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Descartes


I was reading about Rene Descartes’ theory of mind/body separation and how he uses this line of thinking to distinguish the human animal from non-human animals, describing the later as merely non feeling machines and I felt quite shocked and incredulous that such a renowned and respected philosopher could suggest such a nonsensical belief about animals. Interestingly one of Descartes’ favourite hobbies was vivisection which as the name explains is “vivi” (alive) and section (to cut open). One can imagine the animals screaming, crying and moaning in pain as Descarte experimented on them without any form of anaesthesia of course and him saying well that’s just a mechanical reaction whereas our same reaction under the circumstances is clearly something different..hum..genuine pain and suffering perhaps?

Then today I found this quote by another famous Frenchie which articulates my response to reading about Descartes.



People must have renounced, it seems to me, all natural intelligence to dare to advance that animals are but animated machines…. It appears to me, besides, that [such people] can never have observed with attention the character of animals, not to have distinguished among them the different voices of need, of suffering, of joy, of pain, of love, of anger, and of all their affections.  It would be very strange that they should express so well what they could not feel.  ~Voltaire, Traité sur la tolerance


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