The Dream of Descartes

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The Dream of Descartes By Gregor Sebba Assembled from Manuscripts and Edited by Richard A. Watson Published for The Journal of the History of Philosophy, Inc. SOUTHERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY PRESS Carbondale and Edwardsville -iii- Copyright 1987 by Helen Sebba All rights reserved Printed in the United States of America Designed by Cindy Small Production supervised by Natalia Nadraga 90 89 88 87 4 3 2 1 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Sebba, Gregor The dream of Descartes (The Journal of the history of philosophy monograph series) "Published for the Journal of the History of Philosophy, Inc." 1. Descartes, Ren, 1596-1650. 2. Dreams--History--17th century. I. Watson, Richard A., 1931- . II. Title. III. Series. B1873.S43 1987 194 87-9488 ISBN 0-8093-1413-4 (pbk.) The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of American National Standard for Information Sciences--Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48-1984. -iv- CONTENTS Journal of the History of Philosophy Monograph Series vii Preface Richard A. Watson ix Autobiographical Note Gregor Sebba xi A Brief Note on Method 1 The Dream of Descartes 5 1. Introduction 5 2. The First Dream 9 3. The First Interlude 15 4. The Second Dream 18 5. The Third Dream 25 6. The Critical Juncture 30 -v- http://www.questia.com/read/6527635http://www.questia.com/read/6527637http://www.questia.com/read/6527639http://www.questia.com/read/6527645http://www.questia.com/read/6527649http://www.questia.com/read/6527649http://www.questia.com/read/6527653http://www.questia.com/read/6527659http://www.questia.com/read/6527662http://www.questia.com/read/6527669http://www.questia.com/read/65276747 The First Interpretation 33 8. The Dream of Descartes 42 9. Summary Conclusion 51 10. Note 56 Appendix 1. What Is "History of Philosophy"? The Historiographic Problem 58 Appendix 2. Descartes Against Scepticism: Philosophy Against History? 73 -vi- http://www.questia.com/read/6527677http://www.questia.com/read/6527686http://www.questia.com/read/6527695http://www.questia.com/read/6527700http://www.questia.com/read/6527702http://www.questia.com/read/6527717THE JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY Monograph Series THE JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY MONOGRAPH SERIES, consisting of volumes of 80 to 120 pages, accommodates serious studies in the history of philosophy that are between article length and standard book size. Editors of learned journals have usually been able to publish such studies only by truncating them or by publishing them in sections. In this series, the Journal of the History of Philosophy presents, in volumes published by Southern Illinois University Press, such works in their entirety. The historical range of the Journal of the History of Philosophy Monograph Series is the same as that of the Journal itself--from ancient Greek philosophy to the twentieth century. The series includes extended studies on given philosophers, ideas, and concepts; analyses of texts and controversies; new translations and commentaries on them; and new documentary findings about various thinkers and events in the history of philosophy. The editors of the Monograph Series, the directors of the Journal of the History of Philosophy, and other qualified scholars evaluate submitted manuscripts. We believe that a series of studies of this size and format fulfills a genuine need of scholars in the history of philosophy. Richard H. Popkin Richard A. Watson --Editors -vii- PREFACE Richard A. Watson GREGOR SEBBA WAS FOND OF TELLING HOW HE BEGAN WORK ON HIS monumental Bibliographia Cartesiana: A Critical Guide to the Descartes Literature, 1800 to 1960. He had an idea about Descartes, but before he started work on it, he thought he should look through the literature to see what might have been said previously on the subject. That was in 1949. Fifteen years later, the Descartes bibliography appeared containing 2,612 numbered items (plus a Steinberg cartoon, "Cogito, ergo Cartesius est."). For most of the entries Gregor provided a line or two of summary and critical comment, and for 562 items he provided extensive commentary. There are 66 pages of index in double columns of small print. The book is a scholarly achievement of the first order, and has been indispensable to Cartesian scholars ever since it appeared in 1964. But Gregor still had not finished The Dream of Descartes. He gave lectures on the topic half a dozen times over the years, told people about it, outlined his ideas in letters, but the manuscript was unfinished at the time of his death in 1985. Gregor Sebba's manuscripts, letters, and papers were examined by Anbal A. Bueno, who sent all those having to do with The Dream of Descartes to me. Richard H. Popkin provided the manuscript of "What Is 'History of Philosophy'?" and several pertinent letters. Helen Sebba copy edited the manuscript and corrected the proofs of the present volume. I am most grateful for their help. I started through the material with some trepidation, an image in my mind of Gregor rubbing his hands together and smiling in his imitation of a sinister Jesuit and saying, "What now, youngster?" It was a piece of cake. Gregor really had finished the manuscript, after all. He had just never gathered it together in one place. But there it was, most of it in a draft dated July 1973. The rest came from other pieces as indicated at the appropriate places in the text. All I had to do was assemble it. The Dream of Descartes is a brilliant and charming re-creation and analy- -ix- sis of a crucial event in the history of Western thought. The young Ren Descartes roamed Europe seeking his vocation, and on this night had a premonition that a breakthrough would occur. His way was revealed in a sequence of three dreams that he took to be inspired. His own analysis of these dreams set him on the path to the Regulae, the Discours, and the Meditations. Sebba argues that in the process of creativity, intellectual ideas can be first expressed physiologically in terms of body movements. In The Dream of Descartes he uses the case of Descartes to demonstrate his thesis. The result is a bold and fascinating analysis of Descartes's dreams as seminal in the creative process of genius. Gregor Sebba had a strong interest in the historiography of the history of philosophy. His "What is 'History of Philosophy'? I. Doctrinal vs. Historical Analysis" ( Journal of the History of Philosophy, vol. 8 [ 1970], pp. 251-62) is a careful analysis of the distinction indicated, but it is incomplete. This study is continued here in Appendix 1, What Is "History of Philosophy'? The Historiographic Problem, which rounds out Sebba's views. Sebba thought that his ideas on historiography could be best expressed in practice. He proposed to provide a demonstration in a major work of which The Dream of Descartes would be the main exhibit. Fortunately, he did finish The Dream of Descartes, but of the major work we have only an outline. It is included here as Appendix 2, "Descartes Against Scepticism: Philosophy Against History?" both to set The Dream of Descartes in context, and because this outline is Sebba's substantive summary statement on the problems that most concerned him in the history of philosophy. -x- AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL NOTE REGOR SEBBA FOR A HUMANIST ENGAGED IN A STUDY OF THE CREATIVE ACT, A full statement of background would have to cover the whole range of his life experience and studies, since this is what made him a humanist and gave him the knowledge of human personality needed for the task. I must confine myself to what I think has been decisive. First, the times. Born in Libau, Latvia, in 1905, I grew up in the South Tyrol. When Italy declared war in 1915, the family was evacuated to Upper Austria. I studied in Vienna and Innsbruck and finished just when the economic world crisis of 1929 broke out. My basic studies were in chemistry and law at the University of Vienna, 1924-25, and in civil and canon law, economics, and political science at the University of Innsbruck, 1925-29. I received the degree of Dr. rerum politicarum at the University of Innsbruck in 1927, and the degree of Dr. juris utriusque in 1929. I studied statistics as a postgraduate at the University of Vienna, 1929-30. All prospects of an academic career ended in 1933 when my position (assumed in 1930) as Forschungsassistent in charge of staff and publications at the Institute for Minority Statistics in the University of Vienna was abolished for budgetary reasons. I was an editor of Wirtschaftliche Rundschau, Vienna, 1934-38, a career that suddenly ended when I was arrested by the Gestapo after Hitler's take-over of Austria. During those years I was Secretary General of the Austrian Political Society, Vienna, 1931-34; Chairman, University Section, Austrian League of Nations Association, 1930-35; and Chairman, Austrian Sociological Research Circle, 1931-36. Emigration to the United States and six years ( 1939-45) of war service followed. I became a United States citizen in 1943, and was forty-two years old when, in January 1947, I finally entered a regular academic career in the United States, a country then, and now, facing times as perturbing as the European 1920s. The unremitting task of understanding such times has -xi- forced me, like others of my generation, into ever widening study far beyond earlier specialization. This, I think, is what has made humanists out of so many of us. This background also accounts for the curious double track in my scholarly career. I wanted to study philosophy and literature, but poverty forced me into the bread-and-butter study of the law, which I never followed; the time, however, was not wasted. The thorough study of Roman, canon, and medieval law gave me a solid historical foundation, and criminal law taught me what proof is--something that will stand up in court. My teachers led me to a concurrent study of the social sciences, so that I finished with two doctorates. During the 1930s I made my living as a university statistician, economist, newspaperman, editor, and in the advertising profession, pursuing my research interests chiefly within a private research group that I founded in Vienna in 1931. This Austrian Sociological Research Circle, disbanded in 1936 when the political climate made further work impossible, brought together some twenty young and a few older scholars from a variety of fields, leading young intellectuals in political life from the extreme right to the extreme left, and representatives of the main intellectual currents, from Vienna Circle positivists to metaphysicists and theologians. Among those who survived Hitler and the war, few have failed to rise to the top in their chosen careers. Equally fruitful were working contacts with exceptional people in other walks of life: poets, artists, musicians, architects, but also industry builders, bankers, statesmen, as well as some prize specimens of what Karl Mannheim has called the floating intelligentsia. When I speak about human creativeness, I speak about something I have seen at close quarters. Scholarly work on creativity began as soon as I graduated. My first published paper in 1930 dealt with the sociology of art, a first confused attempt to locate art's creative source. Other papers, including one on revolution and creativity, were presented and critically discussed in the research group. But the task of understanding the upheaval of the interwar period was paramount. It increasingly preoccupied the group. I remember one of the most brilliant papers I have heard, given by Karl Polanyi in March 1933, which cut the ground from under such optimism as was left with a prediction of the events ahead, culminating in the outbreak of another world war in the fall of 1938, or 1939 at the latest. When I began my academic career in the United States in January 1947, I chose the University of Georgia because I wanted to spend a few years in the South, which I considered to be a laboratory where the problems of the postwar era could be studied in nuce. I was Professor of Economics and -xii- Chairman of Statistics there until 1959. I did a good deal of work in Southern economics and a thorough study of the displaced persons problem from the viewpoint of the absorption of immigrants and the psychology of survivors. I moved to Emory University in 1959 when I was offered its new interdisciplinary professorship in the Graduate Institute of the Liberal Arts through a Carnegie Foundation grant. Since then, I have devoted myself almost entirely to doctoral teaching. A year-long inderdisciplinary seminar that I instituted in 1960 and taught for ten years has produced more than a dozen Ph.D.s who went out to establish or reorganize humanities programs throughout the country, as well as a number of teachers in literature, philosophy, and the social sciences who consider themselves humanists and teach accordingly. Other interdisciplinary seminars taught with the cooperation of research people in various fields, such as the Greek seminar and the Baroque seminar, have become the model for similar ventures in theology and other areas at Emory. My own seminars have dealt with a wide range of topics, most of them related to my studies in creativity. My work with undergraduates has chiefly been in humanities courses and in private noncredit seminars. I was a Fulbright Professor in Political Philosophy at the University of Munich, 1964-65, and a Danforth Lecturer, Morehouse College, 1968. I received the Outstanding Teacher Award at Emory University in 1968, and the Thomas Jefferson Award in 1970. In 1973, I was made Emeritus Professor of Liberal Arts at Emory University. In 1973-74, I was Professor of Humanities at the University of Florida. The center of my teaching and research in the humanities has been the problem of creativity. It has led me deeply into seemingly remote areas that yet had to be studied in minute detail in order to understand what exactly happened in the cases I undertook to analyze. My Bibliographia Cartesiana: A Critical Guide to the Descartes Literature, 1800 to 1960, for example, is a by-product of my study of the Dream of Descartes. Nonetheless, I continue to write and lecture in the field of the social sciences, especially in political philosophy. To me, this is a necessity. I cannot divorce the phenomenon of human creativity from its setting in history and society. Conversely, the study of creative act in Rousseau, to give another example, has led me to a quite different evaluation of the Contrat Social and the Emile, and a study of the volont gnrale, done twenty-five years ago, became the key to an understanding of the complexities in this man's intellectual constitution. I have had an abiding interest in the work of Eric Voegelin, a lifelong friend. I regard Voegelin as one of the greatest thinkers of the twentieth -xiii- century, and am pleased to be the coeditor of a festschrift published in his honor in 1981. Like Voegelin, I am a humanist scholar. If I were to define the term "humanist," I would center, not on the field of the humanities and not on "humanism" either, but on the pursuit of the patent and the hidden interconnections that manifest the unity of the phenomenon of man. -xiv- The Dream of Descartes -xv- A BRIEF NOTE ON METHOD 1. DESCARTES'S DREAM CAN BE USED AS MATERIAL FOR AN ANALYSIS THAT follows a given theoretical model or models, or it may be analyzed specifically in order to understand its significance for this particular dreamer. In the latter case, the theoretical model cannot be chosen in advance; the Dream itself must guide the interpretation. This, however, presumes that the Dream (the whole sequence, including the pre-dream and post-dream events as recorded) reveals a structure that allows us to determine the nature of the event as a whole and to discern a consistent pattern of development from pre-onset through the dreams and the interpretations to the post-dream final conclusions drawn by the dreamer. Descartes's Dream fulfills both requirements. The basic principle of interpretation, then, will have to be that the Dream itself should guide the interpretation, and the proof of method will have to consist in the degree to which this interpretation elucidates the whole event. Freud suggested the presence of a developmental pattern in the series when he characterized the first dream as a "deep" dream from the unconscious, while the third, last dream is an example of Trume von oben--dreams "from the top of the head," so close to waking consciousness that the dreamer himself can interpret them correctly. 2. This position runs up against some of the most widely held views about dreams, especially the following: a. If any structure is found in the Dream of Descartes, it is a structure evolved by the dreamer in a process of recalling, considering, interpreting, editing, and finally verbalizing and writing his account; the structure of the dream event itself is inaccessible to us. b. A dreamer's report, spanning the day or days before the onset of the night of dreams or visions," of three specific dreams and the intervals between them, and the relevant events of at least the first day after the last dream and its interpretation can be considered prime material only as far as the very last set (dream, interpretation, conclusions) is concerned. This -1- follows Gouhier's objection and Freud's comment that the material for interpreting the first dream is inaccessible; you cannot psychoanalyze a corpse. c. The dreamer himself claims full recollection; he also claims that the dream event carried a decipherable message, but dreams do not carry messages. As to (a), I reply that the dream account is a continuation of the dream work which itself, it is true, has become inaccessible to the dreamer as well as to us. We cannot be concerned with what Descartes "actually dreamt"; we cannot enter into anybody else's dream. But if we have a series of events that begins with a premonition of dreams or visions, continues with the occurrence of these dreams or visions, and leads directly into an interpretation, that is, involves a transformation of these experiences and on to a definite waking conclusion, then we have a right to assume that the whole event is governed throughout by a specific problem that produced the dreams in the first place and guided the dreamer in their transformation into a verbally expressible statement of record and conclusions. Freudian censorship, in this instance, works positively, not negatively; instead of suppressing and disguising the latent message, it suppresses or transforms all that is not relevant to that message. This process is what I call the dream work, in a sense quite different from Freud's. Since this dream work governs the whole process, any forgetting or transforming of the earlier dreams falls under it; it follows that, regardless of the resemblance or nonresemblance between actual dream content and reported dream content, Descartes's account of his first two dreams is as relevant to the interpretation as that of his third dream, the "dream from above." As to (c), we need a typology of dreams, from precisely the viewpoint of what they tell the dreamer. Disinterested, matter-of-fact self-observation, without even the thought of recording it, ranging over two decades, discloses in my personal case that there are dreams that carry messages; in my case they are very rare, and are immediately distinguishable from dreams that do not, however puzzling and intriguing these dreams may be. I forget dreams very rapidly, and message dreams are no exception; but for me a message dream condenses quickly to a single visual image that remains while the rest fades away, and it yields up its message suddenly, in verbally expressible form, within minutes. This image, reduced to a blurred but recognizable visual recollection, remains in my memory for a period that depends on the importance of the message. I remember only one of these images, retained since the early months of 1965; of the others I remember only that they occurred and that they stayed with me for relatively short periods of time. The dream image still retained concerns a vital aspect of my -2- life; the other images vanished as the solution they offered became irrelevant because the problem concerned was a passing one. 3. The problem of recall has a special significance with respect to Descartes's Dream. Descartes expected a night of dreams; he went to bed literally waiting for the event. I show that he may well have taken hasty notes during the night; but even if he did not, he would awaken from each of these dreams with the awareness that something decisive had happened, and he would go over the remembered dream again and again, fixing it in his memory and looking for clues. (He had no way of knowing that there would be more than one dream!) The record of the first dream corroborates this. Its schematic character stands out. This is clearly the product of repeated rehearsals that left a presumably rearranged, clearly articulated sequence. Since this process of consolidation and rearrangement was part of the dream work, its results must be accepted as authentic, not in the sense of reproducing the actual dream (which is impossible anyway because the process of awakening is in itself a process of restructuring the dream pattern under the growing impact of the structures of waking consciousness), but in the sense of retaining in its most pregnant formulation those products of the recall process that most directly bear on the message carried by the original dream visions. 4. Descartes himself has stated the task that this night of dreams had to perform, and Leibniz was right in retaining this, and this alone, from the account he had just read: Quod vitae sectabor iter? This was the question, and the dream answered it. The process by which this answer--a decision!