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This webpage reproduces an article in the
Classical Review
Vol. 12 (1898), pp93‑96

John Eyton Bickersteth Mayor died in 1910:
the text is therefore in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though, please let me know!

p93 King James I on the Reasoning Faculty in Dogs.

In March 1614‑5, King James, accompanied by Charles Prince of Wales, visited Cambridge University. In the philosophy act Dr. Matthew Wren, afterwards Bishop of Ely, was Respondent, and John Preston of Queens', after Master of Emanuel, first Opponent (W. G. Searle, History of Queens' College, I 2, Cambr. 1871, pp429‑431). The story is told in John Ball's Life of Preston, one of the most interesting biographies of the seventeenth century, printed again and again in the Lives of thirty-two English Divines, by Samuel Clarke, 3rd. ed., Lond. 1677 fol. 79‑81. Strange to say the late Mr. E. W. Harcourt, M. P., of Nuneham Park, had never heard of the early editions, when in 1885, he issued (Parker, Oxford and London, 8vo), as 'now first published and edited,' The life of the Renowned Doctor Preston, writ by his Pupil, Master Thomas Ball, D.D., Minister of Northampton, in the year 1628 (pp19‑27), from a MS. at Nuneham:

A rumour came into the University that the King would shortly come to visit them. King James was happier in his education then his Mother would have had him. It pleased God to breede a Buchanan on purpose for to guide his younger years; and, by that tyme he was ripe, Scotland was growne acquainted with Geneva, and the King no stranger unto Mr. Calvin's way. The newes awakened all the University, and there were few but promised to themselves some good from this faire gale; that seeing Promotion came neither from the East, nor West, nor from the South, Psal. 76.6, it must and would come from the North; and the proverb be inverted, and be, Omne bonum ab Aquilone.

Doctor Harsnet, master of Pembrooke Hall, was then Vice-Chancellor, a prudent well-advised governour, who, knowing well the critical and able apprehension of the King, was very carefull and sollicitous to pitch upon the ablest in every faculty for actors in that solemne enterteynment, and himself made choyce of Mr. Preston to answer the Philosophy Act, and sent unto him to provide himself. He was ambitious enough by nature, and had this newes come a little sooner, nothing had bin most suitable to his inclynation and designe, but now the gentleman was planet-struck, growne dull and Phlegmatique. Mr. Cotton's sermon had so invaded him, that Kings and Courts were no such great things to him, especially when he understood that another was resolved on for Answerer.

Dr. Wren was then a very pregnant scholar in Pembrooke Hall, and also chaplain to Bishop Andrews, and thought fit to be imployed in this Commencement service, yet was not willing to have any other place but Answerer. The Vice-Chancellor urged his promise and engagement to Mr. Preston, and his opinion of his great ability; but nothing would serve, the Vice-Chancellor's College and the Bishop's Chaplain must have precedency; which he most seriously excused to Mr. Preston, and endeavoured to reconcile him to the first Opponent's place, which he declined, as being too obnoxious to the Answerer, who is indeed the lord and ruler of the Act; but there was no removing now, and so he goes about it with much unwillingness, being rather driven than drawne unto it.

His great and first care was to bring his argument to a head, without affronte or interruptions from the Answerer; and so made all his major propositions plausible and firme, that his adversary might neither be willing nor able to enter there, and the minor still backt by other syllogismes; and so the argument went on unto issue; which fell out well for Mr. Preston; for, in disputations of consequence, the Answerers are many times so fearfull of the event, that they slur and trouble the Opponents all they can, and deny things evident; which had bin the case in all former Acts. There was such wrangling about their Syllogismes, that sullyed and clouded the debates extreamely, and put the King's acumen into streights. But when Mr. Preston still cleared his way, and nothing was denied but what was ready to be proved, the King was greatly satisfied and gave good heed, which he might well doe, because the question was tempered and fitted to his content; namely, Whether dogs could make syllogismes.

The Opponent urged that they could; an p94Enthymeme (said he) is a lawfull and real Syllogisme, but dogs can make them. He instanced in a hound, who hath the major proposition in his mind, namely, The hare is gone either this way or that way; smells out the minor with his nose, namely, She is not gone that way; and follows the conclusion, Ergo this way, with open mouth.

The instance suited with the auditory, and was applauded, and put the Answerer to his distinctions, that dogs might have sagacity, but not sapience, in things especially of prey, and that did1 concerne their belly; might be nasutuli, but not logici; had much in their mouths, little in their myndes, unless it had relation to their mouths; that their lips were larger than their understandings; which the Opponent still endeavoured to evade with another syllogisme, and put the dogs upon a fresh scent. The Moderator, Dr. Reade,2 began to be afraid and to think how troublesome a pack of hounds, well followed and applauded, at last might prove; and so came in unto the Answerer's ayd, and told the Opponent that his dogs, he beleeved, were very weary, and desired him to take them off [and start some other argument].3 And when the Opponent would not yield, but hallooed still and put them on, he interposed his authority and silenced him.

