Note on comparison of the mental powers of man and the lower animals

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Source: Charles Darwin
Source: Charles Darwin

Comparison of the Mental Powers of Man and the Lower Animals

Darwin in the essay “comparison of the Mental Power of Man and the Lower Animals” shows our continuity with animals by presenting biological evidences. He presents many similarities between animals and humans in terms of reason, emotions, intellect etc. Specifically, in this essay, he shows that there are physical differences between human beings and other animals but they are same in their mental faculties. Both human being and animal share same emotions, feelings, sympathy, impulses, attitudes, movement of sadness etc. Darwin says that like human beings animals especially young animals show the movements of happiness. Such as puppies, kittens, lamb when playing together like human children show the movements of happiness. Even in sex play together. Darwin remarks the lower animal like man, manifestly feel pleasure and pain, happiness and miserly.

Lower animals are excited by same emotions as we human being. For example terror acts in the same manner on them as on human beings. When they are terrified their muscles tremble, hit beats faster, and hair stands up. Likewise, suspicion and sense of fear is eminent characteristics of must wild animal. Courage and timidity are the human qualities plainly seen in dogs. Similarly some dogs and horses are ill tempered and others are good tempered. These qualities are certainly inherited in human being. The love is also an eminent emotion in animals. Similarly we are affected by death or lose. In a same way the intensity of grief and lose is equally powerful in the animals. For example a dog has been known to caress his master after his death. According to Darwin maternal affection is an important common characteristic between animals and human. The high standard of our intellectual powers and moral disposition is the greatest difficulties which presents itself after we have been driven to the conclusion on the origin of man. But everyone who admits the principle of evolution must see that the mental power of the higher animals which are the same in kind with those of man though so different in degree are cable of advancement.

  • Theology regarded human beings superior to other animals. It said that god created man in his own image. So, man is taken to be the major of all things.
  • Darwin’s scientific view regards that man came into being through the evolutionary process of savage animals. He saw the fundamental differences between man and other animals. So, he said that they are same.
  • Man and other animals organically that is physiological make up are related.
  • There is no fundamental difference between man and animals that is of higher levels in their mental faculties.
  • Animal possess all of the qualities and characteristics that the human being possess like emotions, love, affection, curiosity, imitation, imagination, memory, attention and so on.
  • Animals have all the representative power and talents of human being.
  • There is strong similarity between man and the other animal since the man has also evolved from the animals.
  • So any attempt to say that animals lack mental power is foolish and faults attempt.
  • The thing is that animal posse’s mental power but they seem to be exercising less than the human beings.
  • Man distinct from lower animals and theory of imitation is clearly adopted by animals.

The moral nature of man has reached its present standard, partly through the advancement of his reasoning powers and consequently of a just public opinion, but especially from his sympathies having been rendered or tender and widely diffused through the effects of habit, example instruction and reflection. It is not improbable that after long practice virtuous tendencies may be inherited. With the more civilized races the conviction of the existence of all seeing deity has had a potent influence on the advance of the morality. Ultimately man does not accept the praise or blame of his fellow a soul guide few escape this influence but his habitual convictions control by reason offered him the safest rule. The principle of imitation is strong in human and specially with savages and also with animals. Animals imitate eachother actions. The two species of wolves, rare by dog, learned to bark like dogs. Birds imitate the songs of their parents and sometime of others birds and parrots are notorious imitators of any sound which they often hear. Darwin mentions that a correspondent secures him that a cat in his house used to put her paws into jugs of milk because of the mouth of jugs was too narrow for her head to drink it. A kitten of this cat should learn the same trick and practice it ever after wars whenever there was an opportunity.

Darwin argues that attention is more important faculty than any other for the intellectual progress of man. Animals clearly manifest their power. For example a cat watches by a hole and prepares to jump on its prey, rat. A man who trains monkey to act in play purchased these monkeys who are more attentive. A monkey who is more attentive is likely to be actor in the plays. Memory is another common faculty between human beings and animals. A dog which was averse to all strangers recognizes those strangers after a year or two days too. A dog does not bite his family members but the other stranger. A horse similarly recognizes his master and does not kick off. Animals can certainly by some means judge the time intervals and their familiar persons. The imagination is one of highest faculty of man. By this faculty he units former images and ideas independently of the will and thus create brilliant and novel ideas. Dreaming gives the best notion of this power. Like human the dogs, cats, horses probably all the higher animals even birds have vivid dreams It must be because of imagination of dream a dog howls in night and especially moon light in that remarkable and melancholic manner called baying.

Sexual selection depends on the success of certain individual over others of the same sex in relation to the propagation of the species. Whereas natural selection depend on the success of both sexes at all ages in relation to the general condition of life. In ordered to excite or charm those of the opposite sex generally the females which no longer remain passive but select the more agreeable partners.

Nevertheless the difference in mind between man and the higher animals great as it is, certainly is one of degree and not of kind. We have seen that the senses and intuitions the various emotions and faculties such as love, memory, tension, curiosity, imitation, reason etc of which man boasts mat be found in an incipient or even sometimes in a well developed conditions in lower animals. There are also capable of some inherit ate improvement, as we see in the domestic dog compare with wolf or jackal. It could be proved that certain high mental powers such as the formation general concept, self consciousness etc were absolutely peculiar to man which seems extremely doubtful, it is not improbable that these qualities are merely the incidental results of other highly advanced intellectual faculties.


Lohani, s. (2012). Western Intellectual Tradition.Kathmandu: M.K. Publishers.

  • The principle of imitation is strong in man and especially with the savages.
  • He picks up the different mental faculties which tend to exist in both animals and humans and shows the similarities between human and animal.
  • His idea in maternal affection is so important to the women of all nations and the female of all animals who have maternal affection.
  • Darwin argues that attention is more important faculty than any other for the intellectual progress of man.
  • Darwin shows that there is no fundamental difference between human beings and animals in terms of their mental faculty.



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