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Animal Rights

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In his Meditations, Rene Descartes argues that animals are purely physical entities, having no mental or spiritual substance. Thus, Descartes concludes, animals can't reason, think, feel pain or suffer. Animals, are mere machines with no consciousness. Use the Internet to explore the issue of animal rights. Investigate the legacy left by Rene Descartes concerning the moral status of animals.

Non-human animals, on Descartes's view, are complex organic machines, all of whose actions can be fully explained without any reference to the operation of mind in thinking.

In fact, Descartes declared, most of human behavior, like that of animals, is susceptible to simple mechanistic explanation. Cleverly designed automata could successfully mimic nearly all of what we do. Thus, Descartes argued, it is only the general ability to adapt to widely varying circumstances√ź'--and, in particular, the capacity to respond creatively in the use of language√ź'--that provides a sure test for the presence of an immaterial soul associated with the normal human body.

But Descartes supposed that no matter how human-like an animal or machine could be made to appear in its form or operations, it would always be possible to distinguish it from a real human being by two functional criteria. Although an animal or machine may be capable of performing any one activity as well as (or even better than) we can, he argued, each human being is capable of a greater variety of different activities than could be performed by anything lacking a soul. In a special instance of this general point, Descartes held that although an animal or machine might be made to utter sounds resembling human speech in response to specific stimuli, only an immaterial thinking substance could engage in the creative use of language required for responding appropriately to any unexpected circumstances. My puppy is a loyal companion, and my computer is a powerful instrument, but neither of them can engage in a decent conversation. (This criterion anticipated the more formal requirements of the Turing test.)

Animal = Machine

A acts from instinct, not thought

A cannot speak

A has an animal, not rational soul

D was opposed to seeing animals and humans as having any similarities apart from physiological ones

B/c animals resemble humans physiologically, they can be subjected to useful anatomical investigations, for which D recommends vivisection

One might be surprised to learn that Descartes'



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