Descartes makes the following claim about the human being in Part 5 of the Discourse on Method:“I

  

Descartes makes the following claim about the human being in Part 5 of the Discourse on Method:“I had also shown what changes must take place in the brain in order to cause wakefulness, sleep, and dreams; how light, sounds, odors, tastes, heat, and all other qualities of external objects can imprint various ideas there through the mediation of the senses; . . . . This will in no way seem strange to those who are cognizant of how many different automata or moving machines the ingenuity of men can make, without, in doing so, using more than a very small number of parts, in comparison with the great multitude of bones, muscles, nerves, arteries, veins, and all the other parts which are in the body of each animal. For they will regard this body as a machine which, having been made by the hands of God, is incomparably better ordered and has within itself movements far more wondrous than any of those that can be invented by men. And I paused here in particular in order to show that, if there were such machines having the organs and the shape of a monkey or of some other animal that lacked reason, we would have no way of recognizing that they were not entirely of the same nature as these animals; whereas if there were any such machines that bore a resemblance to our bodies and imitated our actions as far as this is practically feasible, we would always have two very certain means of recognizing that they were not at all, for that reason, true men.”He follows that with remarks in Part 6 about his reasons for writing and what he hopes his method will achieve, practically speaking.Please write an essay in which you address:Why does Descartes think it is possible to think about bodies (and the material world in general) like machines? Does that thinking about bodies like machines include the bodies of human beings? Why does Descartes believe that thinking about bodies as machines will be beneficial?How might one object to Descartes’ argument and claims? (Think about who or what kind of philosophical position would not fit with Descartes’ plan, and why that is.)What do you think of Descartes claims (and goals) related to regarding the body like a machine? In what ways are bodies like machines? In what ways are they not? Is it possible for human beings to become masters and possessors of nature, in an absolute sense? What about enjoying the fruits of the earth trouble-free? (p. 35)I attached Part 5 and 6 from the book.PLEASE BE SPECIFIC IN ANSWERING THE QUESTIONS IN THE ESSAY. DON’T BE GENERAL. MAKE SURE NO PLAGIARISM OR XOPPYING FROM OTHER WEBSITE. Thanks
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Part Five
23
PART FIVE
I would be quite happy to continue and to show here the whole chain of
other truths that I have deduced from these first ones. But because, in
order to do this, it would now be necessary for me to speak about many
questions that are a matter of controversy among the learned, with whom
I have no desire to get into any quarrel, I believe it will be better for me
to abstain from this and to state only in a general way what these questions
are, in order to let those who are wiser judge whether it would be useful
for the public to be more particularly informed about them. I have always
remained firm in the resolution I had made not to suppose any principle 41
but the one I have just used to demonstrate the existence of God and of
the soul, and not to accept anything as true that did not seem to me
clearer and more certain than the demonstrations of the geometers had
hitherto seemed. And, nevertheless, I dare say not only that have I found
a means of satisfying myself within a short time regarding all the principal
difficulties commonly treated in philosophy, but also that I have noted
certain laws that God has so established in nature, and of which he has
impressed in our souls such notions, that, after having reflected sufficiently
on these matters, we cannot doubt that they are strictly adhered to in
everything that exists or occurs in the world. Moreover, in considering
the consequences of these laws, it seems to me that I have discovered
many truths more useful and more important than all that I had previously
learned or even hoped to learn.
But because I have tried to explain the principal ones among these truths
in a treatise that certain considerations prevented me from publishing,71
could not make them better known than by stating here in summary form
what the treatise contains. I had intended to include in it everything that
I thought I knew, before writing it down, concerning the nature of material
things. But just as painters, who are unable to represent equally well on
a flat surface all the various sides of a solid body, choose one of the
principal sides which they place alone facing the light of day, and, by
darkening the rest with shadows, make them appear only as they can be 42
seen by someone who is looking at the principal side, just so, fearing I
could not put into my discourse everything I had in mind about it, I
undertook in it merely to speak at length about what I conceived with
respect to light; then, at the proper time, to add something about the sun
and the fixed stars, because light proceeds almost entirely from them;
7. Descartes’ Le Monde {The World). See Rene Descartes, Le Monde ou Traite de la lumiere,
translation and introduction by Michael Sean Mahoney (New York: Abaris Books, Inc., 1979).
