Environmental Ethics 23 (3):275-286 (2001)

René Descartes is often thought to have exerted a pernicious influence on our views concerning the relationship of humans to the environment. The view that because animals are machines, “thoughtless brutes,” they have no moral standing, and we thus have a right to use them to further our own interests, is attributed to him. A celebrated passage from the Discourse on Method adds fuel to the view that he subscribes to the “dominion” theory. I argue that this picture is misleading and unfair. Descartes does not hold the dominion theory, and there is evidence that he accords animals (and plants) moral standing. Most importantly, Descartes holds that it is a human good to subordinate one’s interests to those of the larger universe. He can, in fact, be seen as a forerunner of modern ecocentrism
Keywords Applied Philosophy  General Interest
Categories (categorize this paper)
ISBN(s) 0163-4275
DOI 10.5840/enviroethics200123316
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 70,337
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Descartes on Animals Revisited.Michael R. Miller - 2013 - Journal of Philosophical Research 38:89-114.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Machines, Sentience, and the Scope of Morality.Frederik Kaufman - 1994 - Environmental Ethics 16 (1):57-70.
Locke’s View of Dominion.Kathleen M. Squadrito - 1979 - Environmental Ethics 1 (3):255-262.
Intrinsic Value, Moral Standing, and Species.Rick O’Neil - 1997 - Environmental Ethics 19 (1):45-52.


Added to PP index

Total views
31 ( #368,761 of 2,508,046 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #416,715 of 2,508,046 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes