Domestic Encyclopædia (1802)/Antipathy

ANTIPATHY, in physiology, is used to express the natural aversion which an animated or sensitive being feels at the real or ideal presence of any particular object. Such are the reciprocal hostilities subsisting between the toad and the weasel; between sheep and wolves; the aversion of particular persons against cats, mice, spiders, &c.

This prepossession is sometimes so violent as to induce fainting, even upon beholding their natural enemies. Most animals likewise evince a remarkable antipathy to the sight of the blood of their own species.

To explore this subject, without prejudice, it will be necessary to exclude those antipathies which are not authenticated, such as those between the weasel and toad, which can be extinguished or resumed at pleasure; or those, the causes of which are evident;—we shall then be inclined to admit but a very inconsiderable number.

The aversion which prevails between the sheep and the wolf, cannot certainly be called an antipathy, as its origin is obvious: the latter devours the former, and every animal naturally shuns pain, or destruction. From similar causes proceeds that dread which many persons feel of serpents and reptiles. During the period of infancy, pains are taken to impress the mind with the frightful idea that these animals are of a venomous nature, and that their bite is mortal. Such apprehensions are aggravated by the relation of dismal tales, which often make a lasting impression. When others, at their approach, have exhibited symptoms of terror, we have been persuaded to avoid them; and hence it is not surprizing that we should entertain an aversion from such objects. Our emotions at the sight of what we fear, being excited while we are unprepared, will be in proportion to the sensibility of our frame, and the irritability of our nerves.

A person, who formerly had no dislike to particular objects, by associating with those who are subject to such idle fears, often acquires an unfavourable bias against things which, prior to those contagious examples, he beheld with perfect indifference. Thus, many evince an aversion to eels, which, however, arises chiefly from their resemblance to serpents.

There are other antipathies, which do not originate from the source of the imagination, but from some natural loathing, such as is often perceptible in children, for particular kinds of victuals, which, though not distasteful, yet, from a weakness of the digestive organs, are disgorged as soon as swallowed.

Antipathies, in general, owe their origin to objects which are conceived to be dangerous; to a terror of imaginary disasters; to a squeamish delicacy; and to a rooted dislike of things supposed to be detrimental. Those of children are to be conquered by teaching them the means of defence and security, or the methods of avoiding the influence of noxious agents; and, when age has strengthened the judgment, by demonstrating to them the nature and properties of those natural bodies, or phenomena, which they fear, they will thus gradually overcome their early prejudices and antipathies.—See Sympathy.