Superphysics Superphysics
Preface by Florentius Schuyl

To The Reader Part 2

by Rene Descartes Icon
11 minutes  • 2221 words

§. 2. Therefore, the argument collapses, by which the unwary have persuaded themselves that brute animals are endowed with cognitive souls, solely derived from the movements of their own members, if it shall have been established that those movements are caused solely by the disposition of the organs and spirits, without the assistance of cognition, will, or appetite. However, this is evident either from sudden movements anteceding judgment or, even more clearly, from the symptoms of epileptics and other convulsions of the human body. For to those who suffer them, the limbs are violently, nay more violently, moved entirely without their knowledge or even against their will, as if the will itself had not prompted those movements. Moreover, when the human body is perhaps divided into two parts by a single blow, or at least suddenly severed at the neck from the rest of the human body, various movements often appear on both sides. For from there are perceived the palpitations of the heart, the pulsations of the arteries, the commotions of the arms and legs, the contractions and extensions of the hands, and even sometimes walking, as Aristotle also acknowledges in Book III, Chapter 10 of De Partibus Animalium. Meanwhile, how a severed head repeatedly opens and closes its mouth, protrudes its tongue, turns its eyes in all directions, and moves its eyelids, clearly reveals that so many actions, so contrary to one another, were not previously determined by the soul or will; therefore, in the absence of the soul, they are exercised only by a corporeal principle, namely spirits, nerves, and muscles, and determined by the disposition of the body. For it is repugnant for the indivisible soul to inform each divided part. Therefore, only the manner in which spirits, by their nature untamed and wandering, are derived into nerves or muscles in such an orderly manner, admired by all in animals, needs to be described. An opportunity for this seems to be provided by the bird of Archytas of Tarentum, which, suspended by skillfully made balances, flew with the enclosed and hidden air current. See Gellius, Book X, Chapter 12. Also, the wooden eagle of Johannes Regiomontanus, which, taking to the air, showed the way to Emperor Nuremberg. And the same Artist’s little bee or fly. Also, the wooden head of Albertus Magnus, which, on a given occasion, uttered words; whose description Johannes Baptista à Porta attempts in his Natural Magic. Also, the iron statue, which, through various windings, came to King Morocco, and, bending its knees, presented a supplicant book to its author, and returned by the same route, as Nicolaus à Wassenauer reports in Volume V of the History, for the Year 1623. Finally, this also confirms the so much extolled wooden Venus of Daedalus, which, filled with living silver as if blood, is said to have walked. And other walking and seemingly speaking automata, mentioned by Ludovicus Coelius Rhodiginus in his Antiquities Lectures, Kircher, and others. For who doubts that the Almighty could create a Beast, as a work of such mechanical kind, which man could easily conceive and almost accomplish? Nor is it to be borne that beasts be compared to automata. Aristotle himself anticipated this. For, he asserts that the instruments of automata have the nature of nerves, bones, and vertebrae, and as these are moved by a slight impulse and moved diversely by a slight change, just as ships are moved by a moving nail, so also he establishes in Book de Motione Animalium, Chapter VII, and Book II, de Somno et Vigilia; moreover, he asserts that animal members are moved by the impetus of the innate spirit residing in the heart, just as he asserts that animal members are moved by the impetus of the innate spirit residing in the heart, just as in Book V de Juventute; and in Problematic Section XXXIII, 15, as well as in Chapter X, de Motione Animalium. With these added to Book de Spiritu. But so that the doubt itself might be entirely unraveled; If beasts were endowed with cognition, consciousness would not be denied to them: for no cognition can be conceived without consciousness, as truly taught by the Author in Vol. II, Epistle VI, §. 4. and indeed, consciousness being denied, any cognition would be in vain. Moreover, reflex cognition would also be granted to them, by which they would distinguish between one thing and another. Indeed, the knowledge of universals, by which they would pursue every kind of nourishment, even that which they had never before perceived by any senses, would be granted to them. And they would recognize this and any other enemy of their nature, even one they had never seen before, as opposed to themselves and to be avoided. Furthermore, they would recognize the end and the means, or the reason of utility, as evidenced by the construction of nests and the rearing of offspring. Finally, true reasoning would rightly belong to beasts. For they attribute to them common sense, imagination, and estimation: but they say that beasts become insensate from sensible species. So that, indeed, upon seeing, for example, traps, snares, or a gun, they flee and foresee future events. Which indeed will be either cognition or reasoning, or reasoning so much more excellent, as it is simpler, and as it would come to them more from their own nature, without labor or their own industry; and therefore it would be less subject to errors; and consequently, the splendor of the Divine Image would shine more brightly in them. To attempt to establish that the Cognitive Soul and Estimative Soul which they endeavor with great effort to apply to animals is an empty fiction of feeble-minded commentators on animals; as amply proven by Gometius de Pereira, who (according to the opinion of the very famous Gerard John Vossius, Book III, de Idololatria, Chapter 41) in his work elaborated over thirty years, was the first to publicly profess that animals lack all cognition. Therefore, according to the opinion of the opponents, the souls of animals are either of the same kind as ours or of a superior nature. But it is clear that such a close relationship does not exist between us and animals, nor are they of such dignity, as I think, if it were proven that the cognition by which animals act is not theirs but rather that of the Author of Nature Himself, whose wisdom all creatures celebrate: according to that well-known saying; The work of nature is the work