Automata, living and non-living: Descartes' mechanical biology and his criteria for life [Book Review]

Biology and Philosophy 13 (2):179-186 (1998)
Despite holding to the essential distinction between mind and body, Descartes did not adopt a life-body dualism. Though humans are the only creatures which can reason, as they are the only creatures whose body is in an intimate union with a soul, they are not the only finite beings who are alive. In the present note, I attempt to determine Descartes'' criteria for something to be ''living.'' Though certain passages associate such a principle with the presence of a properly functioning heart, I show that there are important reasons for also understanding life in terms of a degree of complexity of design.
Keywords Descartes  life  mechanical biology
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