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Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association

Volume 93, 2019

Marie I. George
Pages 349-366

A Defense of the Distinction Between Plants and Animals

Aristotle’s division of living things into three categories has been challenged of late as to the distinction between plants and animals on the grounds that plants too are sentient. I argue that the life activities that plants carry on go on in us without sentience and would not be carried on any better with sentience, and thus are reasonably thought to go in plants in a non-sentient manner. Complementing this expectation is the fact that research on the various movements of plants accounts for them without reference to sensation, but rather by specifying various physical causes. I also show that certain proponents of plant sentience engage in faulty reasoning, including the fallacy of the accident (e.g., the plant responds to something having a quality that a sentient being would sense; therefore it senses) and equivocation (e.g., plants sense different external cues; therefore they are sentient).

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