Aolib.comFragment of Photochrom print of the front of Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria, Germany (ca. 1897)

A Discourse of a Method for the Well Guiding of Reason ... »


By Ren*escartes

I had particularly enough expounded all these things in a Treatise which I formerly had design’d to publish: In pursuit whereof, I had therein shewed what ought to be the fabrick of the nerves and muscles of an humane body, to cause those animall spirits which were in them, to have the power to move those members. As we see that heads a while after they are cut off, yet move of themselves, and bite the ground, although they are not then animated. What changes ought to be made in the brain to cause waking, sleeping, and dreaming: how light, sounds, smels, tasts, heat, and all other qualities of exteriour objects, might imprint severall Ideas by means of the senses. How hunger and thirst, and the other interiour passions might also send theirs thither. What ought to be taken therein for common sense, where these Ideas are received; for memory which preserves them; and for fancy, which can diversly change them, and form new ones of them; and by the same means, distributing the animal spirits into the muscles, make the members of the body move in so many severall fashions, and as fitly to those objects which present themselves to its senses; and to the interiour passions which are in them, as ours may move themselves without the consent of the Wil. Which wil seem nothing strange to those, who knowing how many Automatas or moving Machines the industry of men can make, imploying but very few pieces, in comparison of the great abundance of bones, muscles, nerves, arteries, veins, and all the other parts which are in the body of every Animal, will consider this body as a fabrick, which having been made by the hands of God, is incomparably better ordered, and hath more admirable motions in it then any of those which can be invented by men. And herein I particularly insisted, to make it appear, that if there were such Machines which had organs, and the exteriour figure of an Ape, or of any other unreasonable creature, we should finde no means of knowing them not to be altogether of the same nature as those Animals: whereas, if there were any which resembled our bodies, and imitated our actions as much as morally it were possible, we should always have two most certain ways to know, that for all that they were not reall men: The first of which is, that they could never have the use of speech, nor of other signes in framing it, as we have, to declare our thoughts to others: for we may well conceive, that a Machine may be so made, that it may utter words, and even some proper to the corporal actions, which may cause some change in its organs; as if we touch it in some part, and it should ask what we would say; or so as it might cry out that one hurts it, and the like: but not that they can diversifie them to answer sensibly to all what shall be spoken in its presence, as the dullest men may do. And the second is, That although they did divers things aswel, or perhaps better, then any of us, they must infallibly fail in some others, whereby we might discover that they act not with knowledge, but onely by the disposition of their organs: for whereas Reason is an universal instrument which may serve in all kinde of encounters, these organs have need of some particular disposition for every particular action: whence it is, that its morally impossible for one Machine to have severall organs enough to make it move in all the occurrences of this life, in the same manner as our Reason makes us move. Now by these two means we may also know the difference which is between Men and Beasts: For ’tis a very remarkable thing, that there are no men so dull and so stupid, without excepting those who are out of their wits, but are capable to rank severall words together, and of them to compose a Discourse, by which they make known their thoughts: and that on the contrary, there is no other creature, how perfect or happily soever brought forth, which can do the like. The which happens, not because they want organs; for we know, that Pyes and Parrots can utter words even as we can, and yet cannot speak like us; that is to say, with evidence that they think what they say. Whereas Men, being born deaf and dumb, and deprived of those organs which seem to make others speak, as much or more then beasts, usually invent of themselves to be understood by those, who commonly being with them, have the leisure to learn their expressions. And this not onely witnesseth, that Beasts have lesse reason than men, but that they have none at all. For we see there needs not much to learn to speak: and forasmuch as we observe inequality amongst Beasts of the same kind, aswell as amongst men, and that some are more easily managed then others; ’tis not to be believed, but that an Ape or a Parrot which were the most perfect of its kinde, should therein equall the most stupid child, or at least a child of a distracted brain, if their souls were not of a nature wholly different from ours. And we ought not to confound words with naturall motions, which witness passions, and may be imitated by Machines aswell as by Animals; nor think (as some of the Ancients) that beasts speak, although we do not understand their language: for if it were true, since they have divers organs which relate to ours, they could aswell make themselves understood by us, as by their like. Its likewise very remarkable that although there are divers creatures which express more industry then we in some one of their actions; yet we may well perceive, that the same shew none at all in many others: So that what they do better then we, proves not at all that they have reason; for by that reckoning they would have more then any of us, and would do better in all other things; but rather, that they have none at all, and that its Nature onely which works in them according to the disposition of their organs. As wee see a Clock, which is onely composed of wheels and springs, can reckon the hours, and measure the times more exactly then we can with all our prudence.

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