One of the considerations preventing the publication of Le Monde was the trial in 1633 of
Galileo by the Holy Office in Rome.
24
Discourse on Method
something about the heavens, because they transmit light; about planets,
comets, and the earth, because they reflect light; and, in particular, about
all terrestrial bodies, because they are either colored, or transparent, or
luminous; and finally, about man, because he is the observer of these
things. All the same, to cast all these things a little in shadow and to be
able to say more freely what I judged about them without being obliged
either to follow or to refute the opinions that are accepted among the
learned, I resolved to leave this entire world here to their disputes, and
to speak only of what would happen in a new world, were God now to
create enough matter to compose it, somewhere in imaginary spaces, and
were he to agitate in various ways and without order the different parts
of this matter, so that he composed from it a chaos as confused as any
the poets could concoct and that later he did no more than apply his
ordinary concurrence to nature, and let nature act in accordance with the
laws he had established. Thus, first, I described this matter and tried to
represent it in such a way that there is nothing in the world, it seems to
me, clearer and more intelligible, with the exception of what has already
43 been said about God and the soul, for I even explicitly supposed that in
this matter there were none of those forms or qualities about which
disputes occur in the schools, nor generally anything the knowledge of
which was not so natural to our souls that one could not even pretend to
be ignorant of it. Moreover, I showed what the laws of nature were, and,
without supporting my reasons on any other principle but the infinite
perfections of God, I tried to demonstrate all those laws about which one
might have been able to have any doubt and to show that they are such
that, even if God had created many worlds, there could not be any of
them in which these laws failed to be observed. After that, I showed how,
as a consequence of these laws, the greater part of the matter of this chaos
had to be disposed and arranged in a certain way, which made it similar
to our heavens; how, at the same time, some of its parts had to compose
an earth; others, planets and comets; and still others, a sun and fixed
stars. And here, dwelling on the subject of light, I explained at some
length what this light was that had to be found in the sun and the stars,
and how from thence it travelled in an instant across the immense spaces
of the heavens, and how it was reflected from the planets and comets to
the earth. To this I added also a number of things touching on the
substance, position, motions, and all the various qualities of these heavens
and these stars; and as a result, I thought I said enough on these matters
to show that there is nothing to be observed in the things of this world
which should not, or at least could not, have appeared entirely similar in
44 those of the world I was describing. From there, I went on to speak in
particular about the earth: how, although I had expressly supposed that
Part Five
IS
God had not put any weight8 in the matter out of which the earth was
composed, none of its parts ceased to tend precisely toward its center;
how, there being water and air on its surface, the disposition of the heavens
and of the stars, principally of the moon, had to cause there an ebb and
flow similar in all respects to what we observe in our seas, and, in addition,
a certain coursing, as much of the water as of the air, from east to west,
such as is also observed between the tropics; how mountains, seas, springs,
and rivers could naturally be formed there, and how metals could make
their way into mines there; how plants could grow naturally in the fields
there, and generally how all the bodies called “mixed” or “composed”
could be engendered there. And, among other things, because apart from
the stars I know of nothing else in the world that would produce light
except fire, I tried to make very clearly understood all that belonged to
its nature: how it is made, how it is nourished, how sometimes it has only
heat but no light, and sometimes only light but no heat; how it can
introduce various colors and various other qualities into various bodies;
how it melts some bodies and hardens others; how it can consume nearly
all of them or turn them into ashes and smoke; and finally, how from
these ashes, merely by the force of its action, it produces glass, for since
this transmutation of ashes into glass seemed to me to be as awesome as 45
any other that occurs in nature, I took particular pleasure in describing it.
Yet I did not want to infer from all these things that this world has
been created in the manner I was proposing, for it is much more likely
that, from the beginning, God made it such as it had to be. But it is
certain (and this is an opinion commonly accepted among theologians)
that the action by which God preserves the world is precisely the same
as that by which he created it; so that, even if, in the beginning, he had
never given it any other form at all but that of a chaos, provided he
established the laws of nature and bestowed his concurrence in order for
nature to function just as it does ordinarily, one can believe, without doing
injustice to the miracle of creation, that by this means alone all the things
that are purely material could over time have been rendered such as we
now see them. And their nature is much easier to conceive, when one
sees them coming to be little by little in this manner, than when one
considers them only in their completed state.
