The Spectator, Volumes 1, 2 and 3 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 3,418 pages of information about The Spectator, Volumes 1, 2 and 3.

But at the same time the Hen, that has all this seeming Ingenuity, (which is indeed absolutely necessary for the Propagation of the Species) considered in other respects, is without the least Glimmerings of Thought or common Sense.  She mistakes a Piece of Chalk for an Egg, and sits upon it in the same manner:  She is insensible of any Increase or Diminution in the Number of those she lays:  She does not distinguish between her own and those of another Species; and when the Birth appears of never so different a Bird, will cherish it for her own.  In all these Circumstances which do not carry an immediate Regard to the Subsistence of her self or her Species, she is a very Ideot.

There is not, in my Opinion, any thing more mysterious in Nature than this Instinct in Animals, which thus rises above Reason, and falls infinitely short of it.  It cannot be accounted for by any Properties in Matter, and at the same time works after so odd a manner, that one cannot think it the Faculty of an intellectual Being.  For my own part, I look upon it as upon the Principle of Gravitation in Bodies, which is not to be explained by any known Qualities inherent in the Bodies themselves, nor from any Laws of Mechanism, but, according to the best Notions of the greatest Philosophers, is an immediate Impression from the first Mover, and the Divine Energy acting in the Creatures.


[Footnote 1:  depose]

* * * * *

No. 121.  Thursday, July 19, 1711.  Addison.

      ‘...  Jovis omnia plena.’


As I was walking this Morning in the great Yard that belongs to my Friend’s Country House, I was wonderfully pleased to see the different Workings of Instinct in a Hen followed by a Brood of Ducks.  The Young, upon the sight of a Pond, immediately ran into it; while the Stepmother, with all imaginable Anxiety, hovered about the Borders of it, to call them out of an Element that appeared to her so dangerous and destructive.  As the different Principle which acted in these different Animals cannot be termed Reason, so when we call it Instinct, we mean something we have no Knowledge of.  To me, as I hinted in my last Paper, it seems the immediate Direction of Providence, and such an Operation of the Supreme Being, as that which determines all the Portions of Matter to their proper Centres.  A modern Philosopher, quoted by Monsieur Bayle [1] in his learned Dissertation on the Souls of Brutes, delivers the same Opinion, tho’ in a bolder Form of Words, where he says, Deus est Anima Brutorum, God himself is the Soul of Brutes.  Who can tell what to call that seeming Sagacity in Animals, which directs them to such Food as is proper for them, and makes them naturally avoid whatever is noxious or unwholesome? Tully has observed that a Lamb no sooner falls from its Mother, but immediately and of his own accord applies itself to the Teat. Dampier, in his Travels, [2] tells us, that when Seamen are thrown upon any of the unknown Coasts of America, they never venture upon the Fruit of any Tree, how tempting soever it may appear, unless they observe that it is marked with the Pecking of Birds; but fall on without any Fear or Apprehension where the Birds have been before them.

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