Youth's Magazine,  3rd ser. 5 (1832), 43–48.

Useful Knowledge. Letter II  [2/7]



Letter, Serial


Human Species, Reason, Instinct, Invention, Steamships, Machinery, Progress, Menageries, Cruelty, Anthropocentrism, Feeling

    The writer has promised a letter on the 'difference between reason in man, and the instinctive sagacity of brutes', which he finds more difficult than first anticipated (43). Considers some of 'those excellencies which place the mental pre-eminence of man in perfect contrast with the wisdom of the lower animals'. Argues that the lower animals 'have not the faculty of invention', whereas the human species has 'been called, by a shrewd philosopher, "a tool-making animal"'. Cites steamships and machinery as evidence of this. Contrasts the 'sameness of animal sagacity' with the 'progressive ingenuity of the human mind'. (44) Animals have undergone no change in their behaviour in 'almost five thousand years'. Suggests that the 'acquisition of knowledge seems to degrade the brutes; while it forms the glory of our nature'. (45) Contrasts the misery of performing animals in menageries with the honour accorded to educated humans. Argues that animals are destitute of 'systematic strength or the management of power', whereas man can 'render the most powerful and fierce of animals subservient to his purposes' (46). Suggests that animals have 'no real sympathy [...] agreeing in nature to human affection' (47). Draws from the Bible the uniqueness of the human species in the divine dispensation, and concludes with a mediation on the particular onus this places on humans to seek salvation.

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