Descartes on Immortality and Animals

The European Legacy 29 (2):184-198 (2023)
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For Descartes, our minds are not natural causes because they are not themselves objects; rather, they are the activities that identify objects. In short, they are our challenges to the natural order of things, both in how we adapt to novel situations (as exhibited in what has been called the “rational action test”) and in how we respond in unexpected yet appropriate ways to linguistic cues (in the “language test”). Because these tests reveal ways in which our minds (as “pure,” creative, willful, and immortal substances) introduce novelty into nature, we are not determined (as animals are) by other objects. That is, our rational or linguistic activities are challenges to the order of nature precisely because they are not part of, but rather constitute, nature. Accordingly, “real” (creative) speech is logically prior to finite differentiations and is not limited by laws of nature that constrain animal behavior.



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Stephen H. Daniel
Texas A&M University

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References found in this work

Descartes’s Dualism.Marleen Rozemond - 1998 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Descartes's Concept of Mind.Lilli Alanen - 2003 - Harvard University Press.
Animals.Gary Hatfield - 2008 - In Janet Broughton & John Carriero (eds.), Companion to Descartes. Blackwell. pp. 404–425.
Descartes on animals.Peter Harrison - 1992 - Philosophical Quarterly 42 (167):219-227.

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