From the description of inanimate bodies and plants I passed to that
of animals and in particular to that of human beings. But because I did
8. E. Gilson, in his Discours de la methode: texte et commentaire, p. 388, observes that pesanteur
here means the same thing as gravitas, a scholastic term referring to the tendency of terrestrial
objects always to tend downwards. Gilson also directs the reader to The World, chapter xi:
“On Weight.”
26
Discourse on Method
not yet have sufficient knowledge of them to speak of them in the same
manner as I did of the rest, that is to say, by demonstrating effects from
causes and by showing from what seeds and in what manner nature must
produce them, I contented myself with supposing that God formed the
46 body of a man exactly like one of ours, as much in the outward shape of its
members as in the internal arrangement of its organs, without composing it
out of any material but the type I had described, and without putting
into it, at the start, any rational soul, or anything else to serve there as a
vegetative or sensitive soul, but merely kindled in the man’s heart one of
those fires without light which I had already explained and which I did
not at all conceive to be of a nature other than what heats hay when it
has been stored before it is dry, or which makes new wines boil when
they are left to ferment after crushing. For on examining the functions
that could, as a consequence, be in this body, I found there precisely all
those things that can be in us without our thinking about them, and hence,
without our soul’s contributing to them, that is to say, that part distinct
from the body of which it has been said previously that its nature is only
to think. And these are all the same features in which one can say that
animals lacking reason resemble us. But I could not on that account find
there any of those functions, which, being dependent on thought, are the
only ones that belong to us as men, although I did find them all later on,
once I had supposed that God created a rational soul and joined it to this
body in a particular manner that I described.
But in order that one might be able to see how I treated this matter
there, I want to place here the explanation of the movement of the heart
and of the arteries, because, this being the first and most general movement
that one observes in animals, on the basis of it one will easily judge what
47 one ought to think about all the others. And, in order that there might
be less difficulty in understanding what I shall say on the matter, I would
like those who are not at all versed in anatomy to take the trouble, before
reading this, to have the heart of some large animal that has lungs dissected
in their presence (for such a heart is in all respects sufficiently similar to
that of a man), and to be shown the two chambers or cavities that are in
it. First, there is the one on the right side of the heart, into which two very
large tubes lead, namely the vena cava, which is the principal receptacle of
the blood, and which is like the trunk of a tree of which the other veins
of the body are the branches, and the arterial vein (which has thus been
rather ill-named, because it is, in effect, an artery), which, taking its origin
from the heart, divides up after leaving the heart into many branches that
go on to be spread throughout the lungs. Then there is the chamber or
cavity on the left side, into which two tubes lead in the same fashion,
which are as large as or larger than the preceding ones: namely, the venous
Part Five
27
artery (which has also been ill-named, since it is nothing but a vein),
which comes from the lungs, where it is divided into many branches
interlaced with those of the arterial vein and with those in the passageway
called the windpipe, through which the air one breathes enters, and the
great artery, which, on leaving the heart, sends its branches throughout
the body. I would also like those who are not versed in anatomy to be
carefully shown the eleven little membranes that, like so many little doors,
open and shut the four openings in the two cavities: namely, three at the 48
entrance to the vena cava, where they are so disposed that they cannot
in any way prevent the blood it contains from flowing into the right cavity
of the heart, and yet completely prevent it from being able to leave it:
three at the entrance to the arterial vein, which, being arranged totally in
the other direction, readily permit the blood in this cavity to pass into
the lungs, but do not permit any blood in the lungs to return there;
likewise, two others at the entrance to the venous artery, which let blood
flow from the lungs into the left cavity of the heart but block its return;
and three at the entrance to the great artery, which permit blood to leave
the heart but prevent it from returning there. And there is no need at all
to search for any other reason for the number of membranes except that
the opening of the venous artery, being oval-shaped because of its location,
can conveniently be closed with two, while the other openings, being
round, can better be closed with three. Further, I would like to make
them consider that the great artery and the arterial vein are of a much
harder and firmer constitution than the venous artery and the vena cava,
and that these latter two become enlarged before entering the heart and
there form, as it were, sacks, called the “auricles” of the heart, which are
made of flesh similar to that of the heart; and that there is always more
heat in the heart than anywhere else in the body, and, finally, that this
heat is able to bring it about that, if a drop of blood enters its cavities, it
promptly expands and is dilated, just as all liquids generally do when one 49
lets them fall drop by drop into some vessel that is very hot.
