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Conventional, and therefore acquired, intellectual language, may express either sentiments * or thoughts, and such thoughts may be signified with or without explicit statement—as we may or may not add the words, "and therefore equal,” to a statement that two angles are angles at the base of an isosceles triangle.

As to animals, Mr. Romanes affirms † that we may take "as beyond the reach of question the important fact that they do present, in an unmistakable manner, a germ of the sign-making faculty.” He tells us also that "the fact is so important in relation to” his subject, that he will“ pause to consider the modes and degrees in which the faculty is exhibited by animals."

Here the expression “germ of the sign-making faculty” is ambiguous. That animals possess not only "a germ” of emotional language, but have it fully matured and developed, is certain ; but that they have the minutest germ of an intellectual sign-making faculty is a thing we most strenuously deny. A sign, as before said, I is a token depicting ideas it is thereby intended to communicate ; and we have already pointed out in what sense alone actions can truly be called “signs." Let us now consider the actions of animals which Mr. Romanes brings forward, and see how far they indicate any use of "signs.”

A wasp, finding a store of honey, "returns to the nest and brings off in a short time a hundred other wasps." What is there wonderful in this? It is surely well within the compass of instinct. There is no need to suppose an intellectual communication by gesture, but merely an instinctive stimulation inducing an instinctive response.

* As to the distinction between animal emotions and our higher sentiments, see “On Truth,” pp. 186, 221. † p. 88.

I See above, p. 7. § See above, p. 65.

In some of the tales given by Mr. Romanes, the language used plainly shows how the narrator is saturated with prejudice. It is impossible to place confidence in the narration of one to whom dispassionate consideration has evidently been impossible. We are told of a queen bee, which, when laying eggs, in company with workers, in the cells of the comb, missed four of the cells, and was thereupon pushed back by the workers till she had traversed the cells again more than once in vain. Thereupon the comment is made: “Thus the workers knew how to advise the queen that something was yet to be done; but they knew not how to show her where it had to be done.” In another instance we read that a hive having been divided into two chambers by means of a partition, great excitement was caused in the half where the queen was not; but when Huber used a trellis-work partition, through the openings of which the bees could pass their antennæ, then there was no disturbance, because the bees in the half of the hive where the queen was “were able to inform the others that the queen was safe.” Now, we do not deny that the excited feelings of the bees could be thus appeased, but there is no proof of it. The less complete separation made by the trellis-work partition might have sufficed for this; but the hasty inference to the contrary, and the expressions used, show plainly the animus of the narrator.


The tales told of ants are most remarkable for the mode in which they are told. Certain mining ants do not lose time by carrying the earth they excavate to the surface, * “but pass the pellets to those above; and the ants on the surface, when they receive the pellets, carry them—with an appearance of forethought which quite staggered Mr. Bates—only just far enough to insure that they shall not roll back again into the shaft, and, after depositing them, immediately hurry back for more.” Why Mr. Bates should have been “staggered” by so very simple a phenomenon, we are quite at a loss to conceive.

With respect to certain other ants, Mr. Belt is quoted as saying, † “I noticed a sort of assembly of about a dozen individuals that appeared in consultation. Suddenly one ant left the conclave, and ran with great speed up the perpendicular face of the cutting without stopping.” Shortly, “information was communicated to the ants below, and a dense column rushed up in search of prey.” What possible right could Mr. Belt have to call a dozen ants in proximity “a sort of assembly” or “a conclave,” or to declare that they " appeared in consultation”? If persons who describe such things would simply content themselves with describing that they actually see, great would be the gain. Even Mr. Bates speaks of “news of a disturbance" being "quickly communicated,” as if he was stating an observed fact instead of drawing an uncertain inference. Again, we have a statement as follows concerning ants induced by terror to change * p. 92.

† The italics are ours.

an habitual route: One day some ants had been crushed on a mantel-shelf ; “the effect of this was immediate and unexpected. As soon as those ants which were approaching arrived near to where their fellows lay dead or suffering, they turned and fled with all possible haste. In half an hour the wall above the mantel-shelf was cleared of ants. During the space of an hour or two the colony from below continued to ascend until reaching the lower bevelled edge of the shelf, at which point the more timid individuals, although unable to see the vase,* somehow became aware of the trouble, and turned without further investigation ; while the more daring advanced hesitatingly just to the upper edge of the shelf, when, extending their antennæ and stretching their necks, they seemed to peep cautiously over the edge until they beheld their suffering companions, when they too turned and followed the others.” This conduct is so unlike that of ants with which we are familiar, that we cannot help suspecting some (of course, quite unintentional) inaccuracy in the anecdote; the animus with which it is related being again betrayed by the words we have italicized.

We will give yet another quotation f as to these ants : "A curious and invariable feature of their behaviour was that when an ant, returning in fright, met another approaching, the two would always communicate; but each would pursue its own way, the second ant continuing its journey to the spot where the first ant had turned about, and then following that example."

* A vase of flowers which the ants sought.
† From p. 94.

This was certainly not a rational proceeding, while it quite resembles instinctive action.

Sir John Lubbock's experiments with glasses and tapes * are interesting, but only go to prove the presence of those faculties of sense-perception which no one denies to insects or other animals.

That birds utter different tones, † according as their feelings are stimulated by different circumstances, is what no one thinks of denying. The same is true of apes, dogs, and cats; and if barking or mewing in a peculiar way, with the pulling of a maid's apron towards a door which denies an exit, could prove the presence of intellect in such animals, then no one could be so insane as to deny it. These matters, however, are quite beside the question. Such actions, instead of being considered as true signs, may be accounted for as mere means unconsciously employed for a practical end. I

Whether an animal can "point,” might seem to be so simple a question that no mistake could be made about it. Nevertheless, so great is the confusion introduced into this simple matter, that it becomes necessary to distinguish different significations of that term.

When we say a dog "points," we do not mean that it points as a man would. It halts in a peculiar way, and onlookers know the reason why. But it does not necessarily follow that the dog has any feeling of relation between its actions and those of the sportsman

† p. 96. I See above, p. 124: When we say "unconsciously employed,” we, of course, do not intend to imply the absence of "consentience."

* Loc. cit.

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