--was arrived at is a simple one, if we adopt the model of the unconscious as (a) a repository of all experiences, including the "forgotten" ones (there are Eastern techniques for producing total recall, and recent experiments that produce involuntary recall by stimulation of a certain brain locus), and (b) as an active mechanism, independent of conscious thought for the solving of problems that worry the conscious mind because it cannot find the clues to their solutions. This mechanism can be likened to an unconscious shuffling and reshuffling of bits selectively drawn from the memory store until a consistent, esthetically and emotionally satisfying, "systematic" arrangement is found, which then, by various roads, will suddenly rise to consciousness, accompanied by an overwhelming euphoric feeling that disguises the difficulties of the solution--difficulties that in Descartes's case occupied his conscious thoughts for a whole decade. Something similar happened to Rousseau on the road to -3- Vincennes. This euphoric feeling is a response to the sudden lifting of a seemingly irremovable load. 5. On this model, the interpretation will have to grow out of a careful examination of the following questions: a. What did Descartes actually write? To determine this one must study the style of Baillet and his method of translating and paraphrasing, by comparing his translations and paraphrases with texts that are still extant. b. What can we definitely say about the sequence and the time intervals of Descartes's writing of his account? c. What do we know about Descartes's sleeping, dreaming, and daydreaming habits? d. What was Descartes's intellectual and emotional development between 10 November 1618 and 10 November 1619? What precisely was the role of Beeckman in this period, and how did the attitude of Descartes towards Beeckman change, by direct testimony in the correspondence, Beeckman's journal, and by inference? e. What was Descartes's pattern of intellectual discovery during this year? What was the nature of the periods of complete lassitude following periods of energetic exploration? What was the nature of the "enthusiasm" that preceded the night of dreams? f. What psychological states involving the anticipation of visions and the feeling of the presence of a guiding "Spirit" are compatible with Descartes's essentially rationalistic mathematician's mind? How--by what process-could Descartes's critical threshold be lowered to make him responsive to "dreams or visions"? -4- THE DREAM OF DESCARTES 1. Introduction DURING THE NIGHT OF 10 NOVEMBER 1619, REN DESCARTES (THEN twenty-three years old) had a dream in which the Spirit of Truth descended upon him to give him the mission to philosophize. Not until 1632 was he ready to publish; the condemnation of Galileo induced him to withhold his work, and thus nearly two decades passed before he "made himself known," as the contemporary French phrase had it, with the Discours de la mthode and the three Essais of 1637. In March 1949, I presented an outline of my discovery of the extraordinary drama barely hidden in the three dream-sequences that make up the Dream of Descartes. Since that first talk at the University of Georgia, I have lectured on the Dream of Descartes at many universities including Yale, Munich, and Lyon. Requests for copies of these unpublished lectures keep coming in, so it seems to be time to put them into print. This work exemplifies the principle I have followed in the history of philosophy: to interpret the text, only the text, nothing but the text. The only text available is Baillet's translation of Descartes's Latin notes in the petit registre Descartes called Olympica, which has been lost. Baillet's translation follows the original faithfully and reliably, within the limits of what an experienced rapid translator can achieve at sight. His text consequently contains bridge passages and occasional circumlocutions. Careful study of his translations of known Latin texts of Descartes makes it possible to eliminate Baillet's additions and to restore what is definitely in Baillet's source. The original Latin, however, cannot be restored by retrotranslation, especially in certain crucial passages in the third dream. An attempt to estimate the space taken up by the Olympica text in the original manuscript, based on the average ratio between Baillet's French and Descartes's Latin words in the case of quotations from other works, would indicate that in the lost notebook the Olympica text took up just about the whole available space. This space was limited by the fact that Descartes used the petit registre as students do even in our time--entering -5- essay headings from the back as well as the front of the book. The average number of words per page was estimated on the basis of letters of Descartes.The genesis of the text is as follows: the text gives an account of the three dreams in sequence, followed by the results of recalling and rethinking episodes after completing the main account. The last part of the text was written the next day (after the visit of the painter); the final entries (apologetic and promise of pilgrimage) still later.The general character of the dream sequence is as follows: the comment on the increasing "Enthusiasm" preceding the dreams, together with the claim that a gnie predicted the dreams, must be taken au pied de la lettre. There is no evidence of any addition or omission on Baillet's part.What Descartes was about to find (invenire) at that time cannot be determined anymore. It has probably no more to do with the dreams than creating the intellectual overexcitement that made it possible for the impending decision to work itself out in this sequence of increasingly transparent symbolic dreams. The best thing about this increasing transparence was said by Sigmund Freud in his Brief an Maxime Leroy ber den Traum des Descartes, 1 a reply to Leroy's request for an analysis of the three dreams. What the decision had to resolve is clearly stated in the titles and content of the two poems by Ausonius that appear at the beginning of the third dream: what way in life should I follow? The second title answers: "Yes and No": finding the truth in the welter of contention.The three dreams rise, as Freud said, from the deeply unconscious and very personal to a dreaming "von oben," so close to the waking intellect that the dreamer himself can find the interpretation. This rising sequence also takes the route per aspera ad astra. The ultimate conclusion reached by the dreamer appears only after the dream, in the waking state, as a result of repeated rethinking of the event--but it appears in the form of a symbolic misreading of the second dream: the Spirit of Truth has descended to give the young man his mission in life, the mission to philosophize.The three parts of the Dream of Descartes during the night of the 10th to the 11th of November 1619 are the singular document of a creative awakening by way of a consistent, rapid, articulated, fully successful process of experiential development in which zetesis--the philosophical search for Truth with a capital "T"--reaches the stage of noetic certainty and puts the seeker in possession of the experiential structure that will determine the philosophical structure of the work to come.I begin with six preliminary points: 1. The sequence of three "dreams" forms a dramatic whole in which the rise from perilous uncertainty to superb confidence in an as yet undefined -6- http://www.questia.com/6527700 revolutionary life mission is played out in a series of emotional and intellectual moves. The same development determines the change in the symbolic mood of the dreams. The dreamer himself "understood" his dreams clearly: he knew what they meant and put this knowledge down on paper. The interpreter must not search or hunt for the "meaning" of these dreams; he must try to recover what young Descartes himself knew about them. 2. The dreamer's account is truthful in this sense: it is the account of a searcher who has found what he was after. As always, the descriptions of the dream sequences are already transformations and manipulations of the dream experiences that cannot be held steady in memory after awakening. The account is therefore a record of the dream work, not of the dreams. And this, precisely, guarantees its truthfulness. 3. One of the three dreams was not a dream at all. 4. The sequence develops with iron logic. Each episode or sequence poses and answers a question; the answer settles the question and raises a new question, one that could not have been asked earlier. The dream thus offers an example of experiential, emotional, and intellectual growth compressed into the events of one night. 5. A satisfactory interpretation must therefore be able to account for every detail in the sequence, excepting references to personal memories of the dreamer that only he might have identified. This means that the interpretation must follow the dreams as a literary critic must follow the poem he interprets. No selective interpretation can open up the "meaning" of the "night of ecstasy," although it may well shed light on special issues, biographical as well as intellectual. 6. The dream night, then, was a journey of discovery, and a successful one. What Descartes discovered was his mission, not his philosophy. Yet we shall see that his future philosophy is already preformed, as it were, budlike, in the dreams. But no hunting for the philosophical "meaning" of the dream symbols can reveal this: perhaps the most unexpected, and the most striking, insight that emerged from the close reading of the account concerns the body-mind relationship. What Descartes received in these "dreams" were not philosophical ideas but philosophical experiences symbolically hidden in bodily movements and experiences. Merleau-Ponty suspected that the key to the understanding of the philosophy of Descartes was hidden in the relationship between the invisible and the visible; he did not suspect, it seems, that the Dream of Descartes offers this key. If the following interpretation is correct, the Dream of Descartes proves that fundamental philosophical insights can be physically experienced long before they have been -7- reasoned out. The development of an original philosophy may thus be a search for a system of rational thought that satisfies the memory of a unique physical experience of the same form. There is a great deal to be said about the methodology that the study of the Dream of Descartes has imposed upon me. Some points are dealt with in my "What Is 'History of Philosophy'? I. Doctrinal vs. Historical Analysis," 2 and in the appendix to this volume, "What Is 'History of Philosophy'? II. The Historiographic Problem." But I can answer two questions here: Do we have to know the life and the philosophy of Descartes to understand his Dream? Or would such knowledge induce us to read into the Dream of Descartes what is not there? The best work done on the Dream of Descartes, Henri Gouhier magnificent little book, Les Premires Penses de Descartes: contribution l'histoire de l'anti-renaissance, 3 proves that this is not so. No other treatment comes anywhere near this study of the young man during these years of philosophical awakening, and nothing can match the rigorous scholarship, the vast erudition, and the imaginative scholarship of Gouhier. Here is an interpreter with full control over the mass of evidence and a profound, detailed knowledge of Cartesian philosophy; yet the Dream of Descartes escapes him. In my interpretation, the first dream recapitulates and solves the problem of the dreamer's formative years at La Flche (where the dream unrolls). Here the moral problem is faced in an extraordinary conflation with the problem of noetic certainty and the problem of the physical structure of the experienced world. Among the philosophically permanent structures achieved by the dreamer, two must be singled out because they provide proof (the only one of this kind I have found so far) that future thought structure can come into existence in the form of specific physiological experience. One of them is simple: the appearance of the vortex (here a symbol of uncertainty, but also the basic form of impelled motion); the other one also represents a symbolic and experiential parallelism of motion, but this time it is the parallelism between the dreamer's physical motions on his way from one side of the courtyard of the college to the college church on the other side, and the mouvement de la pense of the First Meditation. The first dream has left the dreamer fearful, prayerful, and exhausted. In the whole of the event of that November night, the second dream marks the turning point. As Freud had observed (he had an uncanny gift for observing the obvious), the Dream of Descartes as a whole rises from the depths up to the closest vicinity of consciousness, so that the dreamer himself can in the end interpret it. This happens in the second dream. Philosophically, it marks the ascendancy of ratio over the passions of the -8- http://www.questia.com/6527700http://www.questia.com/6527701soul. In the history of philosophy, the second dream is a capital event. Here the ground is laid for the "this-sidedness" of Descartes's philosophy, marking the secular cleft in the development of Western philosophy for which Descartes and Pascal are the paradigms. From the viewpoint of a study of the creative process (which is my own and only viewpoint), the second dream shows precisely how an experiential event prepares the ground for a noetic achievement. Such an experiential event must not be mistaken for an existential one. The two are co-present in each of the three dreams, but they are not identical. After the interlude of the second dream, the third dream brings the resolution. Its drama comes and passes almost unnoticed and in great quiet; it is the experience (not the concept) of the cogito ergo sum. Note on Bibliography and Translations For references to works on the Dream of Descartes, see items 102-8 and the Index under Dream of Descartes in my Bibliographia Cartesiana. 4 My translations of Adrien Baillet's text on the Dream of Descartes are from volume 1 of his La Vie de Monsieur Des-Cartes. 5 Texts that I attribute to Descartes by extrapolation are placed in brackets. 2. The First Dream After going to sleep, his imagination was struck by some phantoms which appeared to him and frightened him so much that, seemingly walking in the streets . . . The very first sentence of Baillet's account of the Dream of Descartes gives us the clue: croyant marcher par les rues. The Latin word would be via or viae. The dreamer is walking in the streets; the street (via) on which he encounters the phantoms is clearly a bad one: il se trouve dans le mauvais chemin, as one would say in French; in plain English, he was "in a bad way." The appearance of the word via in the very first sentence of the account sounds in fact the keynote of the whole sequence of dreams and interpretations. The dreamer is uncertain about the road to take in life; he knows that he had been on the wrong road, or else the question of where to go would not have arisen. We will find that upon awakening from this dream, he does not "interpret" it; he spells out what the dream had confirmed: that he had been walking on the wrong road, -9- http://www.questia.com/6527701http://www.questia.com/6527701http://www.questia.com/6527701http://www.questia.com/6527701[which] frightened him so much that . . . he was forced to turn over to the left side in order to be able to advance to the place where he wanted to go . . . He was forced to turn over to the left side: il toit oblig de se renverser sur le ct gauche. This makes no sense when said of a man walking, but it makes great sense when applied to a man lying in bed. Later on we shall hear more about his position when falling asleep; right now we note that the account conflates the dreamer's position (lying down) while dreaming with his position in the dream (walking). This conflation confirms that this is a genuine and as yet untransformed dream memory, unless Baillet misunderstood or mistranslated the Latin original. The usual way out of the difficulty consists in interpreting the passage as meaning that he shifted his weight to the left foot, on the strength of what follows immediately: . . . because he felt a great weakness on the right side, on which he could not support himself. But why the repetition of ct, side, if what was meant was pied, leg? Richard Kennington in his Descartes' 'Olympica' felt the difficulty and translated: "he was obliged to fall back onto the left side," 6 a translation incompatible with the term se reverser, to turn around, to change direction. Accepting the text as it stands, one finds that the wording clearly suggests that at the beginning of this "dream," the dreamer was not yet sure whether or not he was dreaming, a situation that will recur in the course of that night. He is still faintly aware of lying in his bed; the statement that he thought he was walking down a street (croyant marcher par les rues) confirms this. The plural les rues where one would expect the singular may be a slip on the part of Baillet, who used the first common expression (marcher par les rues) that came to his mind; if he found the plural in the text, this would corroborate our interpretation: the dreamer is still trying to orient himself, he does not quite know yet what is happening. But immediately afterward he remembers something: he wanted to go to a certain place. He was not wandering around "in the streets." But he clearly does not know where he wanted to be. What he does know is that "a great weakness on the right side" prevented him from moving freely: there is something wrong with his "right side." In thinking over the dream after awakening, he retranslated the patent symbolism of this image into Christian language: what hurts him are sins not known to others. Being ashamed of walking in this manner, he made an effort to straighten up. -10- http://www.questia.com/6527701He was walking bent over on the right, the weak side, plainly displaying his weakness before the eyes of others. The effort produces an unexpected result: but he felt impetuous wind, which, carrying him away in a kind of vortex, made him spin three or four times on the left foot. He is now deeply in the dream, but his memory is of the utmost precision. Why? Because it is the memory of a most unusual type of physical motion, something more readily retained than a polyvalued symbolic image. He remembers spinning three or four times on his left foot, the good foot, while being swept away by the tourbillon. (We must, however, consider the possibility that Baillet embroidered the account by adding l'emportant.) This wind, too, will recur during the night and later in his waking reconstruction of the event; it will change its character in the process. Here is is an "impetuous," an irresistible and imperious, tornado that lifts him off his feet and makes him spin, physically. To see in this tourbillon the origin (or, as has been suggested, an encoded announcement) of his famous vortex theory is wrong. He did not discover the vortex theory in his dream; in fact, he never discovered it at all: he would deduce it more Cartesiano as the inevitable consequence of irrefutable propositions: that the universe is a plenum in which there can be no vacuum, since it is filled with extended substance (matter); that this matter is in motion; and that the spacial universe, while "indefinite" in extent, is bounded, so that matter in motion has no other way to go than around and around. All this would come very much later. Nonetheless, there is an unexpected connection tourbillon of the first dream and the vortex theory to come: Descartes had the bodily experience of the irresistible vortex carrying a body with it and setting it into spinning motion long before deductive reasoning forced him to adopt a theory so incompatible with our common physical experiences. It is well to remember Henri Poincar's linking of the Euclidian concept of space with these very same daily experiences of moving and touching. E. T. Whittaker once asked what would have happened to Newton's system had telescopes capable of revealing spiral nebulae in the night sky been invented before he published the Principia. The question makes us think of the boldness of Descartes's vortex theory, and the first dream reminds us that he did have that physical experience of the irresistible vortex carrying him and spinning him around long before he came to explain gravity by postulating a vortex of galactic dimensions carrying the earth with it, spinning it, and with its -11- outermost edge of subtle matter pushing back to the surface of the earth whatever rose or tried to rise from it. This still was not what frightened him. Ce ne fut pas encore ce qui l'pouvanta. On the basis of an examination of Baillet's way of translating, we can safely consider this remark a bridge passage that Baillet wrote down while forming the translation of the next sentence in his mind: The difficulty he had in dragging himself along . . . This, again, is typical of a genuine memory of a dream. Just now the tourbillon had made the dreamer spin on his left foot. Now he is "dragging himself along"--a description that fits the earlier one of his having difficulty in walking erect and feeling a weakness in his right side. Did Descartes jot down a few words immediately after the first dream, putting down tourbillon or "wind" among words recalling his physical difficulties? It so, he may not have remembered, when writing, at what point and in what way the tourbillon episode occurred; he would fit it in at the place where the word occurred in his notes, although in taking the notes the tourbillon episode might have come back to his mind after he had already begun to note down his physical state on that wrong road. The difficulty he had in dragging himself along made him believe that he might fall at every step . . . The dream symbolism becomes fully transparent. When your "right side" is weak, every step you take may become a fall. No wonder that after awakening he prays to be saved from the "evil influence" of his dream and from the consequences of his innermost sinfulness. . . . made him believe that he might fall . . . until, having seen a college open on his way, he entered inside in order to find refuge there and a remedy for his bad state [une retraite et un remde son mal]. At the end of the road is the college, and it is open. Il entra dedans: he passed through the building into the courtyard. The "college" is the Collge de La Flche, the Jesuit school where he had studied for nearly eight years. The action that follows takes place in the main courtyard. Un remde son mal plainly characterizes his urge to be "delivered from evil"--that evil of -12- which his physical weakness is a symbol; by contrast, trouver une retraite means finding a refuge from the hostile forces, the phantoms and that "imperious" wind that he cannot resist. He tried to reach the church of the college where his first thought was to go to make his prayer. The translation or paraphrase is garbled; "his only thought was to reach the church, so that he might make his prayer for deliverance there" would make more sense in the context. The prayer will not be made until he wakes up from his dream; as the dream goes on, he is deflected again and again both from his intention and from carrying it out: but perceiving that he had passed a man he knew without greeting him, he wished to go back to pay him his respects . . . The first obstacle: physically and morally hard-pressed as he is, his "first thought" of praying for deliverance vanished before the reluctance to appear uncivil to one he knew. His spiritual director at La Flche could have enlightened him about the state of his soul as revealed by this incident, but the dreamer got the message from the dream itself: . . . and was violently pushed back by the wind that blew against the church. The "imperious" wind that had revealed the ultimate degree of his helplessness is now a "violent wind" that prevents him from violating his resolve to seek deliverance from evil for the sake of being considered a gentleman by an acquaintance. This wind tries to drive him toward the church. But the rites of passage are not over yet: At the same time he saw in the middle of the courtyard of the college another person who called him by name in a civil and obliging way . . . The dreamer is still all too susceptible to civil and obliging approaches; the man who courteously stops him is a bringer of good news who . . . told him that if he wished to go find Monsieur N., he [Monsieur N.] had something to give to him. The man who talks to him knows him by name; presumably "Monsieur N." knows him, too, and the dreamer knows "Monsieur N." Did Descartes's -13- manuscript name this Mr. "N."? Did Descartes dream that the gentleman he talked to called him "Monsieur N."? Did he know the name, substituting the "N." for it? Did Baillet, translating at sight, substitute "Monsieur N." for something like "a certain gentleman"? We cannot know, but the identity of "Monsieur N." will unexpectedly and in proper dream fashion be revealed: Monsieur Descartes imagined that this [gift] was a melon that had been brought from some foreign land. That famous melon, on which Marie-Louise von Franz, the disciple of C. G. Jung, has written pages full of melon symbolism in her Der Traum des Descartes, 7 which has been given many ingenious and some outlandish interpretations, which Descartes, in the course of sobering up from his "enthusiasm," had himself interpreted as signifying "the charms of solitude, but offered by purely human solicitations" ("sollicitations," translated by J. O. Wisdom in Three Dreams of Descartes as "incitements") 8 With due respect to Descartes's own subsequent interpretation, it will be well to point out that with the appearance of the man who knows him by name, the dreamer is back at La Flche, not only physically, but socially as well. He has encountered someone familiar, in the vague way in which we recognize and do not recognize persons we dream of. This sends us back to the list of fellow students with whom the boy and adolescent Descartes had spent his eight years there. The list is unexpectedly short. In all the extensive correspondence that has come down to us, there is only one mention of a fellow student: in a letter to Mersenne dated 28 January 1641, 9 Descartes inquires about a M. Chauveau whom he knew at La Flche and who came from--Melun. We know nothing about the relationship between the two, but the whole dream episode, including the mysterious melon and the "charms of solitude, but offered by purely human enticements," suggests that repression was at work. A memory arose, and was quickly defused by a verbal pun: Melun becomes melon. Freud would have loved that. In the context of the first dream, the melon episode is but another obstacle in the dreamer's impeded progress toward the church, but it is a serious one, as the sequel shows. "But what surprised him more," says Baillet for the sake of fluency and to gain time, "was to see that" those who gathered around him with this person in order to converse, were erect and firm on their feet: although he himself was always bent and teetering on the same ground, and that the wind, which had tried several times to turn him around [le vent qui avoit pens le renverser plusieurs fois], had greatly diminished. -14- http://www.questia.com/6527701http://www.questia.com/6527701http://www.questia.com/6527701Again, the scene has been telescoped. People are gathering around the courteous gentleman and the dreamer, and a conversation develops-another obstacle in the dreamer's way toward the church. The wind apparently does not like that; it keeps on blowing, trying to turn the dreamer around and get him back on his way, but it gradually loses force. Outwardly, all seems well; the dreamer is amidst people carrying on civil talk; perhaps he participates in it. Yet he is radically divorced from them, for, as the dream says in its brutal veracity, they have a ground to stand on while he does not, although they all stand "on the same ground." He alone does not have a footing, and not through the working of an outside force either: the wind is no longer attacking him. The dream has revealed the condition of the dreamer in the plainest symbolic terms: He awoke on this imagination . . . He awakens with this image still before him. What follows is not an interpretation, as has always been said. The dreamer is not free to interpret yet. 3. The First Interlude He awoke on this imagination, and felt right then [ l'heure mme] an actual pain . . . This actual pain was the physical discomfort he had felt throughout the dream and which had channeled the symbolic dream work into the sequence of dream events that most tellingly and directly revealed his intellectual and moral state. No wonder that this pain made him fear that this was the work of some evil spirit [mauvais gnie] who had wanted to seduce him. The dream itself says all that is necessary; from the very beginning it posed the problem of the young man who seeks the right road after having gone down the wrong one, intellectually and morally. The dream has in fact asked, long before the question will be asked directly: what road shalt thou take in life? It gave the first answer: not this one. It was a menacing answer; for the dream had said more: try as you may to find the right road, you are still on the wrong one; everything in you strives against your moving to the -15- right