The famous philosopher René Descartes advocated the vivisection of animals (dissection while the animal is alive) and practiced it himself. He argued that this is ethical because animals are biological machines and therefore suffer no pain, even if they seem to scream in agony. Human beings are different, because our bodily mechanisms are linked to a nonmaterial substance we call the mind or soul (a view known as Cartesian dualism). The soul can experience pain when the human body is assaulted, but we need have no ethical concern about animal suffering. Is Descartes right?
Dilemma 11 in 101 Ethical Dilemmas by Martin Cohen.
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