Academy,  2 (1870–71), 198–99.

[Review of The Intelligence and Perfectibility of Animals, by Charles G Leroy]

Alfred W Bennett



Publications reviewed:

Leroy 1870


Naturalists, Animal Behaviour, Instinct, History of Science, Evolution, Heterodoxy, Religion, Natural History, Materialism, Darwinism, Heredity, Human Species

People mentioned:

Georges L Leclerc, comte de Buffon

    Commends the publication of some little-known letters 'written in the second half of last century' (198), and suggests that 'in publishing an English edition of the work the translator has brought a useful contribution to the history of the development of scientific thought'. Based on his observations of the behaviour of animals at 'Versailles and Marly' (199), Charles G Leroy, who wrote 'partly under the pseudonym of "The Naturalist of Nuremberg"', proposed that the 'faculty which is ordinarily called instinct is in reality a form of intelligence or reasoning', and is thus capable of 'improvement and of perfectibility within certain limits' (198). However, to really 'appreciate the boldness and originality' of Leroy's views, 'it is necessary to throw oneself back into the state of the development of thought in his day' (198–99), for 'Just as now the evolutionist is told that the theory of a continuously acting creative power is opposed to the teaching of Scripture, so a century ago orthodoxy required of scientific men the belief that man was the only being possessed of even the least degree of mental power'. Rejecting the doctrines of 'the French materialists', Leroy instead 'anticipated views respecting the relationship between the mental faculties of man and those of the lower animals which have not been fully developed until our own day'. Indeed, his views were in advance of 'the prevalent idea among naturalists with regard to instinct [...] within the last thirty years', and bear an interesting relation to those of 'Mr. Darwin', who 'When he published his theory that instinct is nothing but the experience of former generations inherited and constantly improved' found that 'the idea was a novel one to the greater part of the educated public' even though Leroy had made similar arguments 'Nearly a century ago'. (199)

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