Can Change the World Again.
A SYSTEM OF MENTAL PHILOSOPHY. 1882.
REV. ASA MAHAN, D. D. LL.D.
THE INTELLIGENCE OF MAN AS DISTINGUISHED
FROM THAT OF THE BRUTE.
It has been very common with philosophers to represent all created existences, from the highest intelligences in heaven to the crude forms of matter, as successive links in one great chain, each link in the chain, commencing with the lowest, differing mainly in degree from that which immediately succeeds it. The highest forms of brute, and the lowest of rational intelligence, for example, differ, it is asserted, not in kind, but only in degree. Of late, the reality of orders of existences, as successive links of a great chain, has come to be seriously doubted. The intelligence of man and of the brute, it is said, differs not in degree, but in kind. If we conceive of the highest forms of brute intelligence increased to any degree whatever, as far as degree is concerned, still it makes no approach at all to real rationality. The different orders of brute instincts do constitute, it is thought, different links of one chain. Those of rational intelligence constitute another and totally different chain, a chain none of the links of which are connected, in any form, with any of those of the other. This last is the opinion entertained by the author of this treatise. I will now I proceed to state the grounds of this opinion.
PRINCIPLE ON WHICH THE ARGUMENT IS BASED.
In conducting our inquiries on this subject, the first thing to be settled is, the principle on which our conclusions shall be based. On all hands it is agreed, that there are points of resemblance between the manifestations of intelligence in the brute and among mankind. At the same time, there are points of dissimilarity equally manifest and important. Now let A represent the mental phenomena which appear in man, and never appear in the brute. If we can find the power or powers in man from which the phenomena represented by A result, we have then determined fully the faculties which man possesses and the brute wants. The faculties thus asserted of man, are to be wholly denied of the brute, and all the manifestations of brute intelligence are to be accounted for by a reference to what remains, after the former have been subtracted. All must admit, that this is the true and the only true principle to be applied in the case. It now remains to apply the principle to the solution of the question before us.
POINTS OF RESEMBLANCE BETWEEN THE MAN AND THE BRUTE.
That brutes, such as are supposed in the present argument, possess the faculty of external perception, such as sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch; that such perceptions are followed by feelings of a given character, and that these feelings are followed by external actions which are correlated to the perceptions referred to, and that all these manifestations are common to man and the brute both, will be denied by none who have, however carelessly, observed the facts which have presented themselves to his notice. Such are the phenomena common to man and the brute.
HYPOTHESES ON WHICH THESE COMMON FACTS MAY BE EXPLAINED.
There are two distinct and opposite hypotheses on which these common facts may be explained. When man has an external perception, reason at once suggests certain fundamental ideas in the light of which he explains to himself the phenomena perceived, and passes certain judgments upon them. Action with him has special reference not to the phenomena, but to the judgments thus passed. All these things we know from consciousness, to be true, in reference to man.
As far as the facts under consideration are concerned, it may be that the same is true of the brute. All the phenomena of brute action, however, are equally explicable, on an entirely different hypothesis. When a brute has a perception of some object, without the presence of any fundamental ideas in the light of which he can explain to himself what he sees, and consequently form notions and judgments of the object perceived, and act in view of judgments thus formed, it may be, that such perceptions are followed by certain feelings, and that from these, as necessary consequents, external acts, such as the brute puts forth, arise. All that would be intellectual with the brute, on this hypothesis, would be the simple power to perceive the thing, without the capacity to recognize either himself as the subject, or the thing perceived, as the object, of the perception, so as to form any conceptions or judgments pertaining either to the subject or object. The feelings which attend such perceptions, together with such as arise from the internal organism of the brute, such as hunger and thirst, are followed necessarily by external actions in harmony with the sphere for which the creature was designed. The action of the brute would be in fixed harmony with the law,a law, however, which has no subjective existence in the intelligence of the creature, but which exists as an idea in that of the Creator. Action, in such a case, would be purely mechanical the propelling force being the feelings generated as above supposed, while the law of action would be an idea which the subject of the action never apprehended, but in conformity to which the organism of the brute is formed.
