In “Discourse on Method”, Rene Descartes argues that animals do not have souls. Descartes goes on to say that one must encompass a soul in order to have a mind; humans are thinking and rationalizing beings, thus they are the only ones capable of having souls. His argument is based on animals not having intelligence because this feature solely belongs to humans according to Descartes. Descartes reasoning is fairly logical, but has its flaws. In this paper, I will form a critical analysis of his reasoning and unmask the flaws of his reasoning.
Furthermore, Descartes raises important questions with his reasoning. His view on animals has withstood the chains of time, although his feelings towards animals have been the concern for many. Descartes states “that there are no men so dull and so stupid, that they are incapable of arranging various words together and of composing from them a discourse by means of which they might make their thoughts understood,” however there are not any animals amongst the species that can even come close in doing so. The foundation of his argument focuses on the basis of language being one of the easiest tasks accessible to man, except animals. Descartes believes animals, or beasts, to be merely machines created by God who have organs similar to humans. Although these organs function in the same manner as human organs do, they fail to arrange words in a comprehendible sequence. Descartes attributes to this failure as the lack of a rational soul and ability to reason.
According to Descartes a rational soul is independent of the body and must be “expressly created.” He accredits the actions of animals to natural instinct and drive, not to the rationalizing abilities of their soul. Nicolas Malebranche, a French philosopher, presents Descartes views of animals in his own terms in which he states that animals “eat without pleasure, cry without pain, grow without knowing it; they desire nothing, fear nothing, know nothing.” This statement attempts to present an overview of Descartes’ reasoning.
Descartes argument is strongly based on his resolution that animals act upon “disposition of their organs” , however I disagree with this. He believes that the fittest of species, such as monkeys and parrots, barely rivals the intelligence of a human child. Although Descartes states several valid reasons as to why animals do not encompass a soul, his reasons inherently carry numerous flaws that weaken the overall impact of his argument. I will first focus on the strength of his reasoning and provide rivaling views of other philosophers and put forth their critics in contrast to Descartes reasoning.
Descartes argues that if there were machines created that possessed similar organs and the shape of an animal, we would be unable to distinguish between the two. His argument consists of the following: machines act in accordance with their organs, and an animal’s actions are due to the function of their organs, therefore animals...