economy. This is an institution of nature under her own especial care. But beyond these objects we find them capable of many acts and services, which in various ways we turn to our own advantage.
We may perhaps adopt the general conclusion that Instinct governs the Brutes, and still admit the exception that some of their actions are not comprehended in this rule; as we may lay down the general position that man is a rational being, though we know that the conduct of many is often highly irrational; and, besides, many actions of the human frame are subject to the laws of instinct. But to draw the universal conclusion that man is under the exclusive dominion of Reason, and the brute under that of Instinct, would perhaps be assuming more than is consistent with sound philosophy.
It is, therefore, of importance to ascertain under what peculiar circumstances the lower animals exhibit phenomena of the doubtful character alluded to; so that some of the wisest men should say, the barrier between Instinct and Reason is too nice to be
apprehended; and, as Pope expresses it, "that these principles are for ever separate, yet for ever near."
It appears, then, as far as we can range in the field of nature to survey the instincts of animals, that the farther they are removed from the confines of human intercourse, the more perfect are their instincts. And, on the contrary, the more their natural habits are changed by the artificial modes of life common in human Society, they lay aside pure instinct, and the more do the actions, at least of the more perfect animals, approach to the rule or line of rationality. Indeed, we see something of this kind to happen in our own species; for if instinct, as it is commonly understood, have any thing to do with the perfection of the senses, we know that in the rude or natural state of human society, they go far to excel those of the brute; and even the sight and hearing and smell are so wonderfully acute, as, in many important points relating to their personal advantages, to convey clearer information to the unenlightened Indian than the philosopher could attain by all his scientific experience. Hence, it would appear, that, as mankind is compressed in society, their instincts like those of the brute, give place to the culture of Reason; while, as man takes his range in the wilds of uncultivated nature, and seeks no other guide for his direction, his senses acquire a perfection which sometimes far exceeds the laboured deductions of reason. Dr. Gregory had a view somewhat similar to this, which he has expressed in the following passage: "Some
of the advantages, says he, which the brute animals have over us are possessed in a considerable degree by those of our own species, who, being but just above them, and guided in a manner entirely by instinct, are equally strangers to the noble attainments of which their natures are capable, and to the many miseries attendant on their more enlightened brethren of mankind."
"Is it not notorious," he adds, "that all animals, except ourselves, enjoy every pleasure their natures are capable of, that they are strangers to pain and sickness, and, abstracting from external accidents, arrive at the natural period of their being? We speak of wild animals only. Those that are tame and under our direction, partake of all our miseries." "Is it a necessary consequence of our superior facul ties, that not one of 10,000 of our species dies a natural death, that we struggle through a frail and feverish being, in continual danger of sickness, of pain, of dotage, and the thousand nameless ills that experience shows to be the portion of human life?"*
Dr. Gregory intimates that this is not the designed order of nature; and that these evils are adventitious and unnatural to our constitution.
"There is a remarkable uniformity," continues Dr. Gregory," in the works of animals. But the only exception to this uniformity of character in the different species of animals seems to be among those who are most connected with mankind, particularly
See Comparative View.
dogs and horses: animals under our direction partake of all our miseries." So then, by bringing the lower animals under the direction of our reason, we abridge their enjoyments while we degrade their instincts.
Now I apprehend, this effect in the lower animals can only arise from a departure from the original institutions of nature, in consequence of their connection with the artificial usages of human society. But if brutes by this connection partake of some of our miseries, it is reasonable to think they should be compensated by partaking of some of our advantages: and if they lose their natural instincts, what compensation can we afford them except by imparting portion of our Reason?
Accordingly, this view of the case has been taken by others, and it has, I think, been satisfactorily shewn, that Brutes, in the extreme of utter estrangement from man, when they are unprotected by human power and intelligence, require the play of all their instincts to provide for their wants and to avoid or subdue their enemies. But when they are admitted to intimate familiarity with man, and receiving kindness and a sort of culture at his hands, they seem to be enlightened with a ray of human reason, and warmed with a degree of human affection. But, it is in that intermediate state, when the animal has lost the wild freedom of the forest, and is become the slave of man, without acquiring the privilege of being his friend and companion, that instinct languishes without being