one. The dream went farther. It specified, revealing the obstacles one by one; from civility, through participation in social life, down to sensuality, which is more than just hinted at in the melon incident; above all, a disinclination to give up the life he is leading. But the dream also told the dreamer that he must give it up, not for moral or intellectual reasons, but because an abyss separates him from the others, the abyss he felt as he stood as on a tossing boat while the others went on talking, not noticing anything. It is not surprising that he "awoke on this imagination," or thought so as he wrote down the dream sequence; this is what preoccupied his mind upon awakening, together with the pain that was real, not just dreamt. His immediate memory cut out the actual end of the dream, which was not to come back to his mind until he had written down his account to preserve it and was ready to go over his memories once more, in the light of what he had learned. It is therefore wrong to read these dreams backward, from the final interpretations to the original account, as Gouhier does, and Kennington, who explicitly states in his "Descartes' 'Olympica'": "I shall in what follows permit waking interpretations to supersede sleeping ones, and the reinterpretations to qualify earlier ones." 10 We shall permit ourselves none of that. Dream work is a work of symbolic understanding, growing out of conscious and unconscious concerns, trying to tell the dreamer what he does not want to hear, but also moving him toward resolutions for which he is unconsciously ready, however far from them his conscious mind may be. Interpretations and reinterpretations are a continuation of this work of symbolically untying knots. What matters is the process, not the products. If details change in the interpretation and reinterpretation, if later statements contradict earlier ones, it is because the images must change in order to bring to the fore what the earlier symbols had already contained but did not fully convey. Dreams have their logic, and Descartes had some logic, too, come to think of it. It was, after all, he, one of the finest logical minds of his time, who dreamt these dreams; it would be surprising if they lacked even that logic that they have by virtue of their being dreams. The dreamer's state upon awakening was that of utter existential uncertainty, the state that the mature thinker would try to produce by the vehicle of the universal doubt, having long lost the faculty of attaining it, though he undoubtedly retained the memory of once having felt it to the bone. The struggle between the old life that had him in its clutches and the new one he was seeking without knowing where to find it--that struggle was moral, intellectual, sensual, even physical. It called for a search of conscience, and the dreamer, now awake, found in it one cause for his inability to stand up straight and put his feet on firm ground: the fact that he had led a double life -16- http://www.questia.com/6527701and the fear that the hidden life might bear poisonous fruit in the future. He felt that his pain was the work of some evil spirit that had tried to seduce him. He immediately turned over on his right side; for it was on the left side that he had gone to sleep and had had the dream. It was the left side that hurt; why, then, had he felt, dreaming, his right side to be weak? The contradiction has often been noted; we also recall that at the beginning of the dream his weakness in the right side had forced him to turn over onto the left. Physically, if we accept his statement about going to sleep lying on the left side, the heart side, an uncomfortable position maintained for a length of time might well produce muscular pain. The turning over in the dream episode would then be the dream reaction to the discomfort he already felt, but it had to be the right side that was weak and the left one that was good, because this is what the dream tried to tell him, and succeeded in telling him: Your "right" side is weak. The symbolism takes precedence over the physical. In setting down the dream account, he evidently does not notice the inversion, another bit of factual evidence that the account was written while the memory of the dream was still fresh and its symbolic message only too clear in the mind. (Note that this is not to say that Descartes wrote down the account in the petit registre, nor that, if he copied it from notes he jotted down soon after dreaming, he did not edit them. But we do say that the account as we have it strongly points to the conclusion above.) It is this message that preoccupies him after moving into a more comfortable position: He prayed to God to ask to be guaranteed against the evil consequence of his dream [d'tre garanti du mauvais effet de son songe] and to be preserved from all the misfortunes that could threaten him in punishment for his sins . . . The mauvais effet, the evil effect or consequence of his dream is not, as an all too literal reading might suggest, the effect of the dream upon his future life. What follows shows clearly the meaning of this prayer: may God give him a warranty against the evil consequences of the life he had been leading, as revealed by this dream that forced him to think, upon awakening, of his sins, which, he recognized, could be grave enough to draw upon his head the bolts of heaven [les foudres du ciel]: although he had up to now led a life quite irreproachable in the eyes of men. The prise de conscience has been thorough. The dreamer has searched the hidden recesses of his soul and found what he does not like to find; still, he is -17- rather hypothetical about the gravity of these hidden sins: they just might be grave enough to draw thunder and lightning upon his head, although he had led a quite irreproachable life in the eyes of men. The "although" explains the fear he is experiencing; it reflects, now on the plane of salvation, what remained the dominant impression received from the dream--his radical divorce from others and the uncertainty into which it threw him. "In the eyes of men": we see the dreamer standing alone among the people who calmly converse while the ground under him is uncertain and the wind is trying to push him away from them toward the church, the symbol of salvation. The first dream is commonly called a nightmare. We have shown how false this is, if "nightmare" is defined as it usually is. Yet the dream was a nightmare in the waking sense: the nightmare of a future that avenges past transgressions. 4. The Second Dream As we turn to the second and the third dreams, we must retain the insight that the first one gave us. For so powerful is the logic of the event that this connection between physical and emotional experience and rigorous philosophical argument will occur in ever bolder form. This insight runs directly counter to the prevailing notion of the philosopher as a thinking machine, an imperfect one that goes through trial and error, makes mistakes, is influenced by notions and language absorbed by the thinking system, but nonetheless a machine that works toward a noncontradictory system and (unlike the computer) is creative, that is, programs itself (another source of error and bias, since this self-programming is not always free from nonphilosophical design, such as safeguarding one's philosophy not just against counterarguments but against counteraction by the powers that be). Such a conception of the philosophical mind is applicable to the young man in his pole, to stay with the case at hand. Those who, disregarding this specific and documented case, reject the conclusion about the connection between physical experience and rigorous thought on the general ground that mind is autonomous, at least as regards its connection with body, have the burden of proof in the face of the evidence that students especially of mathematical and scientific invention have produced. This connection has been most thoroughly explored by Stanley Burnshaw in his book The Seamless Web ( New York: Braziller, 1970), which is documented far beyond its main theme, the nature of poetic creativity. As to the Dream of Descartes, the account continues to offer surprise after surprise, while confirming more -18- and more what the study of the first dream has brought out. We turn to the second dream, the one which, to our knowledge, not one among the interpreters of the dream has even recognized for what it is, a "dream" that is no dream at all. In this condition he fell asleep again after an interval of nearly two hours spent in divers thoughts about the goods and evils of this life. He immediately had another dream in which he believed he heard a sharp burst of noise that he took to be a thunderclap. The fright it gave him awakened him instantly . . . Another "nightmare"? Certainly another unexpected fright. One might wonder why a young officer, a man of great physical courage who kept his head cool in danger, if we are to accept the story of the murder he faced and foiled, should be so scared by dreams that, after all, hardly measure up to the title of "nightmares." But this young man was in such a state of "Enthusiasm," so overwrought, that he would come to speak of the "Enthusiasm" as the work of a Spirit. He had gone to bed in the expectation that "a dream or vision" would bring the revelation, the understanding, that he had been unable to attain by wearing his brain down, trying to think things out. It must have been a euphoric expectation of wondrous things. When the dream curtain goes up, he is dragging himself along a street, and the first thing he sees are ghosts. Relentlessly the first dream exposes his weakness; the curtain closes again with him teetering, ashamed, fearing to fall any moment--surrounded by people who stand around unconcernedly talking; and yet they stand on the same ground that seems to give way under him. It is as if he expected to be led to dinner and found the executioner's ax lying on the dinner table. His fright is not that of a coward in danger; it is the fright of one who has just seen himself as he is. He expected to enter the Paradiso and found himself unaccountably in the Inferno; no wonder he finds himself thinking about sin and punishment after awakening from that dream. The second dream, given this scenario, would then have to be his passing through the Purgatorio, and this is what it indeed is. How did he enter it? The answer is physiological. He tells us that after his prayers for protection and forgiveness, he spent "nearly two hours" meditating on the good and the evil in the world, the theme of a poem of Ausonius that has a long and (to tell the truth) tedious catalogue of the dubious goods that this life has to offer: What path shall I pursue in life? The courts are full of uproar; the home is vexed with cares; home troubles follow us abroad . . . the merchant must expect ever new losses . . . the unwedded life has its sore troubles, but the futile watch that jealous husbands keep is worse. . . . Again, he who loves to live a -19- life stained with lascivious pleasures should consider how sinning kings are punished, as was the incestuous Tereus or King Sardanapalus. . . . The opinion of the Greeks is the wisest one: for they say that it is good not to be born at all, or, being born, to die early. Quod vitae sectabor iter? There is nothing good, nothing certain, nothing safe in the common life, and the divine judgment is inscrutable: the thunderbolt from heaven (les foudres du ciel) may strike you, however innocent you appear to others, however slight your hidden sins may seem to you. In these two hours, the emotional uproar caused by the unforeseen terror of the first dream subsides as the dreamer goes through the list of goods and evils, a veritable "catalogue of ships" that becomes repetitious and allows the physiological rhythms to become normalized. Gradually he slips into that border zone between waking and sleeping where is is impossible to distinguish between controlled waking thought and more and more unconscious interior monologue. Those of us who are accustomed to hard intellectual work and like to take a break lying down, perhaps with a book, know this state. One reads, and imperceptibly one begins to "read" what is not on the page. Freed from the compulsion exerted by the printed word, the mind drifts into free associations that grow out from the impression of what has been read, gradually turning into a phantasized sequel more and more fully governed by the unconscious mind. Being in a state between waking and sleeping, the body lies immobile, without voluntary shifting, but also without that unconscious shifting and muscle play that deep sleep provides. In this state the senses are unusually excitable. Any outer stimulus may be magnified out of proportion and strike the daydreamer as an event out of nowhere, unconnected with anything that preceded it. This state ends with a sudden muscular contraction, a jerk that rips the daydreamer out of this mental no-man's-land. There is a moment of fright where he does not know where he is, the flow of associations suddenly breaks off and the familiar contact with the everyday world is not yet made. This moment is particularly upsetting if one is in an unfamiliar place. Readers of the mature Descartes know that this state is the physiological and imaginative equivalent of the question that for Descartes poses the cognitive problem of reality, the question how to know whether one is dreaming or awake. The incomplete treatise that Descartes called La Recherche de la vrit, The Search for Truth, has for its motto "the word from the comedies": Veille-je, ou si je dors? "Am I awake, or am I dreaming?" He immediately had another dream in which he believed he heard a sharp burst of noise that he took to be a thunderclap. The fright it gave him awakened him instantly. -20- There was no dream: only a sudden awakening with a muscular jerk. Again we must admire the precision and veracity of the account. There was no rewriting of this in the light of the dreamer's later interpretation; the account describes what he actually heard: un bruit aigu et clatant, as Baillet translates, a sharp burst of noise, which he takes to be a thunderclap. What actually happened can be easily surmised. A floorboard cracked suddenly, or there was a sound like the crack of a whip outside, coming in faintly through the closed, shuttered windows; this sound is magnified by the hypertense ear of the dreamer, who awakens with a muscular shock that acts like a blow on the optical nerve: and having opened his eyes he saw many fiery sparks scattered throughout the room. There are individual differences in the effect of such startling awakening on the senses. To some people it is noise that is magnified, producing an auditory illusion; in others, at night, it is the optical nerve that is excited by the muscular contraction. In the case of Descartes, it was both, sound and light, and the optical phenomenon was by no means unfamiliar to him; it was merely unexpected. This thing had already, frequently, happened to him at other times; and it was nothing very unusual for him to awaken in the middle of the night so intensely [d'avoir les yeux assez tincellans] that he was able to make out the objects nearest to him [pour lui faire entrevoir les objets les plus proches de lui]. This could very well be an accurate translation of the text, or at least of the first part of it: This had often happened to me before. But Baillet, who had a lexicographer's or bibliographer's memory, might have--quite happily--provided this information from Descartes Dioptrics of 1637, where he expressly discusses this phenomenon from selfobservation and proceeds to give the correct scientific explanation, anticipating by 175 years its classical formulation as das Gesetz der spezifischen Sinnesempfindungen by the German physiologist Johannes von Mller. This law of specific sense impressions states that any stimulus will produce the sense impression proper to the nerve that it excites, regardless of the nature of the stimulus. A blow on the ear, for example, will be heard, while the same blow on the eye will cause sparks to be seen. Descartes also explains -21- why it has to be sparks: the optical nerve branches out to grasp the retina by fibers touching it at many points. If suddenly excited, it transmits the stimulus to these fibers, which produce the impression of a point of light, a spark, wherever the fiber touches the eye. But this explanation was to come later, a result of his anatomical dissections. In 1619, he did not have it, though he must have wondered about the cause of a striking phenomenon that he had experienced before. There is another bit of information suggesting that the essence of the whole passage was indeed in the petit registre. The text says that on earlier occasions his eyes had flashed so strongly (that they had been so "sparkling") that he could make out the objects nearest to him even in the dark. Obviously the phenomenon of sparks produced in accordance with Johannes von Mller's (or, really, Descartes's) law cannot support the statement that these sparks illuminated the room. Yet the observation is sharp and truthful, confirming that these sudden awakenings were, at least occasionally, of the same type as the awakening here called the second "dream": a spasmodic muscular shock causing the eyes to open suddenly, the pupils wide open, since the eyes are as yet unfocused. And since rooms at night are rarely totally dark, the unfocused eye might well have a dim perception of "the objects nearest to him," distinguishing darker areas within the dim, unfocused field of vision. If, then, the experience was familiar to him, why the fright? There are three reasons that reinforce each other. The first is physiological. The muscular jerk that awakens the daydreamer is precisely the jerk with which we react to a sudden, unexpected fright; the German word for experiencing that jerk is zusammenschrecken. Shreck means fright, and zusammenschrecken means making oneself smaller in sudden fright, head down, elbows and knees up. Second, the preceding dream had provoked the fear of punishment from heaven--les foudres du ciel--of a thundering strike from on high. This lingering memory--an expectation of what might happen--immediately gives the dreamer the link between what he actually heard and what he precisely described, and what he thought it was: . . . a sharp burst of noise that he took to be a thunderclap. Simultaneously, he saw what he had repeatedly seen before: sparks filling his chamber. In ordinary circumstances, this would have reassured him, but not in a night like that, a night that had begun with the expectation of "dreams and visions" coming to him from beyond the human realm. The momentary disorientation of that moment between fantasy and reality opened up an abyss: what if the chamber was really filled with sparks? In this -22- case, the dreamer would be confronted with a supernatural phenomenon that, since he was aware of his actual or possible sinfulness, would be shattering. It would, in fact, be nothing less than a miracle, the very last thing a budding rationalist could face. The terse factual account thus opens up the question that the preceding one had ignored, plunging him back into the religious atmosphere of his years at the Jesuit college, and farther still, into his childhood and the memory of the nurse who brought up the motherless child. "My religion is that of my nurse," he would answer when a Dutch Reformed pastor, decades later, asked him point blank. Up to this point, the air has been thick with intimations of the supernatural, with sin and the punishment of it, with his moral conduct, and the thought of "good" and "evil" in this life. Now the question stares him in the face; no longer can he escape a decision, for the sparks were filling his chamber. It was not what he had experienced before, for never before had he had any reason to suspect the workings of a supernatural agency. What he now does marks his exit from Purgatory: . . . he wanted to have recourse to reasons drawn from philosophy . . . Thus Baillet, and again we wonder whether he is translating or explaining. If the latter be the case, his explanation hits the mark. With a jerk--a mental one, this time--the dreamer tears himself away from the religious mood that had held him captive and takes recourse to reasons drawn from philosophy, where "philosophy," as customarily in this time, means mathematics, science, epistemology, and metaphysics in one. Here is a phenomenon that is either produced by a supernatural agency or by causes that he does not yet know but that he knows to be natural. The decision is reached not by speculation or by a leap into faith, but by experiment. This is the obvious explanation of the text that follows, a text that all interpreters have passed over without comment, the only exception being Henri Gouhier, who, with his customary honesty, said that he did not understand it: . . . and he drew from this procedure conclusions that were good for his [state of] mind [il en tira des conclusions favorables pour son esprit] after having observed, opening and closing his eyes alternately, the nature of the species that appeared to him. The term la nature des espces is a scholastic one. It refers to that theory of perception that explains vision as the transmission of phantasmata, or species substantiales, from the object that releases them to the receiving eye. The question was: are the sparks in the chamber, or are they in the eye? A -23- decisive experiment answers it. If, upon closing his eyes, the sparks disappear, then they are in the chamber, and, since there is no natural explanation of such a phenomenon, it must be of supernatural origin. If, on the other hand, they are seen even with the eyes closed, then they are in the eye, as they had been on all previous occasions. Being a good experimenter, the young man verifies his conclusion by repeating the experiment several times.The result not only set his mind at rest, as Baillet says; it marks a breakthrough. The first dream had to bring up the past and to cast the darkest spiritual shadows upon the future, if the young man was to embark upon the right road with that superb confidence and certainty that can be had only by coming to terms with the past. Part of that was freeing himself from any suspicion that the supernatural might directly impinge upon nature and produce phenomena that have no natural causes. This question had occupied him at least since his encounter with Beeckman, and this preoccupation went to the heart of the task before him. The questions are: 1. Is the natural world autonomously governed by laws accessible to properly guided reasoning and observation? 