Descartes on animals

Philosophical Quarterly 42 (167):219-227 (1992)
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Did Descartes deny that animals can feel? While it has generally been assumed that he did, there has been some confusion over the fact that Descartes concedes to animals both sensations and passions'. John Cottingham, for example, has argued that while Descartes did insist that animals were automata, denying them thought and "self"-consciousness, none of these assertions entail the conclusion that animals do not feel. This paper examines both Cottingham's arguments and the relevant sections of Descartes' writings, concluding that Descartes does indeed deny that animals are capable of feeling, but that for various reasons, this is not the brutal' and monstrous' view it is commonly assumed to be



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Peter Harrison
University of Queensland

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