Imágenes de página

“ nute and particular laws of their pretended foresight

are reduced to the general and real law of feeling." All that this objection amounts to is, that Nature has not impelled these animals to collect a certain quantity avoirdupois ; that they are taught to collect, and that the impulse only operates within gross limits, but still with sufficient precision for the preservation of the animal. So the instinct of a bird to sit upon eggs exists, though it is given very grossly, for it will sit upon a chalk-stone like an egg. The instinct is to foster, with the heat of its body, that which it produces. In the absence of the bird, you put in that which resembles its production; the bird has no other mode of judging, but by the eye, — the eye is deceived. This only proves that the instinct is gross, not that it does not exist. But while I am talking about the instincts of ducks and rabbits, a certain instinct, very valuable in a professor, admonishes me that I am tiring my audience, and that it is time to put an end to my lecture. The enemies of moral philosophy may, perhaps, say this feeling is experience, and not instinct; however, be it what it may, I shall obey it, and conclude the subject at our next meeting



BEFORE I proceed upon the body of this lecture, I wish to state, by anticipation, the doctrines it will contain ; and this I shall do very shortly, reserving the proof for its proper place. Animals are not mere machines, like clocks and watches. It is a very dangerous doctrine to assert, that so much apparent choice and deliberation can exist in mere matter. If they are not merely material, (like machines of human invention,) they must be a composition of mind and matter.

There are observable in the minds of brutes, faint traces and rudiments of the human faculties. This position has been maintained by Reid, Locke, Hartley, Stewart, and all the best writers on these subjects. If man were a solitary animal, like a lion or a bear, he would not be so superior to all animals as he is. If he had the hoof of oxen instead of hands, he would not be so superior: neither would he, if he had less perfect organs of speech; nor if his life were confined to a very few years, instead of being extended to seventy. But all these things will not do by any means alone, as the degraders of human nature have said; for there are some animals, which very nearly possess all these advantages, and yet are perfectly contemptible, when compared even to the lowest of men. But the great source of man's superiority is, the immense and immeasurable disproportion

of those faculties, of which Nature has given the mere rudiments to brutes; that this disproportion has made man a speculative animal, even where his mere existence is not concerned ; that it has made him a progressive animal; that it has made him a religious animal; and that upon that mere superiority, and on the very principle that the chain of mind and spirit terminates here with man, the best and the most irrefragable arguments for the immortality of the soul are founded, which natural religion can afford: that, independent of revelation, it would be impossible not to perceive that man is the object of the creation, and that he, and he alone, is reserved for another and a better state of existence. These are my principles, in which if any man here present differ from me, I trust at least he will have the kindness and the politeness to hear me.

There is another circumstance, very decisive of the nature of instinct, and which goes strongly to show it is something very different from reason. I mean the uniformity of actions in animals. The bees now build exactly as they built in the time of Homer; the bear is as ignorant of good manners as he was two thousand years past; and the baboon is still as unable to read and write, as persons of honour and quality were in the time of Queen Elizabeth. Of the improvements made by the insect tribe, we cannot speak with much certainty; and the advocates for the perfectibility of animals, tell us, it is possible that ants' nests may be laid out with much greater regularity than they used to be, and that experience may have taught them many methods of draining off water, and preventing the growth of ears of barley. It certainly may, but we have no sort of proof that it does; and the analogy of all large animals, whose economy we are perfectly acquainted with, and can easily observe, is against the supposition. Neither is it from any lack of inconveniences, nor any extraordinary contentedness with their

the savage.

situation, that any species of animals remains in such a state of sameness. The wolf often kills twenty times as much as he wants; and if he could hit upon any means of preserving his superfluous plunder, he would not perish of hunger as often as he does. To lay traps for the hunters, and to eat them as they were caught, would be far preferable to all those animals who are the cause, and the contents, of traps themselves, Animals, like men, are goaded by wants and sufferings; but, contrary to the nature of men, they do not overcome, but endure them. The flesh of the savage was originally as strong a temptation to the bear, as the flesh of the bear was to

The wants of the one impelled him to invention; the other retained his original stupidity, in spite of his wants. There are some few and inconsiderable instances of tribes of animals making some slight change in their habits, to adapt themselves to any new situation in which they may be placed; but these changes are very little ameliorative of their condition, and by no means go to destroy the supposition of their being directed in

many instances by a mere instinct. This sameness of habits in animals, does not demonstrate that they are not guided by reason, but it renders it in the highest degree improbable that they should be. It is not quite impossible, that animals resolving to build a nest, should for two thousand years build precisely in the same manner, and that this structure should be equally resorted to, by those who have, and who have not, seen the model of the nest ;- it is not impossible, but it is so contrary to all former experience, that it certainly gives us no relief from the pain of being forced to believe in instinct. But the Chinese are stationary, and so are the Hindoos; they are now exactly what they were twenty centuries ago. Certainly they are: but, then, they are so from religious prejudice, transmitted from parent to child ; and if it can be proved, (which it cannot,) that bees and ants only gain their habits from older bees and

[ocr errors]

if a

[ocr errors]

ants, I adınit the whole question of instinct is very
materially changed: but the fact is the reverse; and if
the fact were the reverse also with the Chinese,
young Chinese, brought out of his own country very
young, were, without ever having seen another Chinese,
to begin at the age of five or six to eat rice with two
sticks, to clothe himself in blue and nankeen, and adore
the great idol Foo, we must call this sameness the same-
ness of instinct; but as he does these foolish things
because he lives with other Chinese, it is the sameness
proceeding from imitation, and strengthened, as we
happen to know it to be, by religious association. I
have thus far attempted to prove that brutes are guided
by some principle, which is not the principle of reason.
There is another philosophy that degrades them merely
to the state of machines. The great Descartes looked
upon a brute as a mere machine, that could no more
help acting as it does act, and was no more conscious of
how it acts, than the Androides, or the chess-playing
machine. All that the arguments brought forward by
Descartes, go to prove, are, that such a case is possible;
— that they may be so many machines, not that they
are so,

that it involves no contradiction to call them machines; which every one who understands anything of reasoning, would willingly grant: but, observe, when we have no means of subjecting any question to the direct evidence of the senses, or to mathematical demonstration, we must resort to analogy ; without which, one conjecture is quite as probable as another. We get from the observation of ourselves, the notion both of voluntary and involuntary motion. We are conscious that when we choose to put one leg before another we can do so. If we tumble out of bed, we are conscious we fall to the ground without the smallest intention of so doing, but that we are overruled by a power we cannot resist. Now, having gained the knowledge of these two principles, from what passes within ourselves,

« AnteriorContinuar »