2. What are the limits of purely rational cognition? This second question he himself formulated by saying that these limits were at the line that separates natural science from alchemy, astrology, and other occult sciences. Biographical facts recently uncovered show that precisely during his stay in Bavaria he investigated these occult sciences through personal contact with at least one avowed practitioner of them, the German mathematician Johann Faulhaber. Even the possibility that he went to Linz in Austria to meet Kepler, who lived there, can no longer be excluded. In all this he was plainly on the side of the natural sciences, but equally plainly he did not reject the occult sciences out of hand without finding out what he could about them. In short, he was prepared for his second "dream" and what he received from the little experiment he made was again a living experience: the experience of having a frightening burden of guilt and fear lifted from him by having "recourse to reasons drawn from philosophy": Thus his terror vanished, and he went back to sleep in a very great calm. -24- 5. The Third Dream A moment later he had a third dream, which had nothing terrifying, as had the first two. The despondent mood should have changed to euphoria, considering that this third dream opened by telling him that he possessed all that he had desired: In this dream he found a book on his table without knowing who had put it there. He opened it and, seeing that it was a Dictionary, he was delighted, in the hope that it would be useful to him. The same moment he found another book under his hand (which was no less new to him) [the words I have put in parenthesis are probably Baillet's], not knowing from where it had come to him. The silent shadow play is very close to the dreamer's waking thoughts; the symbolic guise is a mere film overlying that thought. He found to be a collection of poems by various authors, entitled Corpus omnium veterum poetarum Latinorum. He was curious and wanted to read something; and, opening the book, he happened upon the verse Quod vitae sectabor iter? What road shall I follow in life? The question had been with him from the first moment when he found himself on the wrong road, with his "right side" faltering. The substance of the poem had occupied him as, upon awakening from the first dream, he thought about the goods and evils in life. Now he has before him the book he had read in college: Corpus omnium veterum poetarum Latinorum. He does not know who gave it to him, just as he does not know where the Dictionary came from. A dictionary has all the words of the language in it, with their translation or explication. It is a complete record and useful, since it gives its owner access to whatever in the language he wants to know. What he does not know is how these two books appeared on the table, but this does not trouble him; they are familiar, both of them. The fact is that he has had them all the while, as his preserved writings of that year 1619 show. What had kept them out of sight is the welling up of his past life and his fears of the future. These obstacles are gone, and the symbolic books simply materialize on the table. At this very moment he saw a man he did not know . . . -25- He knew him very well, as we shall see; but the dream work draws the conclusion that he will reach a decade later: his identity and his function must not be acknowledged: . . . but who presented to him a piece in verse, beginning with [the words] Est et Non and who recommended it to him with praise as an excellent piece. M. Descartes told him that he knew what it was, and that this piece was among the Idylls of Ausonius which were to be found in the thick Anthology of Poets that was on his table. He wanted to show it himself to this man, and began to leaf through the book, the order and arrangement of which, he boasted, he knew perfectly well. While he was searching for the place, the man asked him where he had got the book, and M. Descartes replied that he could not tell him how he had come by it, but that a moment before he had handled yet another book, which had just disappeared, without his knowing who had brought it to him or who had taken it away again. He had not finished [speaking] when he again saw the book appear at the other end of the table. But he found this Dictionary not complete as when he had seen it the first time. Dream work being a process, the first clues to follow lie in the action, not in the symbols presented. Both the action and the symbols compress into a swiftly shifting sequence of several cardinal themes that rise together, jostle each other, and are compressed in one short paragraph. This paragraph is framed by the beginning and the end of the shadow play, the appearance, disappearance, and reappearance of the Dictionary. Within this frame we have another appearance: that of the stranger, who is clearly connected with the equally suddenly appearing Anthology of Poets and with the two keynote poems of Ausonius, Quod vitae sectabor iter? and Est et Non: "What road shall I follow in life?" and "Yes and No." Whatever the Dictionary may symbolize (it is not hard to guess what), let us stay with the fact that it is complete (and therefore useful, which delights the dreamer) when it appears, and that it returns incomplete, after having vanished for a while. A parallel from the life of another great French thinker will make clear the meaning of this quite transparent symbolic play. In 1749, Jean-Jacques Rousseau takes the road to Vincennes to visit his imprisoned friend Diderot; while walking, he takes a copy of the Mercure de France out of his pocket. As he opens it, his eye falls on an announcement by the Academy of Dijon offering a prize for the three best essays on the question whether the progress of civilization has improved or corrupted morals. Suddenly, he is overcome by a storm of ideas, sinks down at the foot of an oak tree, weeping so copiously that when he rises, a quarter of an hour later, the front of his -26- waistcoat is drenched with tears. In the most famous and most detailed of his accounts of this episode, he exclaims that if he had only been able to retain all that he came to understand during this brief span of time, not a single question in political science would have remained unanswered; but, alas, all he could write down in haste was the "harangue of Fabricius," the centerpiece of his First Discourse, an embarrassingly poor and uninformative piece (which indeed it is). The phenomenon is well known and well attested. There are moments when the intellectual logjam breaks, when, as the German language has it, einem der Knopf aufgeht--when the knot falls apart--and the key idea that suddenly illuminates and orders the whole field "pops into the mind." There follows a brief state of euphoria where the mind, rapidly moving out from this center, suddenly sees all the knotty questions opening up to solution, one after another. There is no time to think things through carefully; the problems fall like a row of dominoes, or so it seems. The victory is complete--until the "Enthusiasm" abates. At that point, one can no longer remember what one knew or believed one knew at the peak of discovery, and if one tries to reconstruct the blinding vision, the road is strewn with obstacles that will require the most patient, careful handling in order to obtain, after long labors, what seemed to be in the discoverer's hands. Descartes had been striving for the Archimedean point ever since the encounter with Beeckman had aroused him. Behind the specific problems of geometry and mechanics that occupied him, he saw the need for a general method of determining which questions were solvable and which were not. Beyond that, again, rose the recognition that scientific progress could not go on piecemeal and randomly--that there must be one method by which all answerable questions can be answered with certainty. But a method--in Greek methodos--is a road that one takes. The very first thing that the opening scene of the third dream tells us is that the dreamer was aware of being on that road, that in the blouissement of this road he felt that the answers to all answerable questions were already in his hand, that in the interlude concerning the two poems this awareness vanished from him, and when he himself tried to bring it back (telling the stranger about that marvelous Dictionary that had come out of nowhere), it did reappear, no longer complete as before. But who was the stranger? The Dictionary and the Corpus poetarum have appeared, and the dreamer chances upon the poem on the road in life. At this point, the stranger appears, again unexplainably, but clearly connected with the appearance of the two books. It is as if he had chosen the precise moment for entering, the moment when the search for more concrete -27- understanding of the deeper issues begins. The relation between the stranger and the dreamer is that of a master and a disciple who is striving to show his knowledge and independence but finds himself stymied. The stranger gives him the piece of writing called Est et Non and tells him how good (important) it is. This in contrast to the dreamer's happening on Qoud vitae sectabor iter? in leafing through the Anthology of Poets before him. The disciple eagerly displays his knowledge: he knows the poem, he identifies it, he tells the stranger where it is to be found in the book. He then tells him, not without pride, that he is thoroughly familiar with its arrangement, meaning: "I can at any time answer the question: where is this poem Est et Non? I can at any time solve the problem." The stranger somewhat ironically asks him whether he knows where the book, that is, his knowledge, comes from. The dreamer has no answer to that question, but tells the stranger of the other book he had handled, which had not only come, but vanished, in a manner beyond his understanding. This other book, the Dictionnaire, reappears almost mockingly before he has time to finish his sentence. It appears, not at or under his hand, but at the far end of the table, where he cannot get to it; but he does know that it is a shadow of its former self. However, still browsing in the Anthology of Poets, he did get to the poems of Ausonius . . . --only to find himself embarrassed again, despite his knowledge of the arrangement and contents of the Anthology: . . . and not being able to find the piece beginning Est and Non he told the man that he knew an even more beautiful one than this by the same poet and that it began with Quod vitae sectabor iter? With remarkable consistency, the game between master and disciple continues to the end. The master asks questions that expose the disciple's incomplete and uncertain knowledge; the disciple answers like a highly intelligent student who frankly admits what he does not know, but uses the occasion to say something closely related that he does know, this time suggesting that this knowledge may be new to the master: The person asked him to show it [the poem Quod vitae sectabor iter?] to him, and Descartes began to search for it, coming upon several small portraits in copper engraving: which made him say that the book was very beautiful, but that it was not the edition he knew. -28- The master replies to the new information volunteered by the disciple the way he had handled him before. He asks: where is it? Show me. The disciple complies, comes upon the engraved portraits, and is once more embarrassed: the book is not the one he is familiar with; but, again, he can supply new information: this is a different edition, but a much more beautiful one than the one he intimately knows. This, too, is truthful. He did know the Corpus poetarum intimately, since it had been the textbook from which he had studied poetry and rhetoric at La Flche. One recalls his judgment about this part of his studies, in the Discours of 1637: beautiful and useless. The knowledge he is seeking was not in that kind of book. Nowhere in the account of the third dream is there any suggestion that he knew that book from his years of schooling; this information was dug up by modern scholars who studied the curriculum and the books prescribed at La Flche in Descartes's young years. The traumatic and oppressive associations that La Flche brought up in the first dream have vanished, but the school years color the third dream through the veiled symbols of the Corpus poetarum and the Dictionary, for it is in these years that he must have used or frequently consulted dictionaries. The memory rose for good reason: the Dictionary and the Anthology of Poets stand for ideas central to the dreamer's thoughts that led to the night of dreams. In his last answer he has indirectly told the questioning master that what he now has in hand is a new edition of the knowledge he had learned, and that it is more beautiful than the old one. And this knowledge is his own: the disciple no longer needs the master. Obviously, this stranger, Descartes's master, is Isaac Beeckman, who had decisively challenged Descartes to stretch his intellect, and from whom Descartes later felt the need to break away. He was at this point when the books and the man disappeared and effaced themselves from his imagination, without, however, awakening him. The third dream was over. The night of "dreams or visions" had furnished all the symbols he needed, and it had moved him from where he had hitherto been to where he was destined to be. The work of interpretation could begin; it had to begin, now that the blackboard had been wiped clean. -29- 6. The Critical Juncture A singular fact to note is that, doubting whether what he had just seen was a dream or a vision, he not only decided, sleeping, that it was a dream, but even interpreted it before sleep left him. What is it to "interpret a dream"? The next sentence tells us: He judged that the Dictionary meant nothing but all the sciences brought together and that the Anthology of Poets in particular indicated . . . The sleeping interpreter of his dream tells us what the dream symbols "meant," "indicated," "showed": what he "understood" them to mean, and finally, what all this signified, in the final event. The interpreters have faithfully followed them; no one, to my knowledge, has ever asked himself why he found it necessary to interpret Descartes's interpretation; they all assumed, rightly (I think) that these interpretations are as enigmatic as the symbols they interpret, as much in need of explication and thus as "mousterious," as prehistorically misty and mysterious as the dream itself. ("Mousterious," let us remember, is one of Joyce's portmanteau words in Finnegans Wake.) Why, then, do they begin to live again when they read those weighty interpretive pronouncements, why do the best of them doubt or reject the possibility that what has been told was a genuine account of dreams, remembered as one always remembers dreams, retaining core images stripped of their polyvalent iridescence, a roughhewn continuity partly remembered, partly constructed, but as yet un-"interpreted"? It is because the "interpretations" that follow the close of the third dream toss out philosophical words and conceptual clusters which can be regarded as static monoliths, standing in the "dream" landscape like the giant heads on Easter Island, asking to be "explained" by linking them to all one knows, all one can find out, about the mature philosophy of Descartes, about the history of philosophical concepts and metaphors, and about everything else that might be connected up with these monoliths, transporting them, as it were, to more populated places where they will be in supposedly congenial company. But the fact that stares the unerudite reader of the dream account in the face is that the flow of images has been stopped and that, after a most puzzling interlude, the dreamer's mind erects one such monolith after another. If one takes the process character of the dream work seriously, this transition will have to be examined in minute detail. The results are star- -30- tling. (Passages in brackets are my reconstructions of Descartes's notes on the basis of Baillet's text.) [. . . though without awakening me. Doubting whether what I had just seen was dream or vision, I decided that it was a dream and interpreted it before sleep left me.] The "dream from above" led to the sudden vanishing of what had just been seen; this was startling because the dreamer was in a position to experience this vanishing as an event, which would not have been the case had he fallen into deep sleep. This experience was as startling as the cracking sound that had awakened him before in the second "dream," but there was no fright, only surprise. Surprise at what? He says it plainly: at knowing that the dream had ended and knowing, now, that he was in his bed, just having witnessed a dream and its ending. [Doubting whether what I had just seen was a dream or vision . . .] He had expected to receive "dreams or visions," and since he felt that they would come through an agency other than his own, the word "vision" he used must have referred to something one sees, something that is neither what one normally sees nor what dreams "represent to the imagination," but something beyond waking and dreaming experience that is shown, made visible, by some spiritual agency. In the text just quoted above, the word "vision" shrinks down to the familiar. Why? Because the second "dream" has already eliminated, once and for all, any doubt concerning the presence of a supernatural agency producing sense impressions. One might say paradoxically, yet historically correctly, that the illumination received through the second "dream" had "enlightened" Descartes in precisely the sense in which the term "enlightenment," les lumires, became the name for the philosophical posture and experience of the eighteenth-centuryphilosophes. The "enlightenment" of the second dream consisted precisely in the substitution of the light of reason for the divine light, a substitution that did not come through an otherworldly "illumination" or "vision" but by having recourse to reasons of philosophy, that is, to the power of scientific thinking. Yet the dreamer is still alone in his dark chamber, still overwrought with "Enthusiasm," still "seeing things," aware of being in some way "beyond himself." The question, "Dream or vision?" is still before him, even though what he has seen had nothing terrifying. What, then, was he in doubt of? The text answers: he was in doubt of his own state, except that it was no -31- longer his moral state "in the eyes of God." He was asking himself: Veille-je, ou si je dors?"Am I awake or am I sleeping?" He was not questioning the natural or supernatural origin of what he had seen; he had seen it, and that, at least, was beyond doubt. Whatever its origin, the question had now turned upon himself, it had become the existential question. He is not troubled about the possibility of a supernatural irruption into reality; what troubles him is something else. If he cannot find out whether he is awake or asleep, then he does not know whether he knows who he is; his faith in the existence of things is at stake, because the doubt gnaws at the perceiving self. The question Veille-je, ou si je dors? is at the surface; beneath lurks the Hamlet problem: "To be, or not to be, that is the question." The transition from the first to the second "dream" is now reversed: the third dream has been so close to the surface that upon its coming to an end, he is again between sleeping and waking, but still close enough to sleep to be unable to find his way back to common reality. In this limbo, he does something extraordinary: . . . he decided, in his sleep, [en dormant], that it was a dream, but he even made the interpretation of it before sleep left him. Now, how does one decide that? Baillet felt that this was an extraordinary situation; one would wish he had cited the Latin term in the margin. The term il dcida could be his, but this is most unlikely. Everywhere else we find expression like il jugea, il attribuoit, il estimoit, il entendoit, il comprenoit-terms connoting judgment, understanding, surmise. The way in which Baillet renders the text before him shows that it struck him as extraordinary, and the term il dcida is entirely in keeping with what he reports. For, indeed, the reality question, in this state of affairs, cannot be judged or interpreted or solved by surmise; it must be solved, and only a decision can solve it. An example will show why. Consider someone driving an automobile and finding himself lost, not knowing in what direction the road is taking him. The normal thing to do would be either to go on until he finds out where he is, or to go back to the point where he last knew where he was, and then move in the right direction. There is only one situation where he can decide where he is: the situation where it does not matter whether he is on one road or the other. Applying this to the dream situation, we must ask: under what conditions would it not matter to him whether he is asleep or awake? The answer is obvious, once we understand the existential depth of the dreamer's predicament. The Hamlet question leads directly to the decision that it does not matter. For underneath the doubt: am I awake or am I dreaming? lies the -32- doubt: am I, or am I not? But the dreamer is aware of the fact that he is doubting. Ergo: Dubito, cogito. Cogito, sum. Whichever way I decide, the question no longer matters. I am, I think; let me go on with the task at hand. And so he goes on to interpret the dream "in his sleep," in the great calm that pervades all that has happened since he was back in his chamber, sitting at his table, looking at the book that had just appeared, seeing it because that chamber was light. Looking back, the question: "Dream or vision?" reduced to the question: "Am I awake or dreaming?" arises quite naturally. I am sitting in front of my fire. But how often have I been sitting in front of my fire, only to find myself in my bed the very next moment? Was I sitting at my table, seeing the book materialize, or was I lying in bed, dreaming that I sat at the table, seeing the book materialize? Is my chamber really light, or is it really dark? The contact with reality is momentarily broken, and this is no time for philosophical speculation. What rises and passes, leaving no residue except the bare entry in the petit registre, is the sinking feeling of being out of reality, and the typically Cartesian decision, quite in character, that removes the doubt and allows him to go on unhampered. Descartes did not "invent" the cogito in this swiftly passing interlude. He experienced the doubt, the existential threat it raised, and the liberating power of the feeling of his own existence that somehow, unreflected, arose from the decision he made, not knowing why it was so right and so inevitable. We are in 1619, after all. 7. The First Interpretation THE DRAMA ENACTED IN THE THIRD DREAM HAS REACHED AND PASSED ITS high point, which did not come in the turbulent and perturbed opening act, but in the quiet, shadowy dialogue with himself through which the dreamer glided from dream to interpretation. He has already received all that "dream or vision" had to give him, and we can now say what this work of a single night has done for him. The "years of apprenticeship," as the Abb Sirven had called them, are over. They ended with a probing rite of passage, which not so much tested the powers he had acquired (they had begun to -33- show a year earlier and would need much time to develop to the full) as it put the whole man and his whole life to the test, for a philosopher is not just a thinking thing, not a res cogitans, but a persona cogitans; and persona, as Decartes knew, means a "mask" through which a concealed self speaks: As an actor, to conceal his blush of embarrassment, enters the stage masked, so I step forth onto the stage of the world, masked. Larvatus prodeo: so he says in that part of the petit registre that contains sundry general observations, making a seemingly ill-assorted whole under the enigmatic title Olympica. The first dream had told him of the abyss that separated him from others; it had brought home to him that even if the weakness "on the right side" were cured, he would still be different from those who stood around talking, knowing nothing, that he was an outsider-which is a hurtful insight to gain. It had also told him of the inner cleft of which he had already become aware, of the double life he was leading: his outer life that was irreproachable "in the eyes of men" and an inner one that was of a far more dubious nature "in the eyes of God." And this insight brought up that there was still another fissure within him: the gap between the "religion of his nurse," the world of his childhood and adolescence, and the new world of hard rational thought that had suddenly opened to him exactly one year earlier, when, meeting Beeckman, he had been challenged to develop to the full the mental powers that were growing yet still dormant in him because these powers did not govern and shape his life yet. He was still "rolling around the world," as he would say in the Discours, beset with inner conflicts seeking resolution. Beset by them, but by no means torn; he might have grown out of them, but "the law under which he entered"--das Gesetz, nach dem herangetreten, as Goethe said, his "character" as we would call it today--demanded another kind of resolution. He had to make tabula rasa, he had to start with a clean slate, and this is not easily done. It could not be done through ruthless rational thinking, the thinking he prescribes as the rite of passage from the old philosophy to the true Cartesian one, because much more was asked for than tearing himself away from the "prejudices," the beliefs, that had imperiously imposed themselves upon the helpless mind of the newborn baby, the prejudices that were the environment in which it developed, that atmosphere which the child, the adolescent, the mature man was breathing in. The Descartes of the Meditations no longer knew as a living experience the darker, deeper strata of human existence; what mattered was knowledge, hardened into propositions that fulfilled the ineluctable demands of the physio-mathematico- -34- philosophical mind that tolerates no contradiction, and therefore rules out any unexpressed and unresolved conflicts. Long before Descartes arrived at the method for guiding the mind safely to certainty in all questions that the mind is capable of solving, the inner conflicts that could not rationally be resolved were wiped off the slate without any conscious effort of his own. This is what he had expected to happen during the night of dreams and visions, and we can now say in plain language what he tells us in the symbolic mode of that night. The "Spirit" that "aroused" his "Enthusiasm" and "predicted" dreams and visions before he went to bed had indeed, as Baillet's account suggests (whether as a surefooted surmise of his own or as an elaboration of a text before him), been at work for several days, following a hard, exhausting, and in the end inconclusive struggle to do from the top of the mind what only the subconscious mind could do for him. This subconscious mind was getting ready for the work. Deep down he knew already what the dream was going to tell him, but the knowledge could not rise to the surface because the road was blocked by the debris of thoughts tried, discarded, broken off, by the weariness that comes upon a thinker when he knows the solution to be just around the corner without knowing what corner, and how to get around it. That these thoughts touched again and again upon his condition, that the boldness of his search evoked resonances of existential doubt ("Is it possible that I, a young unknown man, who has wasted his life, should be the only one to see what none of my fellow men is even seeking for? Is it possible to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge without drawing the thunder of heaven upon one's head?")