Read CONCLUSION of The Dawn of Reason / Mental Traits in the Lower Animals, free online book, by James Weir, on ReadCentral.com.

Judging wholly from the evidence, I think that it can be safely asserted and successfully maintained that mind in the lower animals is the same in kind as that of man; that, though instinct undoubtedly controls and directs many of the psychical and physical manifestations which are to be observed in the lower animals, intelligent ratiocination also performs an important rôle in the drama of their lives.

The wielders of the instinct club bitterly deny that any of the lower animals ever show an intelligent appreciation of new surroundings, that they ever evince intelligent ratiocination. They close their eyes even to the data collected by the chiefs of their tribe, Agassiz, Kirby, Spence, et al., and go on their way shouting hosannas to omniscient, all-powerful Instinct! When one of the lower animals evinces unusual intelligence, or gives unmistakable evidences of reason, they account for it by saying that “it is only instinct highly specialized, or, at least, a so-called ‘intelligent’ accident.”

So far from being “intelligent accidents” are the ratiocinative acts of some of the lower animals (that is, lower than man), that I think that it can be demonstrated analogically that some of these acts are incited by one of the highest qualities of the mind abstraction.

I do not mean that abstraction which renders the civilized human being so immeasurably superior to all other animals, but rather that primal, fundamental abstraction from which the highly specialized function of man has been developed. The faculty of computing in animals is one evidence of the presence of this psychical trait in its crude and undeveloped state. The quality of abstraction in such ideation is not very high, it is true, yet it is abstraction, nevertheless.

Man possesses two kinds of consciousness an active, vigilant, cooerdinating consciousness (the seat of which is, probably, in the cortical portion of the brain) and the passive, pseudo-dormant, and, to a certain extent, incoherent and non-cooerdinating consciousness (the so-called sub-liminal consciousness) whose seat is in the great ganglia at the base of the brain (optic thalami and corpora striata), and in other ganglia situated in the spinal cord and elsewhere in the body. My fox terrier has a brain which, in all essential details, does not differ from that of man, and my observations teach me that his mind is the same in kind as that of man as far as memory, emotions, and reason are concerned; then why deny him the possession of abstraction in some degree? I do not mean that abstraction which enables a man to soar into realms of thought infinitely above any effort of ideation to be attained by any of the lower animals, but abstraction in its embryonic state. I am convinced, by actual experimentation, that this dog falls into “brown studies” just as man does; may he not then claim one kind of abstraction, if not another?

The elephant, unquestionably, is able to formulate abstract ideas, the quality of which is very high, indeed. Jenkins wrote to Romanes as follows:

What I particularly wish to observe is that there are good reasons for supposing that elephants possess abstract ideas; for instance, I think it is impossible to doubt that they acquire through their own experience notions of hardness and weight, and the grounds on which I am led to think this are as follows:

“A captured elephant after he has been taught his ordinary duty, say about three months after he has been taken, is taught to pick up things from the ground and give them to his mahout sitting on his shoulders. Now the first few months it is dangerous to require him to pick up anything but soft articles, such as clothes, because things are often handed up with considerable force.

“After a time, longer with some elephants than others, they appear to take in a knowledge of the nature of the things they are required to lift, and the bundle of clothes will be thrown up sharply as before, but heavy things, such as a crowbar or a piece of iron chain, will be handed up in a gentle manner; a sharp knife will be picked up by its handle and placed on the elephant’s head, so that the mahout may take it by the handle. I have purposely given elephants things to lift which they could never have seen before, and they were all handled in such a manner as to convince me that they recognized such qualities as hardness, sharpness, and weight."

Mr. Conklin, the celebrated elephant trainer, once told me that his elephants not only recognized such qualities as weight, sharpness, and hardness, but also volume or dimension.

The kinship of mind in man and the lower animals is indicated also by the phenomenon of dreaming which is to be observed in both. When the active consciousness is stilled by slumber, subconsciousness or ganglionic consciousness remains awake, and sometimes makes itself evident in dreams. I have repeatedly observed my terrier when under dream influence, and have been able to predicate the substance of his dreams from his actions. Like man, the dog is sometimes unable to differentiate between his waking and dreaming thoughts; he confounds the one with the other, and follows out in his waking state the ideas suggested by his dreams.

This, with normal man, is always a momentary delusion; with the dog, however, it may last for some little time. Thus, I have seen my dog chase imaginary rats around my room after having been aroused while in the midst of a dream. His chagrin when he “came to himself” and saw me laughing was always strikingly apparent.

The brains of the lower animals are susceptible to the action of drugs, whose effects on them are identical with the effects noticed when the human brain is under drug influence. Alcohol, chloroform, ether, opium, strychnine, arsenic, all produce characteristic symptoms when they are introduced into the circulatory system of the lower animals. Even the very lowest animalcules give this evidence as to the kinship of nerve and ganglionic or brain elements in man and the lower animals.

