Philosophy 53 (206):551-559 (1978)

John Cottingham
University of Reading
To be able to believe that a dog with a broken paw is not really in pain when it whimpers is a quite extraordinary achievement even for a philosopher. Yet according to the standard interpretaion, this is just what Descartes did believe. He held, we are informed, the ‘monstrous’ thesis that ‘animals are without feeling or awareness of any kind’. The Standard view has been reiterated in a recent collection on animal rights, which casts Descartes as the villain of the piece for his alleged view that animals merely behave ‘ as if they feel pain when they are, say, kicked or stabbed’. The basis for this widely accepted interpretation is Descartes' famous doctrine of ‘animal machine’ ; a doctrine that one critic condemns as ‘a grim fortaste of a mechanically minded age’ which ‘brutally violates the old kindly fellowship of living things’
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DOI 10.1017/S0031819100026371
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