An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding HTML version

IX. Of The Reason Of Animals
82. All our reasonings concerning matter of fact are founded on a species of Analogy,
which leads us to expect from any cause the same events, which we have observed to
result from similar causes. Where the causes are entirely similar, the analogy is perfect,
and the inference, drawn from it, is regarded as certain and conclusive: nor does any man
ever entertain a doubt, where he sees a piece of iron, that it will have weight and cohesion
of parts; as in all other instances, which have ever fallen under his observation. But where
the objects have not so exact a similarity, the analogy is less perfect, and the inference is
less conclusive; though still it has some force, in proportion to the degree of similarity
and resemblance. The anatomical observations, formed upon one animal, are, by this
species of reasoning, extended to all animals; and it is certain, that when the circulation
of the blood, for instance, is clearly proved to have place in one creature, as a frog, or
fish, it forms a strong presumption, that the same principle has place in all. These
analogical observations may be carried farther, even to this science, of which we are now
treating; and any theory, by which we explain the operations of the understanding, or the
origin and connexion of the passions in man, will acquire additional authority, if we find,
that the same theory is requisite to explain the same phenomena in all other animals. We
shall make trial of this, with regard to the hypothesis, by which we have, in the foregoing
discourse, endeavoured to account for all experimental reasonings; and it is hoped, that
this new point of view will serve to confirm all our former observations.
83. First, It seems evident, that animals as well as men learn many things from
experience, and infer, that the same events will always follow from the same causes. By
this principle they become acquainted with the more obvious properties of external
objects, and gradually, from their birth, treasure up a knowledge of the nature of fire,
water, earth, stones, heights, depths, &c., and of the effects which result from their
operation. The ignorance and inexperience of the young are here plainly distinguishable
from the cunning and sagacity of the old, who have learned, by long observation, to avoid
what hurt them, and to pursue what gave ease or pleasure. A horse, that has been
accustomed to the field, becomes acquainted with the proper height which he can leap,
and will never attempt what exceeds his force and ability. An old greyhound will trust the
more fatiguing part of the chace to the younger, and will place himself so as to meet the
hare in her doubles; nor are the conjectures, which he forms on this occasion, founded in
any thing but his observation and experience.
This is still more evident from the effects of discipline and education on animals, who, by
the proper application of rewards and punishments, may be taught any course of action,
and most contrary to their natural instincts and propensities. Is it not experience, which
renders a dog apprehensive of pain, when you menace him, or lift up the whip to beat
him? Is it not even experience, which makes him answer to his name, and infer, from
such an arbitrary sound, that you mean him rather than any of his fellows, and intend to
call him, when you pronounce it in a certain manner, and with a certain tone and accent?