I have repeatedly noticed the action of alcohol on rhizopods. When small and almost inappreciable doses were exhibited, the little creatures became lively and swam merrily through the water; but, when large doses were given, they soon became stupefied and finally died. I have seen drunken jelly-fish rolling and tacking through the alcohol-impregnated water for all the world like a company of drunkards. They soon became sober, however, when they were placed in fresh water, but remained listless and inert for some time afterward.

Coleoptera, hymenoptera, diptera, in fact, all insects exhibit the characteristic effects of alcohol when under its influence. Horses, dogs, cats, monkeys all mammals are affected characteristically by alcohol, and it not infrequently happens that they willingly become drunkards.

Animals also appear to become cognizant of the fact that certain substances are medicaments, and they will voluntarily search for and take such substances when they are ill. Bees are perfectly aware of the astringent qualities of the sap of certain trees, notably the dogwood and wild cherry, and, when afflicted with the diarrhoea, can be seen biting into, and sucking, the sap from the tender twigs of such trees. Dogs, when constipated, will search for and devour the long, lanceolate blades of couch-grass (Triticum repens); horses and mules, when they have “scours,” eat clay; cattle with the “scratches” have been seen to plaster hoof and joint with mud, and then stand still until the healing coating dried out and became firm; and elephants have been known, time and again, to plug up shot holes in their bodies with moistened earth.

Again, the recognition of the rights of property cannot be attributed to instinct, neither can it fall under the head of “intelligent accidents,” yet many animals lower than man recognize, to a certain extent, the rights of property. For instance, in 1879, two very intelligent chimpanzees were on exhibition at Central Park. One of these animals claimed as her property a particular blanket, and, notwithstanding the fact that there were other blankets in the cage in which they were confined, always covered herself with this blanket. She would take it away from her companion whenever she wished to use it. Again, two turkeys on my place deposited their eggs in the same nest. The hen which first built and used the nest regarded the spot as her individual home; therefore, whenever she found the other hen’s egg in the nest, she would break it with her beak, and then carry it some distance away. This I have seen her do repeatedly.

Many dogs, cats, and other animals regard certain rugs, cushions, etc., as their own property, and resent any interference with them. It seems to me that in all such instances these animals regard themselves as individuals; that they recognize the psychical as well as the physical difference between the Ego and the Tu as soon as they begin to recognize the rights of property.

Those who hold that instinct governs all actions of the lower animals, usually claim that man is the only tool-user. This is a gross mistake elephants, when walking along the road, will break branches from the trees and use them as fly-brushes; these creatures also manufacture surgical instruments, and use them in getting rid of certain parasites; monkeys use rocks and hammers to crack nuts too hard for their teeth; these creatures also make use of missiles to hurl at their foes; chimpanzees make drums out of pieces of dry and resonant wood; the orang-utan breaks branches and fruit from the trees and hurls them at its foes; the gorilla and chimpanzee use cudgels or clubs as weapons of offence or defence; monkeys make use of sticks in order to draw objects within their reach; spiders suspend pebbles from their webs in order to preserve stability, etc.

I could prolong this list to a much greater length, but think it hardly necessary. I think that I have demonstrated that man is not the only tool-user.

Even such dyed-in-the-wool creationists as Kirby and Spence are forced to admit the presence of reason in insects.

“Such, then, are the exquisiteness, the number, and the extraordinary development of the instincts of insects. But is instinct the sole guide of their actions? Are they in every case the blind agent of irresistible impulse? These queries, I have already hinted, cannot, in my opinion, be replied to in the affirmative; and I now proceed to show that though instinct is the chief guide to insects, they are endowed also with no inconsiderable portion of reason."

Studied both objectively and subjectively, insects present indisputable evidence of reason. Not the higher abstract reason of the human being, however, but reason in its primal, fundamental state.

The difference between instinct and reason is not generally understood, and, as I believe that most readers can comprehend an illustration much quicker than an explanation, I will use the former in order to bring out this difference.

The hen which sits three weeks on a china egg is influenced by blind impulse instinct; while the turkey which discovers the eggs of her rival in her nest, and destroys them, is directed by something infinitely higher by reason. The using of a common nest never occurs among these birds in a wild state, neither is it of so frequent occurrence among domesticated turkeys as to have formed an instinctive habit.

Again, the honey-making ants which left their patrol line in order to slay the wounded centipede may have been, and probably were, influenced by instinct; another and wholly different psychical trait, however, impelled them to fill up the trench dug with my hunting knife. This accident could not have occurred, perhaps, to them in a state of nature, or if by any possibility it had ever occurred before, the chances are that such occurrences were few in number, and that they happened at long intervals of time, thus precluding the establishment of an instinctive habit. Nor do I think it possible for this action to come under the head of “specialized instinct,” for the same reason. By the very nature of things there can be no such thing as an “intelligent accident”; the term is itself a contradiction, therefore the performance of these ants must be considered an act of intelligent ratiocination.

In this discussion of mind in the lower animals I have endeavored to show that the psychical traits evinced by them indicate that their mental organisms, taken as a whole, are the same in kind as that of man.