--all this is proved beyond doubt by the night of dreams, and not just by what the first dream revealed and posed as a problem, either. For if these matters had risen to consciousness, if Descartes had struggled with the problem of religious faith against rational knowledge, if he had thought about the question why the great truth he almost had in his possession should have been withheld from mankind since its inception, why an Aristotle or a Saint Thomas should have failed to find what an insignificant young French officer in his winter solitude was about to find--if all or any of that had entered his conscious thought, the night of dreams would have been unnecessary. He would have fallen into lassitude, giving up the unequal struggle, for a period long enough to let his mind rest from its frustrated labors, long enough to allow the subconscious mind to shift the bits and pieces of the puzzle around until a configuration was achieved that would make another conscious effort of thought possible and more rewarding; in short, he would in the end have arrived at the solution. But then he would have approached -35- and entered the promised land with the inner conflicts still with him, and since a great philosophy is the work of the whole man and not just the product of his great conscious mind, his mature thought would have lacked that supreme confidence that his contemporaries found ravishing or irritating, depending on whether they were hoping for a new contemporary philosophy or fearing for the old one. Even this superb, bold confidence which will not be denied was already there before the dream. Days before he had given up worrying his overwrought mind any further, he felt that a decision was close at hand, that it would come to him rather than being made by him, that it would come from some agency "moving him," and that the event could not but end well. In fact, he expected the happy end to come without a beginning, as the solution to a mathematical problem intuitively comes and is there. (It might be a false solution, to be sure.) It is not surprising that he stated that, not at the beginning of the dream account, but after having said everything he remembered and everything he had to say about it, the statement being the last one he made: He adds that the Spirit [Gnie] which was exciting in him this Enthusiasm by which he had felt his brain heated for several days, had predicted to him these dreams before he went to bed, and that the human mind had no part in them. He was right in all his anticipations except the last one: the solution did not fall in his lap. First came the katharsis, the purge, plunging him back into the life he was striving to leave behind. In the first dream, the conflicts were brought before his eyes in an oppressive, frightening, all too patent symbolism, revealing no way leading to a resolution. Yet this brutal confrontation, unexpectedly bursting upon him, was needed to make him experience the very depth and power of the region from which he was to escape, and, by working out the symbolic multiplicity of the dream images as we have done, we can recognize what linear interpretation of this dream conceals: that the mathematical and philosophical mind of the young man continued lines of thought that had preoccupied it before the event, despite the sudden emotional uproar, injecting into the dream event elements that fused with the emotional dream material and modified it in such a way that the threads of thought can still be recognized in the physical, bodily experiences that impressed themselves upon the dreamer's memory: the tourbillon, the whirlwind, imperiously imposing its motion even onto a large body. One of the first problems Descartes discussed with Beeckman was the law of free fall, which Beeckman had correctly found at about the same time as Galileo did, waiting nearly thirty years before he enunciated it. Descartes had given the wrong solution, which Galileo, too, had given, before realizing that -36- velocity in free fall was a function of time, not of distance. Even though for Descartes the problem was a purely mathematical one, occupation with this problem of free fall would have turned his thought upon the enigmatic force that made bodies fall, with a lingering suspicion that there was something conceptually dubious about the Aristotelian answer. However remote this problem might have been from the conscious work that engaged him in November 1619, a dream dominated by the symbolic fear of falling, of being unable to stand up straight, of being "dragged down" and forced to crawl along the ground, as it were, of being assailed by the physical force of a wind that plainly was a "spirit"--the word meaning "breath," "breeze"--such a dream would draw in anything connected with these symbols, and the question of the physical constitution of the universe and the power forcing things down from their heights could blend without difficulty into the emotional drama that was played out. Similarly, the strange to and fro in the courtyard symbolizing the conflict between what he wanted to do and where he wanted to be, as against the obstacles preventing him from getting there, gave an opening to the far more important conscious effort to find, at the end of the intellectual road, that certainty that the dream presented in the image of the church where he would be safe and saved. The imagery welling up from the unconscious defined for him and translated into a physical, bodily experience what was stirring in his conscious mind, unrelated, unconstructible, in the form of seemingly incompatible stirrings rather than formulations: the urge to attain certainty rather than accept the probable, however convincing it might be; the feeling that the force that drove him toward that goal could not carry him to that certainty, and the intimation that precisely this important force held the key to the solution. How? Impossible to think it out at that point, and not only impossible but unnecessary; for, so the conscious thinking mind argued, there is no sense in thinking about getting somewhere unless you have the road under your feet, the safe methodos, the method for solving answerable problems and for recognizing unanswerable ones as such. The elements of the future solutions were there, uncoordinated, unrecognized except for the element of method, not thought out at all, and the first dream took them up and welded them with the primary emotional material into a sequence in which the system was symbolically preformed, only one piece of it missing: the decisive last one, the recognition that ultimate doubt leads, not to irremediable uncertainty, but to the church "where it was his first thought to seek refuge and a cure for his ills." There was no way out of the first dream, no way forward, no solution even dimly perceived on the horizon. For this dream, despite the thought elements that had melted into it, kept the dreamer caught in what he had to -37- break out of if the solution were to be attained. The symbolic play achieves the step toward liberation in superb fashion. A loud crack, recognized for what it is and at the same time identified, with some doubt, as the "thunder from Heaven," suddenly jerks the dreamer out of the past dream and makes him open his eyes wide. No longer does he accept what is before him: the fright of the first dream still besets him, but now the conscious mind takes command: he has "recourse to reasons drawn from philosophy." Reason conquers the past, the emotions are now far behind, resolved through having been brought up from the depth, faced, and superseded by thought. From here on, calm and a feeling of well-being prevail; what was a living drama in the first dream is reduced to the shadow play of the third, beneath which only one emotional problem is worked out: the relation between the master and the disciple. The third dream tells the dreamer what he now has. Significantly, this dream ends as suddenly as the first one had done, and for the same reason: the ultimate key is missing. This key will have to be found in the labor of a decade or more; but the dream work does not stop when the images vanish; it goes on, as in the preceding sequence, by moving the dreamer the second decisive step forward: from a "dream from above" to the state where he experiences his fundamental problem of reality, and this in such a form that the experiential knot has to be solved by forging, unconsciously, the general shape of that key. It was necessary to lead up once more from the beginning of that night to the point where the dreamer's interpretation begins, for only through such an assessment of what had been done and what had been achieved is it possible to understand the striking fact that this interpretation is very meager indeed. Far from containing the clues to the dream, far from being the symbolic core in which the thought of Descartes is symbolically expressed, this interpretation does not do much more than fix some points that must be retained, remove uncertainties about the meaning of certain episodes or images, and draw conclusions from the experience as a whole: (He judged) that the Dictionary wanted to say (nothing other than) all the sciences collected together; and that the (collection of poems called) [the words I have put in parentheses are probably Baillet's] Corpus Poetarum showed in particular and in a more distinct manner Philosophy and Wisdom [Sagesse] conjoined. Abundant references have been established between the dictionary symbol and the idea of Descartes that essentially all "sciences" are one, from which it follows that the central general method to follow also is one for each and every one of them. This idea of the "unity of science" was widespread at -38- his time and indeed earlier; it still corresponded reasonably well to the state of the sciences at the time, if by "sciences" we mean the natural sciences, which had hardly begun to differentiate out. But the term "all the sciences collected together" takes on a far more problematic meaning when we take it as referring to all disciplines that can properly be called fields of knowledge, namely knowledge of problems that are amenable to rational solution. It is in this sense that Descartes conceived of the "unity of science" and was already thinking ahead toward a unified theory and method applicable to "all the sciences collected together," in modern terms, a "metascience." His first interpretation adds nothing to what he had known before the dream; what he received from the dream process was a certainty that he was sur le bon chemin, on the right, good, path. So great was this sense of assurance that he had already forgotten the difference between idea (appearance of the complete Dictionary) and execution (reappearance of it, in a fragmentary state). Thinking matters out while following the memory of the third dream, he feels compelled to assign meaning to the other book, the Corpus poetarum, although the dream sequel shows that it was brought into the dream by the basic questions for which the two poems of Ausonius had furnished the titles. A cross-reference to thoughts that had occupied him earlier, as well as the lingering memory of La Flche, the scene of the first dream, enables him to identify this anthology as meaning "more particularly" the conjunction, the essential identity, of "philosophy" and "wisdom." The title Olympica, referring to matters pertaining to the Divine enthroned and ruling over the world of men, as well as a number of aphoristic comments and maxims made either under that heading or possibly in other places in the petit registre, testifies to his parallel concern with rigorously solvable and provable problems on the one hand, with the area beyond "philosophy" on the other. In the context of the "interpretation" he recognizes that there is no conflict between the two. In this sense Henri Gouhier is right when, speaking of his own work on the thought of Descartes, he likens the three major works he contributed to it to the letter "Y": the left upper branch of the "Y" represents La Pense religieuse de Descartes, the title of Gouhier's first book on the philosopher's thoughts about religion; the right branch of the "Y" is La Pense mtaphysique de Descartes, the title of Gouhier's masterly summing up and restatement of a lifetime of critical interpretation of Descartes's philosophy; the rising stem of the "Y", then, is Gouhier's small, rich book on Descartes's "first thoughts," Les Premires Penses de Descartes, from his encounter with Beeckman in November 1618, to the year 1620, in which, Gouhier believes, Olympica was partly or even in its entirety written down in the petit registre. In Cartesian terms, the events of 1618-19 were the trunk from -39- which the sagesse, the wisdom, and the philosophie, the scientific and philosophical work, of Descartes's later life arose. Descartes maintained to the last what he says on the present occasion, that "wisdom" and "philosophy" belong together and form a whole, and that they stem from the same root, being in fact a particular instance of the unity of human knowledge within the realm of human reason. The foregoing analysis has shown the precise point where that trunk began to bifurcate: in the brief course of the second "dream," which stands symmetrically between the first dream, filled with fear of the Thundergod on high, and the third, "philosophical" one. At the point of bifurcation stood the first decision made by the dreamer, the decision to have "recourse to reasons drawn from philosophy." This reduced the Olympic heights suggested by the title from the mysterious seat of the feared Father God to the snowy, solitary peak to which the disciplined mind can ascend, must ascend, if it is to rise to wisdom, which "philosophy" alone cannot give. This "wisdom" is the last remnant of the classical Greek conception of philosophy leading man upward towards the ineffable, which draws his soul upward and purifies it in the ascent. A precious aphorism that Baillet draws into his narration at that point gives evidence of Descartes's concern with the sources of creative thought, certainly in the wake of his illumination, quite probably even before. A young man in search of the right road in the life of mind will cast far and wide to be sure that he has not accidentally missed a trail that just possibly might be the right one; he will critically sort out what is offered as wisdom and knowledge from all sides; and there is no reason to doubt that Descartes was speaking autobiographically when he said, in the Discours of 1637, that the philosophers were talking against each other without having a common, irrefutable truth criterion, while mathematics, the queen of the sciences, was used only for the most menial tasks in the household of man. Baillet continues his account, which had ended with "Wisdom and Philosophy joined together," as follows: For he did not think it was all that astounding to see that the poets, even those who only fool around [mme ceux qui nefont que niaiser] were full of thoughts [sentences] more serious, more sensible, and better expressed than those one finds in the writings of the philosophers. He attributed this surprising fact [cette merveille] to the divinity [the divine nature of origin] of Enthusiasm and to the power of the Imagination, which brings out the seeds of wisdom (which can be found in the mind of all men, like fiery sparks in pebbles) much more easily and even much more brilliantly than Reason can do in the philosophers. -40- The symbols fit neatly into the dream account--Enthusiasm, Imagination, wisdom--above all those sparks that are scintillae conscientiae, sparks of conscience, knowledge, wisdom, and fire at once. But what they say sounds archaic after all that had happened during the night. Dutifully, Baillet returns to his text: M. Descartes, continuing to interpret his dream in his sleep, judged that the piece of verse about the uncertainty of the kind of life one has to choose and which begins with Quod vitae sectabor iter? indicated the good advice of a wise man, or even moral theology. Thereupon, doubting whether he was dreaming or meditating, he woke up without emotion and continued, his eyes open, the interpretation of his dream on the same lines. There was indeed nothing more to say about the theme of the right road to take in life except that it was exactly the choice that a truly wise man would have recommended, or even someone learned in pastoral theology, come to think of it. At this point he again doubted whether he was awake or meditating, realizing that he had reached the outermost zone through which he had passed, in the reverse direction, while meditating upon the first dream he had had. There is no uncertainty left any more; he opens his eyes and continues in the same vein, without stopping, merely opening his eyes. The vein he is following leads upward and away. Moral theology had come to his mind hesitantly, but: By the poets assembled in the Anthology he understood Revelation and the Enthusiasm that, he made bold to hope, would continue to single him out [dont il ne dsesproit pas de se voir favoris]. The piece Est et Non, which is the Yes and No of Pythagoras, he understood to be the Truth and Falsity in all human knowledge [dans les connaissances humaines] and in the profane sciences. At the end of the interpretation (for it is the end he is coming to), he once more acknowledges the forces that were operative during this night; a revelatory force and a state of "Enthusiasm" that lifted him out of the ordinary and, we can add, silenced his restlessly active mind long enough to let the events of this night sink in deep, without resistance. And so, toward the end, he explicitly acknowledges what he has received: the certainty that from now on all human knowledge and all the profane sciences will be wide open to him. This is the last act in the dream work; in the swift transition from revelation to human and profane knowledge, the Spirit of God recedes and another Spirit takes its place: -41- seeing that all these things worked out so well in keeping with his inclinations, he was bold enough to convince himself that it was the Spirit of Truth that had wanted to open to him the treasures of all the sciences in this dream. This must have been the last note, concluding the running account of this night (again I put in brackets phrases I have reconstructed from Baillet's text): [The Spirit of Truth has opened up all the sciences for me.] And so it was. The narrative has stopped. Sometime later he returns to the account remembering the puzzling engravings he saw in the Corpus Poetarum: [The following day an Italian painter came to visit me. (This explains the copper engravings.)] After this there is not the slightest lingering doubt about the meaning of that night. His interpretation of it as an event beyond the purely human compass has been vindicated; the last dream had foretold him what would happen the next day, in a form that he would not understand until the confirmation came: that foreign painter with his portfolio of copper engravings. After that visit, the time has come to go over the whole night of dreams for the last time, seeing it in retrospect, and drawing the final conclusion, for this is what they are: conclusions, not interpretations; least of all a reinterpretation, as his modern interpreters are wont to say. 8. The Dream of Descartes IN THE LAST SEARCH FOR INTERPRETATION, AS DESCARTES ONCE MORE GOES over all the three dreams to make sure that he has not overlooked anything, he begins by placing them in context. This context shows the degree of insight he has attained. The first two dreams, he says, concerned the past, while the third one showed him his future. The first two dreams had been des avertissements menaans, threatening warnings, concerning his past life, menacing because they raised the question of divine judgment over his -42- hidden sins--a repetition of what had already been said when he spoke of his thoughts upon awakening from the first dream. Knowing Baillet's way of paraphrasing, I think it likely that this repetition (his hidden sins "might not have been as innocent before God as before men") was added by Baillet in order to spell out what Descartes meant by "threatening warnings concerning his past life"; it is most unlikely that Descartes, in his terse account, had repeated himself at the point where he was merely concerned with placing the three dreams into the perspective of the logic of the dream work. The remark that follows: "And he believed that this was the reason for the terror and the fright by which these two [first] dreams were accompanied" is probably (though not certainly) by Baillet. Descartes is not in the habit of spelling out the obvious. But then come two new bits of information about episodes in the first dream: The melon that someone wanted to present him with in the first dream signified, he said, the charms of solitude, but offered by purely human enticements [mais prsentez par des sollicitations purement humaines]. In Baillet, clauses like disoit-il, "he said," amount to quotation marks; he is telling us that he is rendering this text directly, not in paraphrase. The fact that Descartes, in his final assessment of the nature of the three dreams, goes from the general characterization of the first two dreams to just two episodes in the rich first dream, followed by two points concerning the second one and none about the last one, indicates that these comments were made while rereading the dream account, filling in what he had missed, reliving (as it were) the event and jotting down what came afresh to his mind, in making brief notes. The idea that he sat down to "reinterpret" his dreams, reconstructing them without even being aware that he was falsifying or, at the very least, transforming them, is unwarranted. In the aftermath of the dreams, Descartes is no longer the man who dreams, no longer the man who is anxious to record what he dreamt. He had gone to the angustiae of the road, the dangerous narrows of it--angustiae means that, and it also means "anxiety"--and now he has found the road to take, now he has firm ground under his feet. This does not change his recollections of the dreams; it completes the dream work. Freud had seen that when he said that when a dream is so close to waking consciousness that the dreamer himself is able to interpret it (in the sense of saying directly what the dream had said symbolically), then we have every reason to accept his explanation as authentic; we certainly cannot do better, unless the dreamer can be subjected to psychoanalysis, a fate from which death preserved our dreamer. It was -43- Baillet who wove into a connected narrative the disjointed notes that followed the dream account, notes plainly set down over a perhaps considerable period of time, thus inviting the notion of a recasting of the dreams in the light of a late "reinterpretation." The most impressive feature of the whole account is its precision and its obvious veracity, which strike any reader who follows the dream work in sequence rather than going to it after having painstakingly and painfully reconstructed what is not there, building hypothesis on hypothesis and considering everything except the very process that unfolds in the account. Let me repeat once more that these considerations do not invalidate the rich results of the search for the meaning of the dream symbols through a study of Descartes's earlier and later thoughts, of what he had or might have read, of the significance of these symbols from the viewpoint of psychoanalysis, Jungian archetypes, Renaissance thought, etc. Symbols, once again, are polyvalent. What characterizes the dream account, as it characterizes Descartes, is the narrowness and directness of the dream symbolism. The dreamer is searching for the right road in life, and everything he dreams and everything he learns from the dreams is anchored in this fact. Nonetheless, the symbols thrown up by the dreams have their own independent background in Western symbolism, in mythopoeic thinking, indeed in philosophy, which itself is an exercise in symbolization. They also have personal associations for the dreamer of which he may or may not have been aware. This is most particularly true of the first dream, the "deepest" one, as Freud recognized, the one that came out of the dreamer's deepest unconscious; Freud added that there is no way of probing into that layer, the book of information being closed forever now. But it is equally true that what welled up from the unconscious was channeled into the purposeful process of "finding solid ground under his feet," to use the symbolic language of the dream. No matter how late and how remote from the origin Descartes's last comments are, they still rise from the same inner need to become clear about himself and his mission; and it is not only the dream process that guarantees their being in line with the earliest account of the dream. For what governs this process is the growth of the dreamer himself. There is absolutely nothing arbitrary in this process. We can be sure on general grounds that whatever we may find difficult to understand was understood by Descartes, consciously or unconsciously, as being related to the "Hercules at the crossroads" problem he was facing. It is not just likely, but almost certain, that he "forgot" and "transformed" a good deal when writing down his dream account, beginning with the state in which he was ready to receive the dreams or visions he expected to have. But dream work, as Freud has investigated it, is precisely a work of editing, eliminating, and transforming: -44- eliminating what is marginal or accessory, editing to bring out the main line, transforming as the conscious understanding grows. In the light of these considerations, I venture to reconstruct what Baillet found in the petit registre at the end of the continuous dream account-disjointed notes that he drew together into a continous narrative (again I put in brackets phrases that I have reconstructed from Baillet's text): [The following day an Italian painter came to visit me. (This explains the copper engravings.)] [The third dream refers to my future, the two preceding ones to my past.] The melon signifies the charms of solitude offered by purely human sollicitations. A malo spiritu ad templum propellabar. [The Spirit of God that had made me take the first steps toward the church did not permit me to be carried off by the evil spirit.] [The frightening second dream was my synderesis.] [The thunder I heard signaled the descent of the Spirit of Truth taking possession of me.] [I was perfectly sober that day and had not drunk wine for three months.] [The genius that had excited my Enthusiasm had predicted the dreams before I went to bed. The human mind had no part in them.] This is Descartes's final word on the night of dreams. What, then, does he mean by "the charms of solitude offered by purely human enticements [sollicitations]"? The term "purely human" is a clue; Baillet sensed that when he translated: "The charms of solitude, but offered by . . ." The memory of the dream episode lingers even as he places the dreams in the perspective of the decisive turning from the bad way to the right road, from a potentially dangerous past to a bright and certain future. He had puzzled over the copper engravings; the unexpected visit of the Italian painter completes his understanding of the dreams in an equally unexpected way: the copper engravings he saw in the Corpus Poetarum in his third dream had announced that visit without his realizing it; only the next day, le lendemain, was the meaning revealed to him--a configuration of what he had felt but not dared to admit: that the whole event had been providential. For, surely, an Italian painter seeking out a young French officer in a small Bavarian town or village in the midst of winter on the very day after the dreams, as he was wondering about the copper engravings, could not possibly be purely coincidental, certainly not for the young man still caught up in his "Enthusiasm," which was turning into euphoria. -45- Nonetheless, Descartes is sober enough to stay away from superstition. It is his destiny that has been revealed to him without the agency of the human mind, as he will finally have to say. In this context, the term "purely human" is significant. The melon episode is definitely not a part of the deep meaning of his dreams. The text before us thus confirms our first interpretation of it as an obstacle in his advance toward the church where he hopes to be secured from evil. The term sollicitations is more difficult. It means "solicitations," "enticements," "requests for assistance," "pleas." The offer of the melon, a sexual symbol, represents such a "purely human" solicitation or enticement, and the "charms of solitude" connect up with the hidden sins he might have committed unknown to all but himself and God. He will seek solitude (he has been seeking it already in this Bavarian town where he did not break his isolation by walks or company), but the solitude he will seek from here on will not be that of concealment, it will be the solitude he needs to think his solitary thoughts without distraction and he will seek it for this reason, not for the "charms" it may offer. The insight gained, that which permitted him to set down these words, is that no "melon" and no "charm of solitude" is to be accepted henceforth by the thinker, who has received his mission.The next episode that has remained on his mind is that of the wind that pushed against him when he turned away from the church. Now he identifies it: A malo spiritu ad templum propellabar. "I was propelled to the church by the [or: an] evil spirit." The text allows two equally possible readings. 