Although much has been written on Descartes’ thought on animals, not so much has originated in, or has taken full account of, Descartes’ views on (human) emotions. I explore here the extent to which the latter can contribute to the debate on whether he embraced, and to which extent, the doctrine of the bête machine. I first try to show that Descartes’ views on emotions can help offer new support to the skeptical position without necessarily creating new tensions with other central aspects of his philosophy. And second, I sketch the type of theory of animal passions which Descartes could have accepted. The general conclusion I draw is not that Descartes did not hold the view of the bête machine but rather that we can find within his thought a solid stream of ideas, which became stronger towards the end of his life, that points in the opposite direction.
Philosophia – Springer Journals
Published: Aug 2, 2017
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