Discusiones Filosóficas 18 (30):15-33 (2017)

Rodrigo González
University of Chile
According to Kemp Smith, Descartes believed that animals were devoid of feelings and sensations. This is the so-called ‘monstrous thesis,’ which I explore here in light of two Cartesian approaches to animals. Firstly, I examine their original treatment in function of Descartes’ early metaphysical approach, i.e., all natural phenomena are to be elucidated in terms of mental scrutiny. As pain would only exist in the understanding, and animals have neither understanding nor souls, Descartes held that they did not suffer. Secondly, I look at the Cartesian late naturalism; specifically, at how animals are subsequently regarded as machines that may suffer. Lastly, I conclude that the ‘monstrous thesis’ is not Cartesian because animals are machines with feelings and sensations. However, Descartes’ surprising indulgence towards humans who kill and eat animals supposes that empathy for beings who may suffer is not necessary. This may raise doubts as to another ‘monstrous thesis.'
Keywords animals  machines  pain  monstrous thesis
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References found in this work BETA

Animals.Gary Hatfield - 2008 - In Janet Broughton & John Carriero (eds.), Companion to Descartes. Blackwell. pp. 404–425.
Clearness and Distinctness in Descartes.Alan Gewirth - 1943 - Philosophy 18 (69):17 - 36.
Descartes' Treatment of Animals.John Cottingham - 1998 - In Descartes. Oxford University Press.
Clearness and Distinctness in Descartes.Alan Gewirth - 1943 - In John Cottingham (ed.), Descartes. Oxford University Press.

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