1. It may refer to what he has already said: that this wind attempted several times to turn him around toward the church and that it became much feebler in the end. 2. It may mean: "I was being driven [note the imperfect propellabar] to the church." Baillet translates unhesitatingly: Le vent qui le poussoit vers l'Eglise du collge, "the wind that pushed him toward the college church," and he immediately identifies the episode: "when he felt pain on the right side." And, fortunately, he gives the Latin text he translates in the margin, recognizing its importance. One would wish he had quoted what immediately follows, too. It is certain that the statement about the Divine Spirit making the dreamer take the first steps toward the church is a translation. Baillet says expressly: quoy qu'il ft trs-persuad que c' et t l'Esprit de Dieu. . . Whether the text said "that had made [him] take the first steps toward the church" or "made him proceed" toward it in the first place is -46- undecidable; Baillet may have translated with the sequence of the episode in mind. But we have to take his translation as it stands. There is little doubt that much of what precedes the direct quotation has been supplied by Baillet, who wanted to be sure that the implications of the statement are that God did not permit him to advance farther by being carried off against his will, even to a holy place, by a spirit He had not sent. Why does he say "to advance farther" when the dreamer was not advancing at all, but standing, his back to the church, in the midst of people who were talking with each other? Either he was "just writing," embroidering as usual and saying "to advance farther and to be carried off" where the second expression would have done; or there is a contraction: "to advance farther in the wrong direction and to be carried off . . ." Whatever the case may be, the message comes across clear, and it comes out of the text he had before him. There was a struggle between the Spirit of God and the malus spiritus, and the Spirit of God prevailed. At the end of his rethinking, Descartes will identify this "Spirit of God" and give it its right name, calling it "the Spirit of Truth," l'Esprit de la Vrit. This marks the last step: the acknowledgment of his mission as a service to Truth--philosophy--rather than to God--the Church. Eighteen years later, in the Discourse on Method, he will make this clear: sacred theology requires assistance from on high, since it deals with revealed matters beyond the grasp of reason; the philosopher's task is to confine himself to those verities that the human mind can discover by its own powers. In his conversations with Francis Burman, he will add that these verities must not be in conflict with revealed truth, but that proving these revealed truths is none of the philosopher's business. The Evil Spirit, then, is the spirit that wants to drive him toward the church, throwing him "violently into a place where he intended to go voluntarily," as Baillet explains (it might well be a translation, but we cannot be sure). Why did the dreamer fail to identify the wind as the Evil Spirit immediately or in the writing of his first account? Let us remember that this whole first dream was intensely personal and that it came up from as deep down in the unconscious as the dreamer's strongly intellectual cast permitted. We do not know what personal memories and associations arose from these depths, except for the one that an accident permitted us to identify. But this much is clear: not until he passes the man he had forgotten to greet (a man he knew) do other persons enter the dream. He is in their company to the very end of the dream. And the fact that upon awakening his thoughts turn to his past life and the hidden sins that might rise against him confirms the personal character of the dream and the associations it brought up. The first two dreams he now identifies (correctly for the first one, wrongly -47- as concerns the second one) as referring to his past life, a life not guided by the "Spirit of Truth." The first dream made him symbolically go through a struggle with his life, reaching the point where he already knew which way to turn, but was not yet able to do it. No "Evil Spirit" was needed to explain that. It was a struggle against himself that was enacted before his own eyes, the struggle of the man he was against the man he wanted to be. And since he did not yet know what kind of man he wanted to be, he could not possibly have identified that violent but abating wind as an evil spirit. This identification became inevitable only after he knew who he was going to be, having found out by virtue of an event in which the human mind had no part. Until then, there was no Evil Spirit; there was merely wind blowing through that dream, as it were. This wind caught the disabled dreamer, lifted him off the ground, made him spin helplessly "on his left foot" while sweeping him along. Then there is the calm of the college courtyard. The dreamer is walking toward the church; he retraces his steps to do obeisance to the acquaintance he had passed without greeting him. The wind violently throws him back on the path to the church; the dreamer could not make a stand against it. But he once more turns back and walks up to the man, who greets him by name; a general conversation develops as people gather around the group; the wind repeatedly tries to turn him around to move him toward the church, but its power abates considerably. At this point, the dreamer's unique condition is cruelly revealed; he alone has no ground under his feet and no power to stand up straight, although the wind had greatly abated. The weakness is within him, as distinct from the strength of those around him, as distinct also from the power of the wind that can push a body around or carry it off. This is the message left by the dream. But the dream has left something else, as we have seen before--indeed, in connection with the wind: there remained the memory of a singular physical experience, no less vivid for having been dreamt. It is a memory of motion, and the first dream is played out in a counterpoint of the dreamer being in motion, against the static condition of his being disabled. This motion begins as he finds himself on the road, moving without knowing where. It continues with his finding a place of refuge and salvation, entering it, and moving painfully toward the church, the symbol of refuge, salvation--and certainty. For the dreamer's disability is not only moral; he is also intellectually disabled since for him the question of his way in life is also--and indeed first of all--the question of the right way to knowledge. But this implication, present in the symbolism of the first dream, will not come into focus until the second dream occurs. Here, for the first time, the dreamer will do something instead of suffering or succumbing. This turns the tables, and the third dream will mirror the stages of his victory. -48- Looking back at the first dream in full possession what has been conquered, and imbued with his new sense of mission, Descartes not only identifies the wind in the first dream as malus spiritus, but also tells us what that evil spirit did to him: A malo spiritu ad templum propellabar. He brings to its proper end the story that so abruptly ended with his standing debilitated among the healthy, and it does not matter much whether he remembered what he had forgotten to say when writing down the first account, or whether, writing down his last comments when it was all over, he put down how that story would have ended, had he not awoken before it did end. One way or the other, his reconstruction completes the symbolic action. Ad templum propellabar: I was being driven toward the church all the time by the Evil Spirit. We thus have three forces operating on him: 1. His "first thought" of getting to the church. 2. His succumbing to distraction and turning away from it. 3. The wind (Evil Spirit) trying to hurl him into the place toward which his "first thought" made him go anyway. If we add that he succumbed and turned back twice, we get his movement across the courtyard in the following sequence: 1. Forward movement toward the church, then a spinning by the tourbillon. 2. Forward toward the church again, past the man not greeted, followed by a turning back toward the man. 3. Forward toward the church again, with a second turning back for the melon episode. 4. Forward motion again. This forward motion, governed by the desire to reach the church, reversed by two attractions, the reversal counteracted by the "Evil Spirit" which wants to hurl the dreamer into the place where he wants to go (but which proves to be powerless), is the precise itinraire of the First Meditation of Descartes. This, not the first appearance of the Evil Genius, marks the connection, though that appearance is not fortuitous. The itinerary of the First Meditation can be summed up as follows: 1. The urge to ascertain certainty, to find the Archimedean point on which to stand safely. -49- 2. To move toward certainty, the philosopher turns his back to it and goes in the opposite direction: the universal doubt. 3. Having suddenly reached certainty as the very end point of that doubt, the question of the veracity of God throws him back into the doubt. 4. Having proved that God is not a deceiving God and wanting to move back to certainty, the malin gnie--the Evil Spirit--again throws him into doubt: it could be that he is so constituted that all his thinking is necessarily false. But this argument merely strengthens the power of the doubt: "the more he deceives me, the surer I am that I doubt, that I exist." The Evil Spirit thus is in fact driving him toward certainty (the Church) but the Evil Spirit is powerless, not only because in "blowing him away from certainty" the Evil Spirit is driving him into it, but because it is the veracity of God and not the Evil Spirit blowing that brings Descartes finally and irrefutably into the "Church" of certainty. At this point, one can only add Baillet's remark: "This is why God did not permit him to be moved on and he allowed himself to be carried off, even to a holy place, by a spirit that He had not sent: although he was very certain that it had been the Spirit of God who made him take the first steps toward that church"--and voluntarily, as Baillet said earlier. Henri Gouhier said the same thing in "Le Malin Gnie dans l'itinraire cartsien," 11 a brilliant essay on the Deceiving God and Evil Spirit arguments of the Meditations. We must, then, conclude that in the first dream the dreamer experienced physically the philosophical itinerary, the Gedankengang, the train of thought that he developed nine years later at the earliest, in the wake of another crisis in which self-criticism forced him to rethink his whole position from the ground up. Lder Gbe in Descartes' Selbstkritik, Untersuchungen zur Philosophie des jungen Descartes, 12 has devoted a detailed study to this crisis; his chapter on Descartes in Ulm, during the winter of 1619-20, gives in eight compact pages a documented account of Descartes's intellectual interests and problems, and finds at the heart of them the question of the limits of purely human knowledge, the question that in 1628 leads to the breakthrough to "Cartesianism" in the thought of Descartes. To say that in his dream Descartes anticipated what would happen nine or more years later as a necessity of rigorous philosophical thought would be absurd. The same applies to any identification of the Evil Spirit of the first dream with the malin gnie of the Meditations. Natura non facit saltum. But the parallelism between the physical motions of the dreamer in the conflict between three forces, one of them driving him in the right direction but proving impotent, and the philosophical movement of thought of the First Meditation is striking. What we can say, legitimately, is that Descartes -50- http://www.questia.com/6527701http://www.questia.com/6527701physically experienced that movement at a time of extreme exaltation in the course of an event that marks his first decisive breakthrough. It could very well have happened that the second breakthrough might have led to a quite different final construction, although the logic of this breakthrough and the firmness of that final construction make this a hard thing to conceive. But when, in or after 1628, he did arrive at the final construction, he had, as in the case of the vortex theory, a memory of having gone through precisely this before, not intellectually, but physically. This, then, makes the connection between physical experience (or the living memory of it) and thought structure: Descartes anticipated in his physical experience what he was later to experience in moving from the search for certainty into the opposite direction of denying the certainty of all he knew, with the result that the countermovement threw him into the place where it had been his intention to go in the first place, as Baillet suggests. The only thing missing in this dream scenario was that last experience of the wind throwing him against the church instead of trying, with diminishing force, to do so. We know from the dream account why, as viewed from the standpoint of the Meditations, this first dream ended prematurely: Descartes was not ready for that yet; he would not be ready for almost another decade. But it is well to recall what, after the publication of the Discourse on Method, he wrote to Father Vatier on 22 February 1638: that what he had said in the unpublished treatise De Lumine concerning the creation of the world would, he then thought, sound incredible. "For only ten years back [in 1628] I myself would not have wanted to believe that the human mind could rise to such knowledge of the divine creation of the universe, if someone else had written it." Another decade earlier, in 1619, he could not believe that such understanding as the night of dreams had given him could be gained by the unaided human mind, least of all by a systematic intellectual effort. 9. Summary Conclusion 1. First Dream AS FREUD NOTED, THIS DREAM IS RICH IN PERSONAL REFERENCES THAT ARE lost forever. Only occasional conjectures are possible. The main setting is the Collge de La Flche in the early seventeenth century: a large courtyard, the main entrance at one end, the college church at the opposite end. The mood of the dream is uncertainty, fear, and a sense of guilt. -51- Driven by demons, the dreamer is clearly not in control as the dream opens with his attempt to find refuge in the college (not identified), the church of which promises safety from the demons. But this part of the dream was already largely forgotten when the dreamer awakened; the events in the courtyard, however, are described in great detail. We can sum up: the church now stands for certainty--existential certainty. The dreamer is helplessly driven by the wind, the ground is giving way under him, the wind whirls him around as he stands on one leg (his left side is weak!), while all the other people stand firm and safe around him, noticing nothing. This is alienation, existential uncertainty, and the physical experience of the vortex motion, long before the invention of the vortex theory. One episode in the movement from the entrance to the church may show the nature of the symbolization. This is the famous melon episode, clearly a personal one, with strong sexual undertones and even stronger paradisiac and holistic overtones. My explanation is that Descartes never mentioned (in extant writing) any of his fellow students at La Flche, with one exception: he inquires about M. Chauveau, who came from Melun.Melun-Melon sets the complex symbolic sequence going. The burden of this sequence becomes clear when we plot the dreamer's motion as he traverses the long courtyard. The main direction is toward the church, but the fierce wind is against him. He then turns around to walk toward the entrance, away from the church, when the wind, also changing direction, catches him and hurls him forcibly toward the place "where he intended to go" of his own accord. The dreamer's itinerary in the courtyard therefore corresponds precisely to the itinraire of the First Meditation: walking away from certainty (the hyperbolic doubt), the doubter is hurled against his intention into the only indisputable certainty: existential certainty. The chief result of the interpretation is that basic philosophical concepts (vortex) and trains of argument (from doubt to cogito) can be physically experienced and thus be engraved in memory long before rational argumentive development produces the thoughts of them. 2. The Second Dream The first dream is followed by a long period of meditation and prayer, during which the dreamer considers the sins he may have committed, although they were not sins in the eyes of others: the guilt of a secretive life, refuge sought in the religion of the (Jesuit) college and of the dreamer's nurse. The most obvious fact about the second dream has been noted by very few interpreters, although this fact is stated in the plainest words ( Marie-Louise -52- von Franz being a notable exception): the second dream is not a dream at all, it is an awakening. No interpreter has to my knowledge identified this kind of awakening as a special one. In his Principles of Psychology, William James 13 spoke of this type of reaction as "subsultus tendinorum or jerking of the muscles . . . when we are on the point of falling asleep." Today it is properly called "myoclonic awakening" from the state between waking and sleeping. It is accompanied by those extraordinary magnifications of weak sense impressions that James treats as examples of hallucination. There was no second dream, even though Descartes calls the awakening just that: the dreamer had no way of knowing whether what he heard and saw (thunderclap, sparks filling the room) was reality or not. The awakening therefore poses the problem whose resolution marks the peripety in the dream sequence. After the guilt meditation, thunder and sparks put all the fear back into the dreamer's heart, for if the sparks really were in the room, then he would be in the presence of a supernatural phenomenon--a manifestation of the avenging godhead announcing its rejection of the sinner (or a threat for the future) in a dream. But this time the dreamer does not collapse and seek refuge in the church where certainty and salvation come together. Now he draws his reasons "from philosophy" (that is, science, natural philosophy); he has experienced the phenomenon before, he recalls, and, instead of praying, he makes an experiment. He opens and closes his eyes repeatedly and is so satisfied with the result that he goes back to sleep in great calm. The experiment was to answer the question whether the sparks were in the room or in the eye; beyond this lay the unacknowledged and probably unconscious question: Veille-je, ou si je dors?