Date of Award

Spring 2002

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




My interest in Descartes' thoughts on the possibility of thinking machines was sparked by Fr. T. Michael McNulty's Philosophy of Mind course at Marquette University. In that course, we studied Daniel Dennett's Consciousness Explained very closely, and Dennett's attempt to reduce mind and consciousness to a mere bodily process drove me to look toward Descartes for a rebuttal. I discovered some recent work on artificial intelligence, especially a debate in the journal Minds and Machines in which it was argued as to whether calculators and computers could be considered 'thinking things.' During the course of that debate, Descartes' philosophy was invoked briefly, and the section in Discourse on Method where Descartes most explicitly talks about thinking machines was cited. That citation drove me to look at that very passage in the Discourse on Method, and my term paper was an analytic examination of Descartes' views on thinking machines. When the time came for me to write my dissertation, I knew that I wanted to expand the scope of my term paper. As it turned out, I discovered by looking more thoroughly at the Cartesian corpus and the contemporary artificial intelligence debate that Descartes' view was much deeper than I had previously determined. I now believe that Descartes is a great forerunner in the area of anti-artificial intelligence theories of the micro-world variety. I also believe that the micro-world theory is a powerful theory. The purpose of this dissertation is to show what generally typifies micro-world theories in order to show how Descartes is in fact a micro-world theorist, and then to show how his theory is tenable in the face of contemporary cognitive science.



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