For, after that, I have no need to say anything else in order to explain
the movement of the heart, except that, when its cavities are not full of
blood, blood necessarily flows from the vena cava into the right cavity
and from the venous artery into the left cavity, given that these two vessels
are always full of blood, and their openings, which face the heart, cannot
then be closed. But as soon as two drops of blood have thus entered the
heart, one into each of its cavities, these drops, which can only be very
large because the openings through which they enter are very wide and
the vessels from whence they come are quite full of blood, are rarified
and dilated because of the heat they find there, by means of which, making
the whole heart inflate, they push and close the five little doors that are
28
Discourse on Method
at the entrances to the two vessels from whence they come, thus preventing
any more blood from descending into the heart, and, continuing to become
more and more rarified, they push and open the six other little doors
which are at the entrances to the other two vessels by which they leave.
By this means they inflate all the branches of the arterial vein and the
great artery, almost at the same instant as the heart; immediately afterward
the heart contracts, as do these arteries as well, because the blood that
has entered them gets cooled and their six little doors close again, and
the five doors of the vena cava and the venous artery reopen and grant
50 passage to two other drops of blood, which immediately make the heart
and the arteries inflate exactly as before. And, because the blood that thus
enters the heart passes through the two sacks called its auricles, it follows
from this that their movement is contrary to that of the heart, and that
they are deflated while the heart is inflated. As for the rest (in order that
those who do not know the force of mathematical demonstrations and are
not accustomed to distinguishing true reasons from probable ones should
not venture to deny this without examining it), I want to put them on
notice that this movement which I have just been explaining follows just
as necessarily from the mere disposition of the organs that can be seen
in the heart by the naked eye, and from the heat that can be felt with the
fingers, and from the nature of blood, which can be known through
observation, as does the movement of a clock from the force, placement,
and shape of its counterweights and wheels.
But if one asks how it is that the blood in the veins is not at all dissipated
inflowingthus continually into the heart, and how the arteries are never
overly full of blood, since all the blood that flows through the heart is
going to flow into them, to this I need give no other answer than what
has already been written by an English physician,9 to whom homage must
be paid for having broken the ice in this area, and for being the first to
have taught that there are many small passages at the extremities of the
arteries through which the blood they receive enters into the small branches
of the veins, from which it flows immediately to the heart, so that its
5/ course is merely a perpetual circulation. He proves this very effectively
from the common experience of surgeons, who, on binding an arm moderately tightly above the spot where they open the vein, cause the blood to
flow out in even greater abundance than if they had not bound the arm
at all. And just the opposite would happen if they bound the arm below,
9. William Harvey (1578—1657), English physiologist who demonstrated the function of the
heart and the complete circulation of blood throughout the body. His most important work
is Anatomical Exercises on the Motion of the Heart and Blood (1628). Descartes accepted Harvey’s
account of how blood circulated, but not his account of the heart’s motion.
Part Five
29
between the hand and the opening, or even if they bind it very tightly
above the opening, for it is obvious that a moderately tight tourniquet,
being able to prevent the blood that is already in the arm from returning
to the heart through the veins, does not on that account prevent new
blood from coming in through the arteries, because they are located below
the veins, and their membranes, being harder, are less easy to press, and
also because the blood coming from the heart tends to pass through the
arteries toward the hand with greater force than it does in returning from
these to the heart through the veins. And since this blood leaves the arm
through the opening in one of the veins, there must necessarily be some
passages below the tourniquet, that is to say, toward the extremities of
the arm, through which it could come from the arteries. He also proves
quite effectively what he says regarding the circulation of blood by referring
to certain small membranes that are so disposed in various places along
the length of the veins that they do not at all permit blood to pass from
the middle of the body toward the extremities, but only to return from
the extremities toward the heart; and further, by means of the experiment
that shows that all the blood that is in the body can flow out of it in a
very short time through just one artery when it is cut open, even if the
artery is very tightly bound quite close to the heart, and cut open between
the heart and the tourniquet, so that one would have no basis for imagining 52
that the blood that flowed out came from somewhere else.
But there are many other things that attest to the fact that the true
cause of this movement of blood is as I have said. First, …
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