--the dream-reality problematic. If he still sees the sparks when he closes his eyes, their origin was not in the optical nerve; if they disappeared when the eyes were closed, then they were supernaturally in the room. But they did not disappear, and the dreamer was spared the horrifying consequences of the alternative. The second "dream" thus marks the dreamer's turn from religion to philosophy, from faith to argument and experiment, to the search for truth within the confines of human reason: his first step toward the road to take in life. 3. The Third Dream [Mostly from a 30 December 1979 letter to Eric Voegelin] The three dreams during the night of 10-11 November 1619 are recognized by the dreamer as decisive and--in his exalted state--as coming from -53- http://www.questia.com/6527701above. Ultimately it is the Spirit of Truth that descended upon him to give him his mission to philosophize. The third dream develops the interpretation of the sequence. The key symbols are the lines (titles) from Ausonius: Sic et Non (the doubt), Quod vitae sectabor iter? The third dream begins with a kind of shadow play. Suddenly the scene vanishes, but the dreamer continues to sleep. Wondering whether what he had seen was a dream or a vision, he decides that it was a dream and interprets this dream in his sleep. The first interpretation ends with the identification of Quod vitae sectabor iter? as the good counsel of a personne sage or "even moral theology." Thereupon, "doubting whether he was dreaming or meditating," he awakens without emotion and "continues his interpretation with his eyes open"--in fact, he raises the results already obtained to the point where the Spirit of Truth had come to open all the treasures of knowledge for him. This second interpretation is then followed by a third one that evidently was undertaken while he was fixing the whole dream sequence in his mind by mentally repeating it. Existential doubt and its resolution pervades the whole sequence. The question "Vision or dream?" occurred already in the second "dream" in somewhat different form. The second "dream" was in fact a myoclonic awakening from a state of total immobility between sleeping and waking. Seeing the room filled with sparks and hearing a thunderclap, the question was whether these phenomena were a "vision," in this case a manifestation of supernatural origin, or whether they were the physiological manifestations he had experienced before. The dreamer thereupon did not "decide" the question. He made an experimentum crucis, opening and closing his eyes repeatedly. If the sparks disappeared when he closed his eyes, then the phenomenon was supernatural, and he had every reason to tremble; if, however, the sparks were seen even with his eyes closed, then they were in the eye and had a bodily, natural origin. After the experiment he could calmly go to sleep again, which tells us what the outcome had been. In the third dream, the doubt is not one concerning the natural or supernatural origin of the dream he had just had; the doubt is whether this was "dream" or vision. The dreamer knew that he was asleep; he had no way of reaching certainty through an experiment; he could not reason the matter out, either. What, then, was the question and how was it "decided"? Dream and vision are not as incompatible as physiological or supernatural phenomena. The dreamer is conscious of the extraordinary nature and origin of the "dream" as a whole. If the whole sequence came "from above," it mattered little whether any part of it came in the form of a dream or of a vision. But beneath this question is another one that surfaces at the end of -54- the interpretation made in his sleep, when, being in doubt whether he was dreaming or meditating, he "awakens without emotion" and "continues" to interpret his dream open-eyed. This is the underlying question. Applied to the earlier situation, the question "Dream or vision?" leaves the sleeper helpless, since he has no way of determining the answer. This helplessness is a throwback to the first dream, where it is the overriding factor. The seeker for the Truth cannot make out what kind of reality he is encountering. He literally does not know where he is. The third dream moves inexorably toward the triumphant interpretation that gives the dreamer the certainty of his mission and the feeling that he already has the keys to the truth -- although the "dictionary" is no longer "complete" when it reappears. But the deeper doubt (which accounts for the increasingly reckless interpretation that compensates for it) is an existential doubt, first about the reality encountered, second about the reality of the dreamer himself. How, then, can such a doubt be resolved by way of a decision -- a decision overtly about the nature of the reality just encountered, more deeply about the reality of the dreamer's existence? If there were criteria available and applicable, the question could be resolved by determining what is the case. But a decision (and in one's sleep!) can be arrived at only when it does not matter how the decision comes out, that is, when it is the decision and not the outcome that matters. Now, there is only one existential situation where it does not matter whether the reality encountered is natural or supernatural, whether something experienced was dream or vision, whether one is asleep or awake, dreaming or meditating. In this situation, the choice between the alternatives does not matter because the true doubt underlying the choice, the existential doubt, has already been resolved. It is the situation in which the doubter is aware that he is in doubt, and therefore knows that, whatever he has experienced, he, the doubter, exists. He can therefore postpone all else and go on with the business at hand, in this case, with the interpretation of the dream. But this certainty that the awareness of being in doubt, of being uncertain concerning the status of reality, is irrefutable evidence of the existence of the person tested by the doubt -- this certainty is that of the cogito ergo sum. Let us note that in the dream, as in the Meditations, nothing further follows from that certainty. The painful search for criteria of evidence is merely postponed while the existential certainty is established. But this certainty must be established, since without it the most brilliant, most successful, irrefutable philosophy would founder on the rock of the existential doubt that cannot be dispelled except by the experience of the cogito. The end of the Sixth Meditation brings back the third dream, with the -55- surprising choice of a dream example that is not fantastic, as one would expect, but simply the return of the unnamed but well known awakener ( Beeckman) whom the awakened sent off to oblivion by proving that he knew a much more beautiful poem that the awakener was unaware of. As in the third dream, this anamnestic dream scene is produced in the context of the question now explicitly asked as it had been asked in the Recherche de la vrit: Veille-je, ou si je dors? This time the question is explicitly posed, but since, this time, the dreamer is wide awake and in possession of the saving cogito, he cannot answer it. A final comment on the nature of the cogito experience in the dream: the "decision" was made while asleep; there was no procedure leading to it. Neither was there any awareness that this "decision" was the key to the truths that the dreamer suspected were contained in the Dictionary. In keeping with the shadow-play character of the third dream, this vital experience passes swiftly and seemingly without a trace. But something has happened. Subconsciously the situation of existential Angst and its resolution by the calming certainty of the existence of something that experiences Angst has been registered. As in the case of the first dream, a capital piece of conscious philosophizing has been anticipated in the form of an experience, symbolized in this case not by physical movement prefiguring a mouvement de la pense but in the form of a sinking feeling that by its very nature produces the relief, the calm, the certainty, and the ability to go on. In conclusion, the dream analyses demonstrate that extremely subtle and difficult meditative and ratiocinating structures can be prefigured by symbolic experiences of a physiological or emotional kind. The cogito was achieved almost exactly nine years after the dreams of 10-11 November 1619. Descartes must have been convinced that until then this philosophoumenon had never occurred to him, just as he was convinced that nobody before him had ever invented it, that is, had never come upon it. In this he may well have been right; the construction of the cogito has a respectable ancestry, but there is reason to doubt that anybody before Descartes had found this construction while beset by the crushing and ultimately invincible doubt as to whether the reality experienced and the experiencer, himself, was real or only a dream. 10. Notes 1. Gesammelte Werke, vol. 14 ( London: Imago, 1948), pp. 558-60; also in Maxime Leroy , Descartes, le philosophe au masque, 2 vols. ( Paris: Rieder, 1929). 2. Journal of the History of Philosophy, vol. 8 ( 1970), pp. 251-62. -56- http://www.questia.com/6527650http://www.questia.com/65276523. Paris: J. Vrin, 1958. 4. Archives Internationales de l'Histoire des Ides, no. 5 (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1964). 5. Paris: Horthemels, 1691. 6. Social Research, vol. 28 ( 1961), p. 176. 7. Zeitlose Dokumente der Seele ( Zurich: Rascher, 1952), pp. 49-119. 8. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, vol. 28 ( 1947), pp. 11-18. 9. Adam Charles, and Paul Tannery, eds. Oeuvres de Descartes, vol. 3 ( Paris: Cerf, 1899), p. 296. 10. Social Research, vol. 28 ( 1961), p. 175. 11. Essais sur Descartes ( Paris: J. Vrin, 1937), ch. 4. 12. Hamburg: Felix Meiner, 1972. 13. Vol. 2 ( New York: Henry Holt, 1890), p. 126 f. -57- http://www.questia.com/6527652http://www.questia.com/6527653http://www.questia.com/6527653http://www.questia.com/6527654http://www.questia.com/6527658http://www.questia.com/6527658http://www.questia.com/6527658http://www.questia.com/6527660http://www.questia.com/6527694http://www.questia.com/6527694http://www.questia.com/6527697APPENDIX 1 What is "History of Philosophy"? The Historiographic Problem IN 1910, E. T. WHITTAKER PUBLISHED HIS MASTERLY A HISTORY OF THE Theories of Aether and Electricity from the Age of Descartes to the Close of the Nineteenth Century. Its last references are to work published in 1909. Across this story of unexpected discoveries and brilliant theorizing, of astounding transformations and painstaking detail work, we discern a line of development leading with inner necessity up to the point where the book, not the problem, ends. The historian sums up the status quo in a few sentences. "The hypothesis of atomic electric changes has been, to all appearances, decisively established," while the hope of "discovering an aether by reference to which motion might be estimated absolutely" has been equally decisively destroyed. What next? The historian cannot tell. In an earlier chapter he had noted "the foundation of another branch of experimental science," the study of radiation ( Roentgen, Becquerel, the Curies), dropping the matter at that point because its subsequent history fell "outside the limits of the present work." The future is clouded. All he can say is that "in some recent writings it is possible to recognize a tendency to replace the classical aether by other conceptions which, however, have been yet indistinctly outlined." Four decades later, in 1951, Whittaker brought out a new edition, adding a second volume, Modern Theories, 1900-1926. Between the two editions lies the scientific revolution that has created these "modern theories." The breakthrough had in fact come during the last ten years covered by the first edition ( Planck 1899-1900, Einstein 1905). These were indeed "some [of the] recent writings" that, as he had said as late as 1909, "indistinctly" outlined a "tendency" toward replacing the classical theories by "other conceptions." So profound had been his uncertainty about the future that he refrained from identifying these "recent writings" and the new conceptions that had already been established. In 1951, he had quite a different story to tell. These "other conceptions" had given physics an entirely unforeseen turn; one wonders what surgical operations were necessary to make the volume of 1910 fit the new situation. -58- Close comparison of the two editions shows, surprisingly, that practically all of the old text has gone into the new volume unchanged. Almost nothing has been dropped, very little needed to be rewritten. But the "another branch of experimental science" has now become the subject of a whole new chapter called "Modern Theories of Radiation," and the period dominated by the genius of J. J. Thompson reappears now as "The Age of Lorentz." One other addition has become necessary: the "recent writings" have acquired a respectable ancestry going back to Wollaston ( 1802) and to Fraunhofer ( 1814-15), whose name did not appear in the first edition. Again, the science moves forward with the same inexorable logic, from Descartes to Dirac and Heisenberg; nothing has changed, except the direction. This extraordinary consistency is not as surprising as it may appear. In 1910, Whittaker had recorded failures only if they had forced research into ultimately more successful directions; he did not record successes unless they had taken the problem a step farther. In the light of the revolution, some of the historical material that had appeared irrelevant to him at the time suddenly acquired significance, without altering the status of what he had included. We must ask: Can history of philosophy be written this way? Does the history of philosophy have the same logic, the same culmulative character, as the history of science? Or is philosophy a field where the dead live forever? These questions cannot be brushed aside by pointing to certain obvious facts. Surely there are some corpses buried in the field of philosophy. Surely it is possible to write a history of epistemology where, as in Cassirer's first three volumes, the lay of the land eventually forces the most unruly rivulets to join the streams that will flow together into the great river rolling toward Kant. Surely philosophy has built up an ever-growing store of knowledge and understanding. But when all this has been said, it still remains true that despite the fact that philosophy has been practiced for well over two millennia by the most outstanding minds, "there is not one thing in it which is not disputed and which therefore is not doubtful," as Descartes noted. No philosophy has ever proved to be so demonstrably superior to its predecessors that it could not but supersede them. This is why, generally speaking, philosophies never die. Philosophies explore Denkmglichkeiten, alternative cognitional models, and while the philosopher must take a position, the historian cannot do so without blocking himself off against current and future development. Nothing in the historical picture entitles him to consider the horizon of philosophical history closed. If he nonetheless accepts one philosophical position as the only valid one, he does so as a philosopher and on philosophical, not historical, grounds. His own discipline, historiography, requires him to be neutral. Such neutrality must not be confused with relativism, a philosophical -59- position. Historical neutrality does not require the historian -- it does not even entitle him -- to consider all philosophies as equally valid or invalid. It does demand of him that he give every philosophy, every philosophical "idea," an equal chance to be heard and to be considered in its own right. In this respect his position differs from that of the historian of science who knows ex post facto who has been right and who was wrong, subject to future revision. The very science whose history he writes tells him that. Philosophy tells its historian nothing of that kind; it is the philosophers who do so, in unending conflict with each other. This is how Kant saw philosophy before Kant. The question is whether the history of philosophy has changed since then; if it has not, we must find the reason for it. 2 Ob die Bearbeitung der Erkenntnisse, die zum Vernuftgeschfte gehoren, den sicheren Gang einer Wissenschaft gehe oder nicht, das lsst sich bald aus dem Erfolg beurteilen. Whether the "business of reason" does or does not go the safe way of a science is easily seen from the outcome. With this first sentence in the "Preface to the Second Edition," Kant goes to the very heart of the historian's problem. His purpose is philosophical, but the position he takes is resolutely historical. In the next sentence Kant does what historians of philosophy rarely do. He pays no attention to doctrinal history; instead, he develops formal criteria for judging the character of the philosophical enterprise from the way in which it has historically behaved. The first criterion of a science is its ability to bring its laborious preparatory work to a conclusion; philosophy, he finds, either gets stuck at that point or has to backtrack and change direction. The second criterion concerns the ability of a science to secure agreement among its practitioners, not indeed about the results obtained, but about "the manner in which the common purpose (die gemeinschftliche Absicht) is to be pursued"; and philosophers have never agreed on that "safe way of a science." Kant's conception of a true science, so different from what the history of science has subsequently revealed, has significant implications. For Kant, the progress of such a science essentially linear. It is strictly cumulative: what has once been proved true remains true, unless the proof is later found to have been defective. This linear progress begins when the science has found its method; it will never have to go back again and seek other roads, groping in the dark. The road is laid out "for all times and [toward] infinite -60- horizons" because, as Neo-Kantians later said, the method constitutes the Erkenntnisobjekt ( Kant gemeinschftliche Absicht), which in turn differentiates this science from all others. When this purpose and method are established, the results previously reached separate out into grain and chaff: it may be necessary to discard much that had been "contained in the earlier unreflectively adopted goal" of that science. Earlier self-definitions and findings of the discipline thus stand or fall depending on their agreement with the properly reflected recognition of its true goal. It follows that there must be one -- and there can be only one -- scientific revolution in any field: the discovery, through proper reflection, of its true goal and method. This discovery reveals ex post facto what is alive and what has been dead; and the dead do not rise again. Kant sicherer Gang einer Wissenschaft precludes any possibility that equipollent thought structures may exist, that a thought scheme that was abortive in its time may yet become fertile when it enters a different constellation later, that the history of a science may, at least in part, be one of exploring alternative, potentially viable speculations, some of which may be waiting in the wings for their historical moment while the seemingly unidirectional science follows its supposedly royal road. But all this is of course only the overture to a new philosophical space opera: Kant's Copernican Revolution, in One Act. Kant's astronomical metaphor is anything but innocent. It masks his switch from historical analysis to philosophical argument, proclaiming the death of philosophical history and the birth of scientific philosophy. This revolution was indeed Copernican in one sense: it turned the relationship between mover and the moved upside down. But metaphors are treacherous. They betray their maker. What, "cosmologically" speaking, was the position of the philosopher before Kant? Using Kant's own metaphor, one could say that each philosopher had orbited through the philosophical universe on his own path, alone or as part of a system, as a sun, a planet, a moon, a comet, a meteor -- and accordingly had seen the universe in a different way. Kant resolutely pinned the philosopher down to earth, put his feet on unmovable ground, and thus imposed one and only one perspective on all. At the command of the new Joshua the earth stood still, the sun rose in the East and set in the West, and what really happened was forever hidden in the inaccessibility of the Ding an sich. Kant's revolution was Copernican in reverse. This was the high point of the age of closed systems, systems closed in two directions. They closed philosophy off from the partially and the wholly unknowable, and they closed it off from history. This age of closed systems began with Descartes's discovery of the Archimedean point and ended with the picture gallery in Hegel Geisterreich. Now that this age has ended, -61- philosophers again orbit freely through the philosophical universe, and Kant is not even a fixed star for most of them. We are back where we were, and if we are to learn a lesson from the history of philosophy, we must learn it from the history of that science that was Kant's model for philosophy. For Kant, the period of blind groping ( Herumtappen) in the sciences ended when "the admirable nation of the Greeks" put mathematics on the sure road of a science, belatedly followed by Bacon and Galileo doing the same thing for the empirical disciplines. In the current view, there is an alternation of development and revolution in science, and nothing in its history authorizes us to assume that the latest revolution is the last. Yet Kant was profoundly right when he saw the determinant of science qua science not in its ever-widening and deepening findings but in its Absicht, its purpose and goal. This purpose, the explanation of natural phenomena, holds the history of the natural sciences together without yet setting them on Kant's unidirectional track. Why has philosophy failed to develop this kind of unity in diversity? The first difficulty with this question stems from the broad range and the definitional uncertainty of what is commonly called philosophy. One can always find something "which is also philosophy" to contradict any answer. A more serious argument is made by those who explain basic disagreement among philosophers by accusing them of overreaching themselves and raising unanswerable questions, that is, pseudo-questions. Their answer to the problem consists in reading metaphysics out of philosophy. And indeed, metaphysics (in Kant's terms: "wholly isolated speculative rational cognition") is the heart of the problem, if we take the term widely enough. Cutting metaphysical questions off because they obstruct the business of getting answers to nonmetaphysical ones is useful enough, but when the thing is done on principle, the historian can merely classify such efforts as antimetaphysical positions concerning metaphysics. He has neither the right to choose sides nor the qualifications for setting himself up as a judge over the philosophers who make philosophical history. But he cannot throw up his hands either and simply record the quarrels in the house of philosophy. For how can he write the history of a discipline unless he knows how it differs from others? The very broadness of the common notion of philosophy, the very fact that philosophers do so many things that are also done in other disciplines, forces him to fasten upon the one area where philosophy differs most clearly from the others. He must try to understand the nature of these ultimate disagreements to find out what drives philosophy into them. For this purpose it will be convenient to begin with the common if somewhat lazy definition of philosophy as the most general science or the science of first principles. -62- 3 Whether the stress falls on generality or on first principles, philosophy so defined is clearly not a field but a process, a movement of thought rising up from the empirical manifold toward highest generality. Is there an upper bound to this movement? The notion of generality leaves the question open; the reference to first principles seems to answer it in the affirmative: first principles are end points. But how would one know whether a principle is a "first" one? Surely not by recourse to another principle. This difficulty is usually evaded by defining a first principle as an irreducible one. But that which is irreducible in one thought model need not be irreducible in another. It looks as if philosophy, too, has its foundation problem. But unlike other sciences, the most general science cannot turn this problem over to a still more general science. Steadily and irresistibly, reason moves from the answerable toward the unanswerable. The higher philosophy reaches up, the more marked is its difference from other disciplines, the more plainly does its specific character emerge. What the historian sees in this millennial striving is a turbulent flow of speculation, a relentless exploring of the ultimate possibilities and impossibilities of thought, a marvelous mixture of uninhibited daring and cold, disciplined, critical argument. It is not difficult to see certain kinds of order in this development, as well as a driving logic in the pursuit of specific problems over very long time spans. But the ultimate problems of philosophy remain its ultimate enigmas. Why then this restless striving toward the questions that, as Kant said, reason cannot refuse to entertain "because the nature of reason itself imposes them on it" and that it cannot answer "because they transcend every faculty of human thought"? In a grim text he spoke of this urge as a "visitation" that could well shake our confidence in reason, which deserts us at the crucial point, putting us off with false hopes again and again, only to cheat us in the end. Self-denying ordinances (this is what the modern "revolutions" in philosophy amount to) cannot end the quest, for no such ordinance can change that which Kant has called "the nature of reason itself." And so the most general science is still that science that cannot be stopped in its upward movement except by fiat. The historian has to accept that, with a proviso: this is Western philosophy with all its conceptions, one of which is the Kantian notion of "the nature of reason itself." In other words, what he accepts is an historical fact, not a truth claim. And this fact does not stand alone. The radical historian admits nothing as evidence that has not yet come into being; neither does he exclude, on any principle other than the definition of his specific purpose, what has already come into being. "Philosophy" -- meaning Western phi- -63- losophy -- has come into being; hence there is "before philosophy" as well as "philosophy"; at the point of origin, the Western conception of "the nature of reason" arose in a still undifferentiated way; "philosophy" has been one -- perhaps the most significant one -- of the differentiated enterprises of "reason" that have grown out of that common root. The phenomenal differentia specifica of "philosophy" has been, and still is, its structural character of rising above any given upper cutoff point. It is not an axiological but an open-ended discipline, from the radical historian's viewpoint. The truth claims of the philosopher are what the historian studies, not what he must accept or reject; to him they are historical phenomena, no more and no less. This is the insight that liberates the historian of philosophy from his shackles. He can now see what lies beyond doctrinal analysis and doxology. This does not affect his traditional tasks. History, like philosophy, operates on many levels. In doctrinal analysis and in doxology he must accept philosophies at their face value; how else could he give a reliable, useful explication des textes together with a critical analysis of the validity of their truth claims? On this level he is what Kojve has so beautifully characterized as the Raisonneur, dernier avatar de l'Intellectuel. The Raisonneur is "a caricature of Hegel," that is, of the Philosopher: Il remplace l'Action par la Pense et il pense logiquement. Hence: D'une part, tout est acceptable pour le Raisonneur; de l'autre, rien ne l'est. We might call this the philosophical view of historical neutrality in philosophy, in the ironical sense of Kojve, one of the historians of philosophy who came close to the heart of the historical problem. Kojve also exemplifies the deeper problem confronting the historiographer who rises above the Raisonneur stage. What choice does he have, other than becoming a committed philosopher himself, as Kojve did, with dire consequences for the philosophers and philosophies he is committed against? The answer is, of course, that he must remain the historian he was, even when ceasing to be the Raisonneur. But this is not an easy answer. For here the foundation problem of history opens up for the historian of philosophy, with a vengeance. The problem arises when the historian goes beyond doxology and tries to understand the history of philosophy as a whole, as an evolution, the way the historian understands the history of science. This evolution, as we saw, is characterized by its incessant search for answers to ultimate, unanswerable questions, a search that produces conflicting and undecidable truth claims. The historian can take the liberating step of accepting