M.L. Anderson / Artiﬁcial Intelligence 149 (2003) 91–130
reliable (driven by physical forces, and so a potential source of unfreedom).
Thus, the body is for Cartesian philosophy both necessary and unacceptable, and thisambivalencedrives mind and bodyapart in ways Descartes himself may not have intended.Sensation requires the physicality of the body; the freedomand reliability of humanreasonand judgment seem to require the autonomy of the soul. We may have no choice abouthow the world appears to us—we may be to this degree determined by our physicalconstitution—but we can step back from appearances, and allow reﬂection and judgment,even if in the end this means adopting the skeptical attitude and simply withholding belief.The postulation of an inner arena of disengaged representation, inﬂuenced by experiencebut governed by reasons and not causes, is surely a natural way to try to account for thispossibility.
These tensions clearly play a role in another aspect of the Cartesian world-view, notmuch emphasized in these contexts, but perhaps of greater importance: the discontinuitybetween humans and animals. For Descartes, animals are mere mechanisms, complex andinteresting to be sure, but physical automata nevertheless [23, Vol. III, pp. 365–366, 374].They
have sensation, because all that is needed for that is the proper organs.
However,they lack thought, perhaps the most important evidence for which is the fact that theylack language. This denial that sensing and acting in the world require thinking, and theconcomitant identiﬁcation of thinking with the higher-order reasoning and abstractionparadigmatically displayed in language use is perhaps the true heart of the Cartesianattitude. Indeed, I believe that it is primarily from this inheritance that the central attitudesand approach of cognitivism can be derived.Simply put, cognitivism is the hypothesis that the central functions of mind—of thinking—can be accounted for in terms of the manipulation of symbols according toexplicit rules. Cognitivism has, in turn, three elements of note: representation, formalism,and rule-based transformation. First and foremost is the idea that cognition centrallyinvolves
;cognitivismis committedto the existenceof“distinct,identiﬁable,inner states or processes”—that is, the symbols—“whose systemic or functional role is tostand in for speciﬁc features or states of affairs” [20, p. 43]. However, just as is the casein modern logic, it is the
of the symbol (or the proposition of which the symbol is apart) and not its meaning that is the basis of its rule-based transformation.To some degree,of course, such formal abstraction is a necessary condition for representation—the tokenfor ‘green’ in my mental lexicon is not itself green, nor does it necessarily share any of the other properties of green. Indeed, the relation between sign and signiﬁer seems in thissense necessarily arbitrary,
and this thereby enforces a kind of distance between the inner
The thesis of physical determinism as we have come to formulate it awaited later developments in mechanicsand mathematics, and attained its ﬁrst recognizably contemporary form in the work of Pierre-Simon Laplace(1749–1827); still, mechanism was an important part of Descartes’ world-view. See, e.g., .
See  for a very nice account and critique of Cartesian disengagement, from a Heideggerian perspective.
“Please note that I am speaking of thought, and not of life or sensation. I do not deny life to animals, sinceI regard it as consisting simply in the heat of the heart; and I do not even deny sensation, in so far as it dependsupon a bodily organ. Thus my opinion is not so much cruel to animals as indulgent to human beings—at least tothose who are not given to the superstitions of Pythagoras—since it absolves them from the suspicion of crimewhen they eat or kill animals” [23, Vol. III, p. 366].
But see  for some suggestions to the contrary.