The King, in his conceit, was all this while upon New-Market Heath and liked the sport, and therefore stands up and tells the Moderator plainly, he was not satisfied in all that had bin answered, but did beleeve a hound had more in him than was imagined. I had myself (said he) a dog that, stragling far from all his fellows, had light upon a very fresh scent, but considering he was all alone, and had none to second and assist him in it, observes the place and goes away to his fellows, and by such yelling arguments as they best understand, prevayled, with a party of them to goe along with him, and, bringing them to the place, pursued it to an open view. Now the King desired for to know how this could be contrived and carried on without [the use and]4 exercise of understanding, or what the Moderator could have done in that case better, and desired him that either he would thinke better of his dogs or not so highly of himselfe.

The Opponent also desired leave to pursue the King's game, which he had started, to an issue. But the Answerer protested that His Majesties dogs were always to be excepted, who hunted not by common law, but by prerogative. And5 the Moderator, fearing the King might let loose another of his houndes, and make more worke, applyes himself with all submissive devotion to the King; acknowledged his dogs were able to outdoe him, besought His Majesty to believe they6 had the better; that he would consider how his illustrious influence had already ripened and concocted all their arguments and understandings; that, whereas in the morning the reverend and grave divines could not make syllogismes, the lawyers could not, nor the physicians, now every dog could, especially His Majesties.

All men acknowledged it was a good bit to stop with. It was growne late, and so the Congregation was removed unto the Regent House, and the King went off well pleased with the business. The other acts were easily forgotten, but the discourse and logicke of the dogs was fresh in mouth and memory, and the philosophy Act applauded universally. The King applauded all the actors, but above all, the Opponent. It was easy to discern that the King's hound had opened the way for Mr. Preston at the Court, if he were willing; yet many of the great ones put him in mynde, and promised all assistance and encouragement. Sir Fulke Grevill, afterwards Lord Brooke, was greatly taken with him, and, after many demonstrations of his reall love, setled at least a stypend upon him of fifty pounds per annum, and was his friend until his last hour.

Both the King and the disputants had probably met with the question in various authors. Thus Montaigne (II 12, p257 of Florio's version 1613, fol.):

Chrysippus, albeit in other things as disdainful a judge of the condition of beasts, as any other philosopher, considering the earnest movings of the dog, who, comming into a path, that led three severall wayes, in search or quest of his master, whom he had lost, or in pursuite of some prey, that hath escaped him, goeth senting first one way, and then another, and having assured himself of two, because he findeth not the tracke of what he hunteth‑for, without more adoe, furiously takes himselfe to the third; he is enforced to confesse, that such a dogge must necessarily discourse with himselfe. I have followed my master's footing hitherto, hee must of necessity passe by one of these three wayes; it is neither this nor that, then consequently hee is gone this other. And by this conclusion or discourse assuring himselfe, comming to the third path, hee useth his sense no more, nor soundes‑it any longer, but by the power of reason suffers himselfe violently to be caried through‑it. This meere logicall tricke, and this use of divided and conjoined propositions, and of the sufficient numbring of parts: Is it not as good, that the dog know it by himselfe, as by Trapezuntius his logicke?

Philo de animal. 45 46 (VIII 122, ed. Lips. 1830, = p147 Aucher; from the Armenian:)

Canis cum persequebatur feram, perveniens ad fossam profundam, iuxta quam duae erant semitae, una ad dexteram, altera in sinistram; paullulum se sistens, quo ire oporteret, meditabatur. currens autem ad dexteram et nullum inveniens vestigium, reversus per alteram ibat. quando vero neque in ista aperte appareret aliquod signum, transiliens fossam, curiose indagat, praeter odoratum cursum accelerans; satis declarans non obiter haec facere, sed potius vera inquisitione consilii.

Consilium autem talis cogitationis dialectici appellant demonstrativum evidens quinti modi. quoniam vel ad dexteram fera fugit vel ad sinistram aut demum transiliit: et quidem haec et similes formae verborum explicantur ab hominibus; verum intellegitur non obscure et apud ceteros sine mendacitate.

p95 Ibid. 84 (VIII 138, = p166 Aucher):

Proscribenda etiam eorum opinio, qui canem venaticum bestias persequentem autumarunt quinto argumenti modo uti.

