FROM the time of Locke downwards the question How far animals have the power of abstraction? has often been discussed. Locke himself maintained that “the having of general ideas is that which puts a perfect distinction betwixt man and brutes, and is an excellency which the faculties of brutes do by no means attain to.” And this view is warmly advocated by Prof. Max Müller and other living thinkers. On the other hand Mr. Romanes, who has made the subject of Animal Intelligence a special study, writes:—“Give a cat or a dog some kind of meat or cake which the animal has never met with, and the careful examination which the morsel undergoes before it is consigned to the mouth proves that the animal has properly abstract ideas of sweet, bitter, hot, nauseous, or in general, good for eating, and bad for eating, i.e., abstract ideas of quality as apart from the object examined—the motive of the examination clearly being to ascertain which general idea of quality is appropriate to the particular object examined.”—NATURE, vol. xx., p. 123.
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Journal of the History of Biology (2017)
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences (2016)