Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

or phenomenon, than is required to depict an abstract idea in gesture ;” and adds, with much truth: “This only shows that where higher faculties are present, they are able to display themselves in gesture as well as in speech.” With this we entirely agree. Where intellect exists it can manifest itself either by speech or gesture and where it does not exist, mere consentience may associate (as in apes, dogs, and learned pigs) definite articulate sounds, as well as definite gestures, with particular motions.

Mr. Romanes affirms that “the higher animals unquestionably do understand the meaning of words." This is ambiguous. If we employ the word “understand” in a loose and popular sense, every one would admit the truth of what he says, but not if we use it in its human sense. Therein, as we have shown,* the ideas of "existence” and “truth” are latent, and if animals understood words in that human sense of the term “understand,” they would certainly be able to converse, at least in gesture. Such anecdotes as those of terrier dogs holding food on their muzzle till the words “Paid for” are uttered, or collie dogs being roused by hearing “Cow in the potatoes,” are easy enough to understand on the very principle which we have just quoted Mr. Romanes as admitting.f As we are told, "numberless other anecdotes of the same kind might be quoted,” but their value is far from being in proportion to their number. The mere titles of such books as Watson's “Reasoning Power in Animals,” and

[ocr errors]

Mennier's “Les Animaux Perfectibles," afford us reason to regard their contents with grave suspicion. Mr. Chambers, Professor Bain, and the late Mr. G. H. Lewes agree as to this tendency to exaggeration, declaring it to be “nearly as impossible to acquire a knowledge of animals from anecdotes, as it would be to obtain a knowledge of human nature from the narratives of parental fondness and friendly partiality,” and affirming that the researches of various eminent writers on animal intelligence have been “biassed” by a secret desire to establish the identity of animal and human nature !

This "secret desire” goes further still, as Mr. Darwin himself has shown by naïvely declaring : * “It always pleases me to exalt plants in the organic scale !”

Mr. Romanes thinks it difficult to overrate the significance of this power which animals have of associating actions with sounds. “The more,” he tells us, t “my opponents maintain the fundamental nature of the connection between speech and thought, the greater becomes the importance of the consideration that the higher animals are able in so surprising a degree to participate with ourselves in the understanding of words. From the analogy of the growing child we well know that the understanding of words precedes the utterance of them, and therefore that the condition to the attainment of conceptual ideation is given in this higher product of receptual ideation. Surely, then, the fact that not a few among the lower animals (especially elephants, dogs, and monkeys) demonstrably share

* See“ Life and Letters," vol. iii. p. 333. † p. 126.

with the human infant this higher excellence of receptual capacity, is a fact of the largest significance. For it proves at least that these animals share with an infant those qualities of mind, which in the latter are immediately destined to serve as the vehicle for elevating ideation from the receptual to the conceptual sphere : the faculty of understanding words in so considerable a degree brings us to the very borders of the faculty of using words with an intelligent appreciation of their meaning.”

But Mr. Romanes's opponents who agree with us, by no means maintain the "fundamental nature of the connection between speech and thought,” in Mr. Romanes's sense, which is, the dependence of thought on speech. They maintain, indeed, the “ fundamental” necessity of the presence of “thought” in whoever uses either words or gestures to express ideas, but they deny the existence of any fundamental connection between thought and articulate utterance. Not only, indeed, do they deny this, but they affirm that there is a fundamental severance between thought and many articulate utterances ; such as those of parrots, jackdaws, and abnormal human beings, such as talking idiots. They also deny, on the grounds previously stated, * the presence of “thought” in that associative, consentient apprehension of words which we meet with in dogs and

* Because the facts can be well explained by the mere existence of associations between feelings and emotions, and because were brutes thoughtful as to such words, their thoughtfulness would be displayed in other, less equivocal, modes, such as no one (save such persons as the anonymous narrator of the beforecited tale of the cockatoo) pretends they do display it in.

various other animals. To say, therefore, that brutes "participate with ourselves in the understanding of words” is a false—because ambiguous, and therefore misleading—assertion. We might as truly say that a cat walking over the keys of a piano "participates" with the skilled pianist in “a power of eliciting musical sounds by instrumental agency”! To assert that “participation” which Mr. Romanes asserts, is, once more, to beg the very question his work is professedly devoted to prove.

We deny the existence of any real analogy between brutes and the growing child, beyond that which necessarily follows from their common "animality," the existence of which we, of course, affirm as strongly as Mr. Romanes does, and the consequences of which we pointed out in our introductory chapter. Words are understood by a child before it speaks, because it already possesses intellect, and the use of significant oral expressions normally and naturally follows. But brutes which are physically able to articulate, do not utter words which they may have associated with antecedent sensuous affections as significant expressions, just because they have no veritable understanding power before, during, or after, hearing the words in question.

Therefore we altogether deny the consequence which (as we have just seen) Mr. Romanes draws-namely, that “the condition to the attainment of conceptual ideation is given in this highest product of receptual ideation." A psychical power of sensuous, consentient apprehension is, of course, in us, a necessary antecedent condition for the attainment of conceptual ideation ; just as is a power of sensation, a sufficient integrity of nervous

structure, a sufficient supply of healthy, nutritious blood, and life itself. But neither in life, nor healthy blood, nor an unimpaired nervous system, nor sensitivity, and consentient apprehension, is "given” the “condition to the attainment of conceptual ideation,” unless an intellectual nature is already present. Elephants, dogs, and monkeys do not “demonstrably share with the human infant” its powers of apprehension. For it is impossible to “demonstrate” that the infant has not already that intellectual nature, the presence of which soon becomes undeniable. Neither can any one “demonstrate” that the infant's merely receptual powers are not modified by the latent presence of a truly intellectual nature. Mr. Romanes tells us that the power of “understanding words” to the extent that dogs, elephants, and apes understand them, “brings us to the very borders of the faculty of using words with an intelligent appreciation of their meaning.” But this is quite a mistake. Words, apart from their intellectual employment, are merely bodily movements of parts accessory to respiration, accompanied by sound. There is, then, no à priori reason why a dog, were it physically capable of articulation,* should not use words to denote its “ feelings," instead of wagging or stiffening its tail as the case may be. Did it so articulate, the careless observer would be very apt to interpret its words as declarations of facts, instead of being (as on the hypothesis they would be) nothing but signs of feelings. Mr. Romanes himself says, “If these animals were able to articulate,

* And it is by no means absolutely certain it is not so capable. ť pp. 127, 128.

« НазадПродовжити »