Descartes on the Animal Within, and the Animals Without

Canadian Journal of Philosophy 50 (8):999-1014 (2020)
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Abstract

Descartes held that animals are material automata without minds. However, this raises a puzzle. Descartes’s argument for this doctrine relies on the claims that animals lack language and general intelligence. But these claims seem compatible with the view that animals have minds. As a solution to this puzzle, I defend what I call theintrospective-analogicalinterpretation. According to this interpretation, Descartes employs introspection to show that certain human behaviors do not depend on thought but rather on automatic bodily processes. Descartes then argues that animal behavior resembles only those behaviors that are automatic in humans. Analogy thus supports the view that the behaviors of animals do not depend on thought but are, rather, automatic. And if animal behavior is automatic, then animals are best regarded as automata.

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Evan Thomas
Otterbein College

Citations of this work

Descartes and his critics on passions and animals.Evan Thomas - 2022 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 30 (5):773-796.
Descartes on Immortality and Animals.Stephen H. Daniel - 2023 - The European Legacy 29 (2):184-198.
Automata, reason, and free will: Leibniz's critique of Descartes on animal and human nature.Christopher P. Noble - 2023 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 100 (C):56-63.

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References found in this work

Thoughtless brutes.Norman Malcolm - 1972 - Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 46 (September):5-20.
Animals.Gary Hatfield - 2008 - In Janet Broughton & John Carriero (eds.), Companion to Descartes. Blackwell. pp. 404–425.
Descartes’s Anti-Transparency and the Need for Radical Doubt.Elliot Samuel Paul - 2018 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 5:1083-1129.
Descartes on animals.Peter Harrison - 1992 - Philosophical Quarterly 42 (167):219-227.

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