A case stated in the public prints, a case, whether true or false, at least conceivable, and therefore proper to be used in illustration, will fully illustrate the hypotheses under consideration. A lady, some time before the birth of a child, was struck at by a rattlesnake, and barely escaped with her life. As a consequence of the fright of the mother, the child, when born, had upon parts of its body the marks of the serpent. His eyes had the fiery and vengeful appearance peculiar to the reptile. One arm, also, lay coiled upon its side in a manner perfectly serpentine. As the child grew up, and came into the presence of certain objects, despite of all efforts of his will to the contrary, his eyes would roll in their sockets, with the fiery vengeful appearance peculiar to the serpent when attacked by an enemy. At the same time, the arm referred to would strike at the object perceived, in exact conformity to the motions of the reptile in similar circumstances. In connection with the physical organization of this individual, two classes of actions, each equally conformed to ideas, appeared; the one class, however, the consequents of volition in harmony with conceptions and judgments, and the other caused by feelings generated by external perceptions. Now, in conformity with the fact last named, we can explain all the phenomena of brute action, however intelligent in appearance. All such phenomena may be the exclusive result of the peculiar feelings and organism of the animal, in the total absence of the intelligence peculiar to man. The question is, Are there any facts peculiar to brute and human action, verifying this hypothesis? This question I will now endeavor to answer, in the light of the principle I have laid down as the basis of our conclusions on this subject.
POINTS OF DISSIMILARITY BETWEEN MAN AND THE BRUTE.
In order to test the validity of the hypothesis under consideration, we will now attend to the fundamental phenomena which distinguish man from the brute. Among these, I will specify only the following:
1. Man, from the laws of his intelligence, is a scientific being. The main direction of the human intelligence is not merely towards phenomena, but towards the scientific explanation of phenomena. This is one of the great wants of human nature, the scientific explanation of phenomena. All mankind agree in the assumption, that in the brute there is a total absence of this principle. Brute intelligence pertains exclusively to mere phenomena. The creature never seeks an explanation of what he sees. He acts from feelings generated by perceptions, without ever seeking an explanation of what he sees or feels.
2. Man, as a race, is progressive. The brute is perfectly stationary. For six thousand years, each race has been spectators of precisely the same phenomena. The commencement of observation with man, was the commencement of intellectual progress, which has been onward from generation to generation. With all his observations, the brute has never advanced a single step. He is now just where he was six thousand years ago. The beaver builds his dam, lives and dies, just as did the first that ever appeared on earth. The same is true of the action of every brute race.
3. Man is the subject of moral obligation, and consequently of moral government. In other words, man is a moral agent. All this is universally denied of the brute. He is never, except when man acts towards him, as all acknowledge, irrationally, regarded or treated as the subject of moral obligation or of moral government. I might cite other points of dissimilarity, equally manifest, and equally fundamental. But these are sufficient for the present argument.
It now remains to apply the facts above stated to the solution of the question under consideration. When we have determined the faculties necessarily supposed, as the condition of science, progress, and moral agency in man, we have determined the faculties which we are totally to deny of the brute. For it should he borne in mind, that the facts above named do not exist in one degree in man, and in a smaller degree in the brute. The difference is not that of degree, but of total dissimilarity. What various individuals of our race, in the respects under consideration, possess in different degrees, the brute totally wants. The faculties, therefore, which are to be affirmed of men as the condition and ground of these facts, are to be totally denied of the brute.
1. I ask, then, in the first place, What faculties constitute man a scientific being, those in the absence of which he cannot possess science, and in the possession of which he is of course scientific? Sense, the faculty of external perception, man, as we have seen, has in common with the brute. But this a creature may possess in any degree, and make no approach whatever to science. Other faculties in addition are supposed as the condition and ground of such developments. What, then, are these faculties? I answer, they are, of the primary faculties, reason, and self-consciousness; and of the secondary, understanding and judgment. In the absence of reason, fundamental ideas, in the light of which phenomena may be explained, are totally wanting, and consequently science becomes impossible. Without reason also self-consciousness would, properly speaking, be impossible, or if possible, absolutely useless, and therefore not supposable, as originating from perfect intelligence. Without reason too, conceptions, notions, and judgments would be absolutely impossible. Notions cannot be formed without ideas of reason, such as substance, cause, time, space, etc. Judgments, also, and consequently classification and generalization, cannot take place without the idea of resemblance and difference. In other words, without reason, the exercise of the understanding and judgment is impossible; the existence of these faculties is therefore not to be supposed. If, then, as we are logically bound to do, we take from the brute, reason, self-consciousness, understanding, and judgment, what remains to him? Just what we have attributed to him; to wit, the power of external perception, together with corresponding feelings, and susceptibilities, and an external organism, the action of which is in necessary conformity to the feelings thus generated.
It should be borne in mind, that science in man does not depend upon the degree in which the faculties above named are possessed by him. The degree of the scientific movement will be, other things being equal, as the degree in which these powers are possessed. When they exist in any degree, there will be real science. The total absence of science in the brute, indicates most clearly a total absence of the scientific faculties,faculties which are so connected with each other, that if one be conceived of as wanting, the others also must be.