Plut. de Sollertia animalium 13 §§ 4 5 (II 969):

Οἱ δὲ διαλεκτικοὶ φασί, τὸν κύνα τῷ διὰ πλειόνων διεζευγμένῳ χρώμενον ἐν ταῖς πολυσχιδέσιν ἀτραποῖς, συλλογίζεσθαι πρὸς ἑαυτὸν 'ἤτοι τήνδε τὸ θηρίον ὥρμηκεν, ἢ τήνδε, [ἢ τήνδε]· ἀλλὰ μὴν οὔτε τήνδε, οὔτε τήνδε· τήνδε λοιπὸν ἄρα·' τῆς μὲν αἰσθήσεως οὐδὲν ἢ τὴν πρόσληψιν διδούσης, τοῦ δὲ λόγου τὰ λήμματα καὶ τὸ συμπέρασμα τοῖς λήμμασιν ἐπιφέροντος. οὐ μὴν δεῖταί γε τοιαύτης μαρτυρίας ὁ κύων· ψευδὴς γάρ ἐστι καὶ κίβδηλος· ἡ γὰρ αἰσθησις αὐτὴ τοῖς ἴχνεσι καὶ τοῖς πνεύμασι τοῦ θηρίου τὴν φυγὴν ἐπιδείκνυσι, χαίρειν λέγουσα διεζευγμένοις ἀξίωμασι καὶ συμπεπλεγμένοις.

Ael. n. a. VI.59:

τὸ δὲ ἐνθυμηματικὸν καὶ διαλεκτικὸν καὶ τὸ τοῦδε μᾶλλον ἢ τοῦδε αἱρετικὸν εἰ καὶ τὰ ζῷα οἶδεν, εἰκότως ἂν εἴπομεν διδάσκαλον τῶν ὅλων τὴν φύσιν ἄμαχον. ἐμοὶ γοῦν τις γευσάμενος διαλεκτικῆς καὶ κυνηγεσίων ἁμωσγέπως ἐχόμενος τοιαῦτα ἔλεγεν. ἦν θηρατικὴ κύων, ἦ δ᾽ ὅς. οὐκοῦν λαγὼ κατ᾽ ἴχνια ᾔει. καὶ ὁ μὲν οὐχ ἑωρᾶτό πω, μεταθέουσα δὲ ἡ κύων ἐντυγχάνει που τάφρῳ, καὶ διαπορεῖ ἆρά γε ἐπὶ δεξιὰ ἄμεινον ἢ ἐπὶ θάτερα διώκειν· ὡς ἀποχρώντως ἐδόκει σταθμήσασθαι, εἶτα εὐθύωρον ὑπερεπήδησεν. ὁ φάσκων οὖν διαλεκτικός τε εἶναι καὶ θηρατικὸς ταύτῃ πη συνάγειν τὴν ὑπὲρ τῶν λεχθέντων ἐπειρᾶτο ἀπόδειξιν. ἐπιστᾶσα ἡ κύων ἐσκοπεῖτο καὶ πρὸς ἑαυτὴν ἔλεγεν 'ἤτοι τῇδε ἢ τῇδε ἢ ἐκείνῃ ὁ λαγὼς ἐτράπετο. οὔτε μὴν τῇδε οὔτε τῇδε· ἐκείνῃ ἄρα.' καὶ οὔ μοι ἐδόκει σοφίζεσθαι· τῶν γὰρ ἰχνῶν μὴ ὁρωμένων ἐπὶ τάδε τῆς τάφρου, κατελείπετο ὑπερπηδῆσαι τὸν λαγὼν αὐτήν. εἰκότως οὖν ἐπήδησε καὶ αὐτὴ κατ᾽ αὐτόν· ἰχνευτικὴ γὰρ καὶ εὔρινος ἐκείνη γε ἡ κύων ἦν.

Sext. Empir. Pyrrhon. Hypotyp. I 14 § 69 (the passage which Montaigne had in view):

κατὰ δὲ τὸν Χρύσιππον, τὸν μάλιστα πολεμοῦντα τοῖς ἀλόγοις ζῴοις, καὶ τῆς ἀοιδίμου διαλεκτικῆς μετέχει· φησὶ γὰρ αὐτὸν ὁ προειρημένος ἀνὴρ ἐπιβάλλειν τῷ πέμπτῳ διὰ πλειόνων ἀναποδείκτων, ὅταν ἐπὶ τρίοδον ἔλθῃ· καὶ τὰς δύο ὁδοὺς ἰχνεύσας δι᾽ ὧν οὐ διῆλθε τὸ θηρίον, τὴν τρίτην μήδ᾽ ἰχνεύσας, εὐθέως ὁρμήσει δι᾽ αὐτῆς. δυνάμει γὰρ τοῦτο αὐτὸν λογίζεσθαί θησιν ὁ ἀρχαῖος. 'ἤτοι τῇδε ἢ τῇδε ἢ τῇδε διῆλθε τὸ θηρίον· οὔτε δὲ τῇδε, ἢ τῇδε, τῇδε ἄρα.'