these answers as historical fact, recognizing that they take the form of truth claims, and try to find the substance that manifests itself in this particular form. This means that he must transcend philosophy as it offers itself for study. Inevitably he -64- finds himself confronted with the question of what is "behind" these ultimate truth claims, what kind of "reality" they attempt to grasp, to use philosophical terminology because no other is available. Here as elsewhere, self-denying ordinances are no way out of the difficulty. The historiographer has a great deal to learn from the therapeutic philosophers who tell him what he means when he says what he thinks he is saying, who also tell him what he can say and what he cannot say. This blocks him from entering a legitimate field of historical inquiry, but it does not eliminate that field. He cannot fully understand what happened in philosophy unless he can answer the question what philosophy has "really" been doing all this time. His answer to this question will determine what kind of history of philosophy he writes. In this he does not differ from any other historian. The ultimate determinants of any given comprehensive piece of historiography are metahistorical. This is the foundation problem of history. To the historian of philosophy this foundation problem must seem intractable. Any other historian can stop at the boundaries of this problem, declare himself unqualified to enter metahistory, and turn to that science that deals with foundation problems. The historian of philosophy cannot do that because this science is philosophy--the very science whose history he is to write. At this point the question: "How is history to be understood?" is inseparable from the question: "How is philosophy to be understood?" They are still different questions, but he cannot answer either of them without answering the other pari passu. And since there is no superscience to which he can turn with regard to either question, it would seem that the impasse is final. But it is not. The historian who thinks this way has asked the right question and he has pushed it to the limit, as he must. But he has pushed it in the wrong direction and as a result he ends up in a false position. Imperceptibly he has turned from an historian into a speculator. There is nothing wrong with being a speculator, but the historian just does not have the wings to carry him on these speculative flights. If he is to solve his problem, he must stay down on historical ground. If he does, the problem will become manageable and indeed capable of solution. What he needs to do is some historical work: he must go back to the origin, the arch, where both history and philosophy began. This turns the speculative question into an answerable historical one. The historian knows that foundation problems are latecomers in history. They were unknown before the rise of philosophy. This suggests that they can arise only within, and not before, philosophy. The same is true of the rise of what we now call disciplines or sciences. They, too, are products of the process of differentiation that began when a new kind of fundamental experience and thought arose with the Greeks. The historian also knows, or ought to know, that he is not an ethereal Geist -65- looking down on history from an abstract Nowhere and wondering how to understand it. Neither is he an ancient Egyptian scribe or a medieval town chronicler. The history that is his concern is his own history; it is in his bones, in his blood, in his brain. Whether he wants to or not, whether he knows it or is innocent, he is a "philosophical" historian, a product of what he investigates. His language, his technical terms, his ideas, his self-understanding as a human being and as a scholar have been preformed by philosophy in its widest sense as the new Western enterprise of rational inquiry. And what he contributes to his own discipline, advancing and transforming what he has inherited, becomes itself part of that heritage. How, then, does his foundation problem look in the light of such awareness? For him, philosophy and history are still two different disciplines. But he now sees them related to each other the way Heidegger's Holderlinian metaphor relates Dichten and Denken. They are like two trees that stand next to each other, rooted in the same soil, and know each other not. Only when the foundation problem is invoked does their self-questioning reach down into that common soil. Here the two disciplines meet, disclosing the hidden relationship between the cognitional problems of the philosopher and the historian of philosophy. Eric Voegelin's precise formulation holds for both of them: "The model of the subject of knowledge [the knower] confronting an object [of knowledge] is inapplicable where the cognitional act itself is part of the process which is to be recognized." The "drama of history," being unfinished, is not a thing about which a philosopher can speak, the way he can speak of a thing complete in itself, since "by philosophizing he becomes an actor in the [unfinished] drama of which he wants to speak." This also fits the historian who wants to speak about philosophy, an equally unfinished "drama." By speaking about it, he too becomes an actor in that drama--assuming that he speaks of it at the highest level he can attain. Voegelin, who is an out-and-out historian as well as an out-and-out philosopher (he has to be both, given his understanding of the relation between philosophy and history), has gone back to the origin in order to investigate the minimum historical configuration in which philosophy could arise anywhere, in which indeed Western philosophy as well as the less radical philosophical departures outside the Western tradition have arisen. He finds three minimum elements that must join up to form this historical configuration: first, a period of geistige Ausbrche, spiritual eruptions that change the fundamental experience of order in the societies affected; second, the rise of the ecumenic empire as the new image and goal of political society; and third, the rise of historiography. This historiography is -66- of course not the kind that is practiced in our day. This early historiography responded to the sense of uniqueness created by the "spiritual outbursts" and the political upheavals, events that divided the flow of time into a "before" and an "after." Philosophy, as Voegelin has said elsewhere, opened the horizon of history; the experience of man's existence in history was at the origin of both philosophy and history. And when historiography became a differentiated discipline, its conception of history, being comprehensive, pulled philosophy itself into its field. Millennia separate the historian of today from these origins. They also separate him from philosophy. But as he descends to the roots, he finds that the fundamental experiences from which philosophizing springs are human experiences that are not foreign to him, even if the painstaking study of a philosopher and his thought may be needed to make such an experience vicariously his own. But the reverse is also true. What a great historian creates is not a scientific photograph of his subject. It is a disciplined formulation of a way of seeing, an expression of a fundamental experience capable of organizing the empirical manifold of events into an intelligible whole. And if this empirical manifold is that of philosophizing, then the historian's work becomes part of the unfinished "drama" of philosophy by contributing to the self-understanding of the science whose history he writes. Such considerations are so far removed from the daily business of the historian of philosophy that he may well doubt whether they make any difference to the way he conducts this business and ask to be excused from having to entertain such speculations. It is his good right to refuse to give up what he considers his professional neutrality. But when such seemingly farfetched and speculative thoughts open up a vista of concrete historical problems beyond the accustomed range of his field, then these problems are his professional concern. He may deny on historiographical grounds that they are genuine or legitimate historical problems, but he cannot do this without examining them. And there is no reason for the belief that history of philosophy can never be anything else and anything more than what is traditionally and quite commonly done under that title today. In fact there is a good deal being done already under this title that no longer fits the traditional frame. The analytical approach through doctrinal analysis, explication des textes, and superb, sophisticated doxography has reached a level that is not easily surpassed. It is one of the great achievements of our time. What lies beyond? Before going into that it will be well to put the view with which we started to the empirical historical test, to be sure of the ground we stand on. -67- 4 Let us be clear about what exactly we want to test. The fact that philosophy has in its historical course produced a vast, ever-growing fund of knowledge and understanding is not in question; the question is about the type of knowledge and understanding it has produced. The view to be tested is that philosophy has never been a "Kantian science," but is instead an upward movement of thought that is open-ended. From this characterization two corollaries follow: 1. Any part or branch of philosophy that turns out to be capable of producing rigorously testable knowledge will eventually drop out of philosophy and become a science in its own right. 2. Contrariwise, that part of any rigorous science that raises ultimately unanswerable questions will cease to be part of that science and tend to become a branch of philosophy. Both tendencies have worked themselves out in the history of philosophy: the contraction of philosophy from the universal science to "the most general" science, and its expansion toward increasing universality. Let us begin with the drop-out phenomenon. However dim the earliest Greek origins of Western philosophy may be because of the paucity of sources, this much is certain: what came into being there was not an array of differentiated disciplines but a new way of thinking: en arch n ho logos. What came to be known as philosophy began as the universal science; more properly it began as a general movement of thought, not as a materially defined field of inquiry. The first area within philosophy to establish itself as a rigorous science was mathematics. Kant rightly characterized the event as die Revolution dieser Denkart. What remained within philosophy was not mathematics as a science but the conception of a mathematical structure or substructure of reality. The exodus of mathematics took time. A mathematician could still head the Academy in the Platonic succession, but once mathematics had become a rigorous discipline it had no room for and no use for speculation. Henceforth the union of mathematics and philosophy could never be more than a personal union: two disciplines practiced by one man. The second case is curious because the discipline that dropped out was a philosophical invention: theology. What took theology out of philosophy was an act of God. When God revealed the Word to man, theology received what philosophy lacks to this day: the supernal source of Truth: Revelatio locuta, causa finita. As a consequence, the mother became the daughter's servant. She stayed in this role until philosophical doubt began to corrode the belief that Holy Scripture was the Word. And now we have three -68- conceptions where Plato had only one: theological theology, philosophical theology, and philosophy of religion. The third defection is so well known that it merely needs to be named: the exodus of science during the age of systems in philosophy. This leaves us with the fourth, last, and most intriguing case: the case of logic. If our thesis holds, logic should have separated out of philosophy in the wake of Aristotle. Why then did it stay within philosophy for well over two millennia? For Kant, the question had to be put the other way around: Why did philosophy fail to do in his own day what logic had been able to do two thousand years earlier? For logic, he found, was the perfect science-almost too perfect. It had sprung from the head of the philosophical Zeus fully grown and fully armed, and there was still barely a spot of rust on its armor. All it ever needed was a little cleaning and taking a few small bumps out, a matter of elegance rather than certainty, as Kant said. Never had logic been forced to take the smallest step back or to change direction, however slightly. But then Kant found it no less curious that logic had been equally unable to take the smallest step forward: logic "gives the appearance of being complete and perfect." The reason he found in logic's inherent limitation. Unconcerned with the whole phenomenal world, unconcerned also with all material questions, logic was simply reason's self-exploration, seeking and finding within itself all that it needed: the forms and rules of right reasoning. All these Kantian suggestions offer us the clue to the historical puzzle. Reason's self-exploration produced a rigorous, nonmetaphysical discipline that by rights should have dropped out of philosophy. But this was a philosophical science in a peculiar sense: it fashioned the philosopher's tools and handed them to him, not from the outside but within the philosopher's own head, so to speak. And what is in the philosopher's head, surely, is "philosophy." What kept this nonphilosophical part of philosophy within the field was its character of being an auxiliary discipline, the only Hilfswissenschaft required for philosophizing. Once Aristotle had invented logic, the philosopher merely needed to learn it and use it as his tool. He did not have to think about it because there was nothing more to be discovered. This Kantian notion is of course historically untenable. There have been efforts to rethink and reformulate Aristotelian logic; there were also genuinely philosophical, that is, speculative, attempts to draw metaphysical substance from logical form--or to infuse logical form with metaphysical meaning. But these were side efforts. On the whole Kant was right: Aristotelian logic was and remained a monolithic block. But not for long anymore. Once new possibilities were discovered, the static auxiliary discipline became a dynamic science. It remained non-speculative and rigorous but it no longer saw itself as Kant had seen it: as a self-exploration of reason. It -69- became a purely formal science, foreign to philosophy and close to mathematics. As a consequence it began to move more and more clearly away from philosophy and closer and closer to a symbiosis and to possible unification with mathematics. Its final exodus from philosophy is now no more than a matter of time and managerial reorganization. The history of the great defections thus confirms our first corollary. The second corollary can be dealt with briefly. The universal science has become the most general science by way of losing one vast field after another. But with this radical contraction goes a quite peculiar expansion that takes two forms. The first form can be characterized by saying that anything and everything except perhaps philosophy itself can be made a field of philosophy by calling it "The Philosophy of . . ." Thus we now have a philosophy of money, the theater, evolution, hope, mass media, or what have you. This is merely an articulation of an ancient and fundamental situation; the speculative approach is not materially limited. It can, and does increasingly, range over the whole phenomenal field, right down to lower and lowest levels of generality. This type of extension does not change the structure of the philosophical enterprise, although it may tend to confuse it. The other type of expansion, however, does have structural implications. Philosophy has been gaining new ground because of the growing urgency of foundation problems arising in the most rigorous sciences. The natural sciences, especially physics, furnish the classical example. "Natural philosophy" died long ago. There is no more painful philosophical reading today than Hegel on electricity, magnetism, and crystals. Yet the ultimate problems of physics are philosophical problems, and so we have now a philosophy of science, filling the need for rigorously disciplined speculation where everything else fails. What characterizes these new fields of philosophy is their cooperative character. Despite their title, they are not the philosopher's own preserve. They are a joint enterprise of scientists, logicians, philosophers, and historians of science as well as of philosophy; one could almost say: in this order. In fact, an empirical study of the precise role played by the pure philosopher in these enterprises might turn up interesting and significant results bearing on the structure of contemporary philosophy. The historian will certainly note that beyond the confines of the quite technical contemporary philosophy of science, the old ultimately unanswerable questions are beginning to be faintly visible again. In the light of this type of expansion, the most general science may be said to be on the way of becoming the universal science once more--in the realm of the unprovable. -70- 5 What lies beyond doxology as a bundle of challenges to the historian can be grouped into two classes of problems. First, there is the task of writing the history of Western philosophy--the traditional task that we might call intraphilosophical. The second group of problems arises when the whole course of Western philosophy is considered as a unit to be placed in the course of civilizational history as a whole. I will begin with the first area and lead into it by considering, as an example of what we already have, five outstanding treatments of Hegel: those of Hippolyte, Lukacs, Kojve, Voegelin, and Marcuse. Hippolyte is the Raisonneur type at its most impressive best; Lukacs is the historian committed to a philosophy outside his subject; Kojve, as an incarnation of Hegel, has the inside commitment; Voegelin's [the manuscript ends here, because, Sebba explains in a 19 January 1971 letter to Richard H. Popkin, he was "plagued by intolerable headaches" of which he goes on to say "my doctor thinks it is a belated result from an undiscovered neck injury during the war (a bad parachute landing)"; what follows is from an undated separate outline of the paper, probably from the 1970s] philosophy of history is historical and philosophical in one; for him, philosophy is a phenomenon in the field of history, and a constituent of it. Voegelin's philosophy of history contains a repertoire of questions, method, and answers to be tested out. 6 I have proceeded with the following in mind. The first problem for the historian of philosophy is that if philosophy is a phenomenon in the field of history, there is "philosophy" and "before philosophy." The second problem comes from the fact that philosophy "happened" at one point in time and in one place. Are "philosophies" that arose elsewhere and at other times "philosophies" in the same sense? Why is "philosophy" not a universal phenomenon? Remember that "history" is not "one damned thing after another." It is a state of consciousness. Philosophical consciousness involves perennial preoccupation with the problems of "mind" (whose?) and has all but blocked the experiential aspect of philosophizing and the experiential roots of historical consciousness. One result is that the writing of history of philosophy has become confused with the study of arguments and their validity. But there is also the -71- experiential history, reflected in symbols, some of which have become philosophical terms. Philosophy's perennial headache has two roots: The inevitable striving for knowing as much about the unknowable as can be known, given the time, circumstances, and capabilities of the thinker. Deformation and loss of knowledge already attained. The question is not: "What is philosophy of history?" but: "What can, what should be done, beyond what is being done?" Here are a few private suggestions of (relatively virgin) topics (la recherche de la paternit est interdite): Do not study the "bias" of past historians of philosophy; "bias" is a biased word; it presumes knowledge of what "straight" is. Make comparative studies to find out how radically different, equally well documented accounts originate; for example, the Hegel of Hyppolite, Lukacs, Kojve, Voegelin, and Marcuse. Consider the age of "systems," for example, closed vs. open philosophies. Consider the age of epistemology, its conceptual and experiential roots, and its consequences. Study myth and philosophy; myth against philosophy; etcetera ad infinitum. -72- APPENDIX 2 Descartes Against Scepticism Philosophy Against History? "This I proposed to do in a longish essay." [ Gregor Sebba to Richard H. Popkin, 25 August 1984] FIRST: SCEPTICISM, IN THE FORM OF A CONFRONTATION WITH NIETZSCHE, the only radical sceptic ever, not counting those who never wrote; then what this means for the metaphysical view of philosophy.Second: History, beginning with Nietzsche and Whitehead; the problem of history from the sceptical viewpoint (mine, too). I made a new sceptical argument against all history, found out that this is in fact the second trope of Agrippa thought out to the bitter end.Third: Descartes, showing that his assurance preceded the so-called Pyrrhonic crisis. This assurance--Gouhier: un homme plein d'assurance--was definitely established in 1619, in the wake of the real sceptical crisis. Popkin's date of 1635 for the sceptical crisis is untenable, but not incorrectable. This would have been the unveiling of the crucial part of my Dreams interpretation. [The above is from the letter to Popkin; what follows is from an undated outline from the late 1970s.] Introduction Richard H. Popkin History of Scepticism from Erasmus to Descartes and E. M. Curley Descartes Against the Sceptics. The questions: What is (and what is not) history, especially of philosophy? Forces vs. arguments and proofs. What are the consequences of arguments or proofs being found invalid? Larger questions: the nature of history, and the sceptical argument from history which the sceptics never made. 1 History: The Sea-God Glaukos in Plato's Republic 1. The ultimate argument against certain knowledge of empirical "fact." Its cosmological aspect. What the sceptics never made of it. -73- 2. The present view of it in classical and quantum physics. Note on Watanabe on the impossibility of prediction and retrodiction. 3. History defined as being only retrodictive, not predictive. Distinction between history in this proper sense, and "pastness." Brief critique of Curley & Co. (footnote to, or inclusion of, a Sebba book review of Curley?). 4. Nietzsche, 1887, on the moment when it happens. Anticipation of Whitehead, 1927. Novelty. Its cosmological ( Whitehead) and "moral" character ( Nietzsche). Example: Nietzsche Antichrist vs. Renan. 5. Historiography: Ranke--the statue of the sea-god Glaukos. Nietzsche and Whitehead: the moment of transformation. Back to "Forces vs. Arguments and Proofs." 6. The historical character of Popkin's work specified. 2. Scepticism 1. Brief comparison between Brochard and Popkin. 2. The negative, antiproductive character of scepticism. Cicero, Melanchthon, et al. 3. Popkin's melioristic interpretation ( Encyclopaedia Britannica article). 4. Popkin's view of the destructive nature of scepticism. Scepticism in philosophy, religion, and its connection with apocalyptic notions of reality. 5. Why the true sceptics combined their scepticism with the principle primum vivere, deinde philosophari. 6. The sterility of epistemological scepticism in contemporary philosophy. 3. Descartes 1. Three views of Descartes's crise pyrrhonienne: a) Popkin: the battle with the dragon; b) Gouhier: the hyperbolic doubt not sceptical doubt; c) Kruger: self-consciousness ( Selbstbewusstsein) and doubt: the radicality of attacking mathematical certainty. 2. Confrontation of these three "historical" views with the static attempts to verify or falsify the system, arguments and proofs of Descartes. 3. Descartes, un homme plein d'assurance ( Gouhier): where did he get his confidence from? 4. Is the doubt of Meditation I the doubt of Descartes himself? The nature of his retraction in the response to Gassendi. -74- 5. Is the hyperbolic doubt convincing as an argument, or is it needed as an experience resulting in conviction? Correction of Popkin's comment on Descartes's "once in one's life, at least." 6. Therapeutic vs. demonstrative doubt. The true meaning of Santayana's "histrionic" doubt and his "animal faith" as applied to Descartes and scepticism. 7. Resolution of the problem: "In the case of Descartes, the experience preceded the argument by ten years; the argument was invented ex post facto; the crise pyrrhonienne was experienced, and overcome, in the night of 10-11 November 1619 Conclusion The role of experience in the formation of philosophies, as against the technical formulation of the arguments. ( Descartes on the ars inveniendi vs. the ars demonstrandi.) The sources of philosophical experience. Philosophical (and scientific) "intuition" distinguished from philosophical (and scientific) construction. Scepticism as the anti-inventive force in modern philosophy. Epilogue Crise pyrrhonienne, doubt, and cogito in the Dreams of Descartes. Brief analysis of Baillet's transcription of dreams 1 and 3. The appearance of the cogito in dream 3, from the monograph on the dreams now in preparation [published herein as The Dream of Descartes]. -75- The Dream of DescartesBy Gregor Sebba

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