David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Canadian Journal of Philosophy 31 (3):389-425 (2001)
Among the more notorious of Cartesian doctrines is the bête machine doctrine – the view that brute animals lack not only reason, but any form of consciousness (having no mind or soul). Recent English commentaries have served to obscure, rather than to clarify, the historical Descartes' views. Standard interpretations have it that insofar as Descartes intends to establish the bête machine doctrine his arguments are palpably flawed. One camp of interpreters thus disputes that he even holds the doctrine. As I shall attempt to show, not only does Descartes affirm the doctrine, his supporting arguments are not palpably flawed – even if they ultimately come up short. It will indeed emerge that, in making his case, Descartes employs interesting argumentative strategies that have not been duly appreciated.
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