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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 40.djvu/524

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

vidual liberty which it is the special province of Government to conserve, and this, too, without any loss of individual zeal and initiative.

Let us repeat it: A governmental activity which compels, is mischievous; an activity which says: "Thou mayst; lo, here are the means," is helpful.

 

IS MAN THE ONLY REASONER?
By JAMES SULLY.

THE "whirligig of time" may he said to be bringing to the much-neglected brutes an ample revenge. The first naive view of the animal mind entertained by the savage and the child is a respectful one, and may perhaps be roughly summed up in the formula in which a little boy once set forth his estimate of equine intelligence: "All horses know some things that people don't know, and some horses know more things than a great many people." But this pristine unsophisticated view of the animal world, though its survival may be traced in mythology and religious custom, has long since been scouted by philosophers. Thinkers, from Plato downward, have, not unnaturally perhaps, regarded the faculty of rational thought, which they themselves exhibited in the highest degree, as the distinguishing prerogative of man. The Christian religion, too, with its doctrine of immortality for man and for man alone, has confirmed the tendency to put the animal mind as far below the human as possible. And so we find Descartes setting forth the hypothesis that animals are unthinking automata.

Not forever, however, was the animal world to suffer this indignity at the hands of man. Thinkers themselves prepared the way for a rapprochement between the two. More particularly the English philosophers from Locke onward, together with their French followers, pursuing their modest task of tracing back our most abstract ideas to impressions of sense, may be said by a sort of leveling-down process to have favored the idea of a mental kinship between man and brute. This work of the philosophers has been supplemented by the leveling-up work of the modern biologist. There is not the least doubt that the wide and accurate observation of animal habits by the naturalists of the last century has tended to raise very greatly our estimate of their mental powers. So that it would seem as if in the estimation of animal intelligence, scientific knowledge is coming round to the opinion of the vulgar, and as if "the conviction which forces itself upon the stupid and the ignorant, is fortified by the reasonings of the in-