of intelligence. According to this providence, heavy things are brought down, light things are brought up, and the whole clockwork of this world is so orderly rotated. By this, the tulip, though devoid of all proper cognition, unfolds its leaves to the morning sun, which, so that no harm may come to its seeds from the nightly cold, gathers them in the evening and closes them. But to firmly establish our proposition: Industry is far more apparent in animals than in children or lunatics, however skilled in speaking, as experience itself testifies, and as is evident from Aristotle, Pliny, Solinus, Aelianus, Aldrovandus, Gesner, Johnston, and countless others, although many things are said by them, of which the trustworthiness lies with the Authors. And yet none of the most cunning beasts ever learned even to count to three, or to speak with voice and meaning, or to respond to questions, even though they have been raised among humans for many years for this purpose, and have been sufficiently instructed in the organs of speaking or signifying. Just as parrots, called anthropophagi for this reason, magpies, ravens, and other animals testify. Hence Aristotle accurately establishes in Hist. Animal. Book IV, c. 9. and de Gen. Anim. Book V, c. 7. That speech is a characteristic attribute of man. However, what some object, that a dog does not wag its tail, seeking its own utility, or truly displaying its gratitude, that it could not be done without reasoning, but it is moved only by movements, which, concatenated with the particles of the brain and nerves, and the determined outflows of the spirits, accompany its emotions. And it depends so much on the corporeal disposition of organs that, as our author teaches in this whole book, as in Volume I, Epistles p. 362, and elsewhere: By a similar reason, it is permitted to interpret the natural sounds of beasts, by which good or bad constitution of the body and affection, such as pleasure, desire, pain, anger, hope, and similar affections, are designated by roaring, bellowing, bleating, or other voice (as you may see in Aristotle Book IV, de Hist. Anim. c. 9. and Ovid in the nightingale). As Porphyry follows this argument extensively in Book III. De non edenda carne. And Fabricius ab Aquâ Pendente in his remarkable book on the speech of beasts. Therefore, the voices of beasts do not argue any more for a cognizant soul than the noise of a wheel being turned around its axle argues its thirst, or the ringing of a bell its wound, or the fluttering of leather thrown into the fire its pain. For indeed, so great a consonance of the voices and behaviors of animals, wherever and by whomever they were raised; on the contrary, so great a variety of the languages and manners of speaking among nations, so that a foreigner is almost not a substitute for another man, is not from any other source than because speech and articulation are a voluntary and absolutely free function, as Fabricius ab Aquâ Pendente himself speaks. For nothing is more indifferent than interpreting the mind bythe motion of the body and expressing one’s own intentions to another. For the same reason, deaf and dumb children express their thoughts so confusedly, and it is so difficult for a philosopher to determine whether they actually have a rational soul or not, as, among others, Descartes demonstrates in his search for truth, where he discusses whether or not the soul could be united to an organic body deprived of all external sensation, as in Art. VII. In the case of God, it is enough for us to know the likeness of our soul, by which we are truly said to be created to the image of God, from which likeness our souls shine more brightly through the perfection of the understanding and the splendor of the affections. So that if there were a proper cognition in the brutes, our soul would be the less the image of the Divine soul, and the argument of Genesis would become useless, where animals were subjected to the dominion of man. The reason for the existence of a proper cognition in beasts is said to be that they are able to predict future events and avoid dangers and difficulties; which indeed are apparent in many animals. Thus, among birds, the crow is the most cautious, as Aristotle says, Book IX, de Animalibus, in warning others of danger and, as Pliny says, in warning the Roman army of the attacks of the Boeotians and of the ambushes of the Carthaginians. And it is even said that the Stymphalian birds were so wise that they emulated the echoes of the mountains and forests, and even recognized the sound of Orpheus’ lyre. And various other animals testify to this in their own ways. Indeed, it is a question whether animals have the capacity to predict future events, which also seems absurd. It is also uncertain whether they can foretell the condition of the air and predict the future, as soothsayers themselves claim to do, who by the flight of birds, the intestines of animals, and similar auguries, gather the will of the gods. But since they see and perceive the future in their sleep, as is common to all of them, this is nothing more than a vain hallucination and the distortion of their inner senses. Just as Aristotle correctly explains in Book II of De Somno et Vigilia. And as the same philosopher writes in Metaphysica, Book V, cap. 9, cognition pertains to the first causes and the end of the conclusion. But insofar as the brutes have no cognition of the end, it is clear that they have no cognition of the middle things, without which there can be no cognition of the conclusion. From which it is evident that they cannot even begin to reason or to have proper reasoning. Thus, a parrot can never be a philosopher. Neither is the fact that beasts neither hope nor fear to be despised. Indeed, as they do not anticipate the future, neither do they hope. And as they do not ponder the future, neither do they fear. This is clear from Book II of Physics and Book I of De somno et vigilia. Therefore, let it be established by us that cognition does not reside in animals, and consequently, neither does memory, since one is caused by the other, as has been sufficiently explained in the following pages. For if there were no cognition, there could not be any sensation, nor imagination, nor estimation, nor memory, nor a connecting medium of understanding, as is demonstrated in De somno et vigilia, Book II, and in de Juventute, Book V. Nor does Aristotle himself say otherwise, Book III, de Histor. Animal., Chapter 9.

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