This essay looks at the relation between automatism, sensation, consciousness and emotions in Cartesian animals. The starting-point is a discussion of the thesis of sensibility in the automaton. The Author refutes this position and for systemic, philosophical and cultural reasons supports Descartes’ belief that bête-machines are insensible. Then, the notion of sensibility is examined in terms of its twofold articulation: knowledge and emotions. On one side, an analysis is undertaken of the different Cartesian definitions of sensation, of the ambiguity of the latter’s ontological status and of the political motives for Descartes’ placing sensation in res extensa. On the other side, the question of the suffering of animals in Descartes, Malebranche, Darmanson and Dilly is considered and the theological implications - immortality of the soul, God’s goodness and justice - of the animal insensibility solution are studied.
Keywords: Descartes, Malebranche, Darmanson, Dilly, bête-machines, sensibility, sensation, sufferance, soul, God