The question, I repeat, is not whether the action of the brute is not in harmony with fundamental ideas; but whether these ideas have a subjective existence in his intelligence. The bee, for example, builds its cell in conformity to pure ideas of reason. But does it not thus build, not because it knows such ideas, but because of the peculiarity of its perceptions, sensations, and physical structure, all of which render its thus building mechanically necessary? The facts before us show clearly that it does.
2. In the next place, we will raise the inquiry, What faculties in man render him a progressive being? They are evidently the same as those which render him scientific, with the addition of the imagination. It is because that where phenomena appear, mankind are able, in the light of ideas of reason, to explain to themselves these facts, and thus find the fundamental principle involved in them, that, as a race, we are progressive. For this reason also mankind gain important knowledge from accidental experience, a fact which never appears in the brute. A man and a brute are swimming together across a river. They become exhausted, and when about to sink, meet with something like a plank floating by. They both get on to it and are saved. The brute passes on without becoming a whit wiser from his experience. The occurrence constitutes an era in the history of the human race. Man reflects upon the occurrence, and hence arises all the wonders of shipbuilding and navigation. All these had their origin in accidental occurrences like that above supposed. In the knowledge obtained from occurrences similar in their nature, the art of printing, and all the results of steam-power, etc., originated. Man and the brute also hear melodious sounds. Each alike copies what he hears. On the part of man, these sounds are re-combined into strains still more melodious. Hence the science of music. The brute copies what he hears, but never, in a solitary instance, re-combines, in the least, what he hears. The mocking-bird presents a striking illustration of the truth of this statement. It will copy almost every melodious sound it ever hears. Yet it was never known to produce a single new combination of sounds. Such facts most indubitably indicate in the brute the total absence of all the faculties which lay the foundation for progress in man, the faculties of reason, self-consciousness, understanding, judgment, and the imagination. With these in any degree, creatures are in a corresponding degree progressive. Without them, whatever else they may possess, they are perfectly stationary. Nothing is more unphilosophical and illogical, than the conclusion often drawn, in the presence of progress on the one hand, and its total absence on the other, that brute instinct and human intelligence differ only in degree. How demonstrably evident is the conclusion, that they differ not in degree, but in kind.
3. In respect to the inquiry, What faculties in man exist as the condition and ground of moral agency in him? the answer is ready. They are the faculties above named, together with that of free will. The absence of those first named, in the case of the brute, has already been established. Shall we still attribute to him that of free will? The following considerations perfectly satisfy my own mind on this point.
(1.) The action of free will, in the absence of conceptions and judgments, is impossible. Till I have conceptions of A and B, and judge that one differs from the other, or at least, that one is not the other, I cannot choose between them. There may be selection, but not choice; nor can there be selection such as implies the action of the free will.
(2.) None of the phenomena of brute action necessarily suppose the presence of free will in the subject. All such phenomena are just as explicable on the opposite hypothesis as on this. Now a power is never to be supposed, when its presence is not affirmed by positive facts, or necessarily supposed by the known sphere of the subject. No such considerations demand the assumption of free will in the brute. Such an assumption therefore is wholly illogical.
(3.) All the phenomena of brute action clearly indicate the absence of the power under consideration. Place the brute in any circumstances whatever, and there let particular sensations be generated in him, and his action will be just as fixed and uniform, as that of any mechanical process whatever. As often as the experiment is repeated, it will invariably be attended with the same results. With such facts before us, how illogical the assumption of free will in the brute.
(4.) Such a power as that under consideration would be a totally useless appendage to the brute, contemplating him in reference to the sphere for which he is designed. When the intellectual faculties above named are denied him, what a useless appendage to the brute, and how worse than useless to man, in respect to the use to be made of the animal, would such an appendage as free will be. The creation of such a power, under such circumstances, would be a wide departure from all the manifestations of wisdom visible in all the divine works beside.
(5.) Finally, the power under consideration constitutes one of the most essential elements of the divine image in which man was created. Why should we suppose an element so fundamental in that image to exist in a creature, in whom all the other elements are totally wanting, and that without any solid basis for that conclusion?
