Mind in animals - PDF book by Ludwig Büchner

Mind in animals

Ludwig Büchner
Mind in animals -by Ludwig Büchner

The question of mind in animals and of their intellectual capacities as compared with those of men is as old as man's thought; it can scarcely be accepted as a brilliant testimony to human philosophy and its progress, that the different points of view from which this question has been judged stand out against each other to-day with almost the same distinctness as was the case some thousand years ago, although lately the influence of the Darwinian theory, and the more accurate knowledge of the remarkable facts of heredity, have thrown a heavyweight into the scale of the opinion hitherto rejected by the majority. 

This opinion has been urged or denied less from scientific than from egoistical motives; it was feared lest man and his place in nature should be lowered and degraded if animals were allowed the possession of intellectual powers like or allied to those of man. Just as if " our superiority over the animals " (as Lord Brougham says in his '' Discourse on Instinct") "was not great enough to banish and make ridiculous every feeling of jealousy in this respect, even if we regard the difference between ourselves and them as a question of degree and not of kind." 

There was indeed in their exceedingly slight knowledge of animals and of their habits an excuse for the philosophers of antiquity, which cannot be admitted for the philosophers of today. Nevertheless, Anaxagoras, with philosophic insight, calls a man the wisest of animals; Socrates calls him a beautiful, and Plato a civilised animal. Their disciple, Aristotle who far surpassed his predecessors in scientific knowledge approached more nearly to the solution of the question, for he had caught a glimpse of the gradations of organised beings. He sees in the minds of animals traces of the properties of human minds and human reflection and maintains that the mind of the child scarcely differs in aught from the mind of the animal ("Natural History,"" Book 8). 

He regards the elephant as the most intelligent of animals. The Roman Pliny, although too credulous, does the same in relating wonderful anecdotes about animals. Also, the Roman poet, Virgil (70 B.C.), speaks very lovingly in his poems about the breeding of animals, and in describing the wonderful doings of bees declares that a portion of the divine spirit dwells in these creatures. Plutarch (B.C. 50) in his treatise on reason in animals makes himself merry over the opinion taught in the schools of the cynics and stoics and still defended today that animals, in reality, possess neither emotion nor thought, and that the identity of their actions with those of men is only apparent. " 

As for those," he says, " who judge so clumsily and are so barefaced as to maintain that animals feel neither joy, nor anger, nor fear, that the swallow has no forethought, and the bee no memory, but that it is a mere appearance when the swallow shows forethought, or the lion anger, or the hind timidity I do not know how they would answer those who should say that they must then also admit that animals do not see, nor hear, nor have voices, but that they only apparently see, hear, and have voices; that in fact they do not really live at all, but only appear to have life. For the one contention would not be more antagonistic to manifest fact than is the other." Plutarch seems also to embrace the opinion, about which there is now so much controversy, that the difference between animals of the same race is not nearly so great as that between man and man. 

The great Roman physician, Claudius Galen, of Pregame, whose system of medicine ruled the world for more than a thousand years, gives it plainly to be understood in his writings that he ascribes reflection and power of determination to animals and that they only differ from men as to degree. He also, like Anaxagoras, calls a man the wisest of animals.

The first writer of the Christian era who troubled himself about animals, and combatted their more and more strongly emphasised inferiority to man, was Celsus, who lived in the second century after Christ, and who followed the materialistic philosophy of the Epicureans as adapted by the Platonists. He fought with wit and acuteness against Christianity, and also against the Judeo-Christian theory that everything was created for the sake of man, and that he was the final cause of the universe. He maintained, as regards animals, that their bodies differed in no important respect from those of men, and that in intellectual qualities they were in many things higher rather than lower than men, since they had a kind of intelligible government, and observed justice and love. His proofs in support of this argument he draws from the life of bees and ants and with what justice the reader of this book will find abundant evidence.


Ants and ant life.--The termites or white ants.--The bee nation.--The wasps.--The spiders.--The beetles

the book details :
  • Author: Ludwig Büchner - Friedrich Karl Christian Ludwig Büchner was a German philosopher, physiologist and physician 
  • Translator: Annie Wood Besant
  • Publication date 1880
  • Company:  London: Freethought pub. co.

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