Brute, a general name for all animals, except mankind. Among brutes, the monkey kind bears the nearest resemblance to the human race, both in external shape, and internal organization. Investigations relative to the structure and economy of brutes, form the subject of what is called Comparative Anatomy,
The essential characteristics of brutes, by which they may be distinguished from man, have attract-ed the attention of many philosophers. By some, a brute is de-lined to be an animal not risible, or a living creature incapable of laughter; by others a mute animal. The peripatetics allowed to brutes a sensitive power, but denied them a rational one. The Platonists considered them as possessed of reason and understanding; though, in a degree less pure and refined than that of man. Descartes maintained that brutes are mere inanimate machines, destitute not only of reason, but of all thought and perception; and that their actions are only consequences of the exquisite mechanism of their bodies. This opinion was probably adopted by Descartes with a view to obviate two objections of great magnitude; one, against the immortality of the souls of brutes, if they be allowed to have any ; the other, against the goodness of God, in suffering creatures which had never sin-nod to be subject to so many miseries. The Cartesian system is far from being conclusive, because, even admitting the arguments in its favour, to their utmost extent, it only establishes the possibility of brutes being inanimate, and that the power of God is capable of producing various actions from inanimate machines, but by no means proves that he actually has done so; besides which, it is defective, because it has no limits, as by the Cartesian method of arguing, every man might prove his neighbour to be an inanimate machine, as well as a brute.
The most rational opposers of the Cartesian system, maintain that brutes are endowed with a principle of sensation, though of an inferior nature to ours. From this subject, many disputes have originated; some persons insisting that the soul in brutes is merely sensitive, and that they are entirely destitute of reason and understanding; others, that they not only possess the power of reason, but employ it to greater advantage than men do. That brutes are endowed only with sensation, and are destitute of all power of reasoning, or reflection, cannot be maintained upon good grounds, nor can it be asserted that their actions proceed entirely from instinct. It is proved by numerous instances, that education will overcome many of the natural instincts of brutes, which could never be the case, if they were absolutely incapable of reflection. On the other hand, it is certain, that no brute has ever yet been sufficiently qualified by instructions, either to understand the use of fire, or to undertake the management of that element ; a circumstance that alone seems to imply a total. defect of rationality.
There is a very ingenious treatise on this subject, published by the late Prof. Bergmann, entitled " Researches designed to shew what the Brute Animals certainly are not, and also what they probably are." He proves that they are not machines, without, however, considering them as beings whose actions are directed to moral ends, or as accountable creatures, subject to future rewards or punishments.
That brutes are capable of reflection and sentiment, and are susceptible of the kindly as well as the irascible passions, independently of sexual attachment and natural affection, is evident, from the various instances of regard and gratitude daily observable in different animals, particularly the dog: of these and other sentiments, such as pride and glory, many surprizing and indubitable proofs are exhibited by the elephant, of which we shall give some account in its proper place.
But, besides the qualities above alluded to, certain animals seem, on many occasions, to be inspired with a kind of presentiment, with respect to events unforeseen by the rational beings whom they concern ; and various instances of this faculty may probably occur to the recollection of most of our readers.
By Divine Revelation, brutes are held out to us as objects of mercy: nothing, therefore, can be a greater reproach to human nature, than cruelty towards dumb and helpless animals. Of the different species of cruelty, none was more general hi the metropolis than that of bullock-hunting j but it is to be hoped that by the late legal enactments, together with the vigilance of the magistracy, this barbarous practice will at length be entirely suppressed.