Thus, by the most logical deductions, we have determined the powers of the brute, as distinguished from those of man. Taking from the former, what fundamental phenomena require us to do; to wit, the powers of reason, self-consciousness, understanding, judgment, imagination, and free will, we leave him with the powers of external perception, with a sensibility, and physical organization, of such a nature, that under the varied circumstances of his being, his action is in necessary harmony with the ends for which the all-wise Creator designed him. All the phenomena of brute action can be accounted for on this hypothesis, and its truth is also affirmed by fundamental phenomena. In this lower creation man stands alone. There is nothing like him "in the heavens above, nor in the earth beneath, nor in the waters under the earth." There he stands, "the image and glory of God." Fallen though he is,
1. We are now prepared to explains the ground of the misjudgment so common in respect to the action of the brute. Men judge of brute action in the light of their owns consciousness, pertaining to similar actions in themselves. When men and brutes are placed in similar circumstances, and the external actions of both are similar, men often conclude that the brute acts in view of the same conceptions and judgments, in view of which they are conscious of acting themselves. Now such conclusions are wholly unauthorized. The external manifestations of instinctive and rational intelligence may be, in many important respects, similar, yet there may be a total dissimilarity in the nature of these different kinds of intelligence.
2. We are also prepared to state the conclusion which the facts connected with brute intelligence force upon us. It is one of these two: Either the intelligence of the brute is incomparably more perfect than that of man, or, aside from the power of external perception, he has no intelligence at all, such as man possesses. The first manifestations of intelligence in man, how imperfect and feeble! How rude and ill-shaped, for example, the first habitations built by man! How slow the progress of human architecture from such rude beginnings to its present perfection! On the other hand, the first production of the brute bears the stamp of perfection. The first dam built by the beaver, the first nest built by the bird, have never been surpassed. The first cell built by the bee can hardly be improved, even in thought. Now suppose that such actions of the brute are, as is the case with man, the result of the carrying out of an idea, a plan, previously developed in his intelligence, what must we conclude? Why, that the first race of brutes that ever appeared on earth, had a degree of intelligence which man, after six thousand years of laborious progress, has hardly reached. This or the opposite one forces itself upon us.
3. Another consideration to which I would direct attention is this the facts on which the conclusions of individuals have been based, in respect to the existence of the higher powers of intelligence in the brute, as contrasted with others in the same connection, which have been totally overlooked. A distinguished naturalist, for example, states that the wild ass, when he begins to flee from a man, will first turn one ear, and then the other, backwards towards the object of his terror. From this fact, he concludes that the animal is deliberating what course he shall take; and, as a consequence, attributes to it the possession of the powers of deliberation and free will. A grave conclusion, surely, to infer from the leering of an ass, the existence of such powers. How often the actions of the elephant have been proclaimed, as proof of the existence of the high powers of intelligence in that animal! Now let us contemplate another class of facts in connection with the same animal. Those who have visited menageries are familiar with the dancing of the animal at the "sound of the lyre," actions as indicative of superior intelligence as any he ever puts forth. How was the creature taught such an act? Did he take lessons, as men do, and thus acquire it? It was by a process very different from this. When the keepers wish to have the animal acquire the art under consideration, they place him upon a floor covered with plates of iron. These plates are gradually heated till the creature, beginning to feel pain in his feet from the heat, lifts first one foot and then the other. As soon as such motions begin, the music commences, which is made to become more and more lively as the animal steps with greater and greater rapidity. When this process has been continued for a sufficient length of time, the music ceases, and the animal is instantly taken from his painful condition. These experiments being repeated a few times, such an association is established been the sound of the lyre, and the sensibility of the animal that as soon as he hears the music he begins to dance, and continues the pace till the music ceases. Thus we have the elephant dancing in his wisdom, as many suppose. Now had the animal the real intelligence possessed by any individual of our race, who is in any degree removed above absolute idiocy, such an imposition could not be practiced on him for a single hour.
The actions of the creature, in this case, in conformity to intelligence, are not, as all perceive, a manifestation of intelligence in him, but in the keeper. So whatever intelligence the animal manifests in any instance, is not an indication of intelligence in him, but in the Creator. The same is true of all other animals.
4. The form in which memory exists in brutes, may now be readily pointed out. Memory, in man, is the recalling of the fact that we were, in particular circumstances, the subjects of such and such thoughts, feelings, etc. In the brute no such recollections can occur. When the brute has been affected in a given manner, in given circumstances, the same sensations are reproduced in him when he comes into similar circumstances again, and hence the same actions are repeated.
5. Finally, we notice the error of some who attempt to count for the diversities of intellectual manifestations between men and brutes, on the ground of diversities of phrenological development. To suppose that the soul of a dog, if placed in connection with the brain of a Newton, would manifest the intelligence of that great Philosopher is as illogical as to suppose that gold and water will exhibit the same phenomena, when subject to the same influences. The manifestations of substances diverse in their nature will, under the same circumstances, be as diverse as their nature. The brute, in any circumstances is still a brute, and not a man, nor angel. Diversities of Phrenological development may account for the diverse intellectual manifestations among men; but not for those between man and the brute. The brute must become another being, before he can manifest the intelligence of man.