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date: 24 May 2019

Abstract and Keywords

In the Discourse on the Method, Descartes attempts to prove that animals are mere machines, lacking reason and, by extension, consciousness. This chapter explores the response to this position offered by Margaret Cavendish in her 1664 Philosophical Letters. Following a reconstruction of the analogical argument Cavendish constructs to refute the Cartesian position, there is an examination of Cavendish’s metaphysical views in contrast to Descartes’s, revealing the sharp divide between these two thinkers on questions related to the nature of matter, the intelligibility of mechanical explanations in nature, the proper conception of reason, and the relationship between human beings and the natural world.

Keywords: Margaret Cavendish, rationality, animal soul, mechanism, natural world

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