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Dumb Beasts and Dead PhilosophersHumanity and the Humane in Ancient Philosophy and Literature$
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Catherine Osborne

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199282067

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199282067.001.0001

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On Language, Concepts, and Automata: Rational and Irrational Animals in Aristotle and Descartes

On Language, Concepts, and Automata: Rational and Irrational Animals in Aristotle and Descartes

Chapter:
(p.63) 4 On Language, Concepts, and Automata: Rational and Irrational Animals in Aristotle and Descartes
Source:
Dumb Beasts and Dead Philosophers
Author(s):

Catherine Osborne (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199282067.003.0004

This chapter considers whether language or concepts are necessary for intelligent purposive agency, and argues that neither humans nor animals require propositional thought or concepts for normal decisions and purposive behaviour. The idea that second order reflection on reasons and intentions is additionally available to humans is shown to be irrelevant to first order intention. Descartes' mechanistic account of human and animal behaviour is inspired by Aristotle's discussion in De motu animalium, but deliberately rejects ‘imagination’ (phantasia), which served for Aristotle to secure intelligent agency by means of stored perceptions, without mental concepts or complex propositions. Aristotle's account (including Posterior Analytics B19) is compared to Plato's notion of recollection (anamnesis) as a source of concepts in humans and animals, with a view to illustrating the similarity of the two models, and the relative merits of the Platonic one.

Keywords:   propositions, agency, purpose, intention, imagination, phantasia, recollection, anamnesis, Plato

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