Does a chimpanzee have wisdom?

Picture of a chimpanzee.

How does a chimpanzee makes decisions?

Wisdom is the ability to use acquired knowledge to solve problems and avoid dangers.

For humans, wisdom involves the use of reasoning powers.

Is this also true of animals?

What about such animals as chimpanzees?

They can be trained to sit at a table, eat with knives, spoons and forks, ride bicycles and engage in various other human activities.

Does this not indicate that they have reasoning faculties as do humans?

To answer this question, we might examine the results of a number of experiments conducted with chimpanzees.

A banana was placed outside the cage beyond reach of a female chimpanzee.

Inside the cage there were sticks that could be used to gain access to the fruit.

Did the chimpanzee recognize the hopelessness of getting the banana without employing one of the sticks?


She tried in vain to reach the fruit with her arms. 

Finally she did use a stick to bring the fruit toward her.

But when faced with the same situation later on, the chimpanzee again ignored the stick.

Another chimpanzee acted similarly when he saw a banana hanging high above him.

Even though a box was available to stand on, the chimpanzee vainly tried to reach the fruit by jumping.

Then the box caught his attention.

Despite earlier experiences with boxes, however, he did not move it directly underneath the banana.

He merely shoved the box in the direction of the banana and then jumped from it to seize the fruit.

In another experiment, a chimpanzee used two boxes, placing one on top of the other to reach the banana.

When this still did not bring the banana within reach, he pulled out the bottom box and attempted to place it on top of the second box.

These and similar experiments have demonstrated that chimpanzees vary considerably in their ability to solve problems and that they cannot reason as do humans.

Observes the book Animals Are Quite Different:

“The monkeys realized, at least some of them did, though even those only occasionally, that a purpose can be achieved by the use of auxiliary appliances, when the arms prove too short for the end in view. But while a human being, even quite a small child, deduces general laws from his experiences and always draws valid conclusions, the monkeys did not show in any way that they grasped the meaning of anything as a whole. . . . All performances by monkeys subjected to intelligence tests invariably proceeded with a view to perfectly material ends. Unless a banana or some other bait were available they utterly declined to concern themselves . . . Their behavior was invariably directed purely by the eye. If the stick happened to be in sight, well and good, they seized it and started fishing for the banana lying outside the cage. But if the stick was behind them they never noticed it.”