Porphyr. de abstin. III 6:

διαλεκτικῆς μὲν αὐτοί φασιν οἱ τὸ ἄλογον αὐτῶν καταψηφιζόμενοι ἐπαΐειν τους κύνας, κεχρῆσθαί τε τῷ διὰ πλειόνων διεζευγμένῳ ἰχνεύοντας, ὅταν εἰς τριόδους ἀφίκωνται. ἤτοι γὰρ ταύτην ἢ ἐκεινην ἢ τὴν ἑτέραν ἀπεληλυθέναι τὸ θηρίον· οὔτε δὲ ταύτην οὔτε ταύτην· ταύτην ἄρα, καθ᾽ ἣν λοιπὸν καὶ διώκειν. ἀλλ᾽ ἕτοιμον λέγειν φύσει ταῦτα ποιεῖν, ὅτι μηδεὶς αὐτὰ ἐξεδίδασκεν.

Basil. in hexaëm. hom. IX 4 (I 84d):

ἃ γὰρ οἱ κατὰ πολλὴν σχολὴν τοῦ βίου καθεζόμενοι μόλις ἐξεῦρον, τὰς τῶν συλλογισμῶν λέγω πλοκάς, ταῦτα δείκνυται παρὰ τῆς φύσεως ὁ κύων πεπαιδευμένος. τὸ γὰρ ἴχνος τοῦ θηρίου διερευνώμενος, ἐπειδὰν εὕρῃ αὐτὸ πολυτρόπως σχιζόμενον, τὰς ἑκασταχοῦ φερούσας ἐκτροπὰς ἐπελθών, μονονουχὶ τὴν συλλογιστικὴν φωνὴν ἀφίησι δι᾽ ὧν πράσσει· 'ἢ τήνδε,' φησίν, 'ἐτράπη τὸ θηρίον ἢ τήνδε ἢ ἐπὶ τόδε τὸ μέρος· ἀλλὰ μὴν οὔτε τήνδε οὔτε τήνδε, λειπόμενόν ἐστι τῇδε ὡρμῆσθαι αὐτο·' καὶ οὕτως τῇ ἀναιρέσει τῶν ψευδῶν εὑρίσκει τὸ ἀληθές. τί περισσότερον ποιοῦσιν οἱ ἐπὶ τῶν διαγραμμάτων σεμνῶς καθεζόμενοι καὶ τὴν κόνιν καταράσσοντες, τριῶν προτάσεων ἀναιροῦντες τὰς δύω, καὶ ἐν τῇ λειπομένῃ τὸ ἀληθὲς ἐξευρίσκοντες;

Ambr. hexaëm. VI 4 § 23 (I 219 Schenkl):

Exsortem rationis canem esse nemo dubitaverit; tamen si sensus eius vigorem consideres, censes eum sentiendi sagacitate vim sibi rationis asciscere. denique quod pauci in gymnasiis constituti, qui totam in discendo vitae longinquitatem contriverint, vix potuerunt cognoscere, ut syllogismorum coniunctiones contexerent, hoc naturali canis eruditione conprehendere facile poterit aestimari. nam ubi vestigium leporis cervive reppererit atque ad diverticulum semitae venerit et quoddam viarum compitum, quod partes in plurimas scinditur, obiens singularum semitarum exordia tacitus secum ipse pertractat, velut syllogisticam vocem sagacitate colligendi erroris emittens. 'aut in hanc partem' inquit 'deflexit aut in illam, aut certe in hunc se anfractum contulit, sed nec in istam nec in illam ingressus est viam. superest igitur, ut in istam se partem sine dubitatione contulerit.' quod homines vix prolixa compositae artis meditatione componunt, hoc canibus ex natura subpetit, ut ante mendacium deprehendant et postea falsitate repudiata inveniant veritatem. nonne totos dies conterunt philosophi propositiones sibi in pulvere dividentes, qui radio sibi describunt p96singulas et ex tribus, cum unam earum veram esse necesse sit, duas primo interficiunt tamquam mendacio congruentes et sic in ea quae relicta est vim veritatis haerere definiunt.

John E. B. Mayor


The Author's Notes:

1 Harcourt has "did not," by mistake.

2 Simon R., of Christ's, B.A. 1600/1, M.A. 1604, D.D. 1611.

3 "And . . . argument," not in Harcourt.

4 'without an exercise' Harcourt.

5 'But' Harcourt.

6 'he' Harcourt.


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