Reading Descartes Otherwise: Blind, Mad, Dreamy, and Bad

Reading Descartes Otherwise: Blind, Mad, Dreamy, and Bad

Reading Descartes Otherwise: Blind, Mad, Dreamy, and Bad

Reading Descartes Otherwise: Blind, Mad, Dreamy, and Bad

Synopsis

Focusing on the first four images of the Other mobilized in Descartes' Meditations--namely, the blind, the mad, the dreamy, and the bad--Reading Descartes Otherwise casts light on what have heretofore been the phenomenological shadows of "Cartesian rationality." In doing so, it discovers dynamic signs of spectral alterity lodged both at the core and on the edges of modern Cartesian subjectivity.
Calling for a Copernican reorientation of the very notion "Cartesianism," the book's series of close, creatively critical readings of Descartes' signature images brings the dramatic forces, moments, and scenes of the cogito into our own contemporary moment. The author patiently unravels the knotted skeins of ambiguity that have been spun within philosophical modernity out of such cliches as "Descartes, the abstract modern subject" and "Descartes, the father of modern philosophy"--a figure who is at once everywhere and nowhere. In the process, she revitalizes and reframes the legacy of Cartesian modernity, in a way more mindful of its proto-phenomenological traces.

Excerpt

It has been almost a decade—or two if I keep counting.

Reading, or otherwise sitting on, the work of René Descartes (March 31, 1596–February 11, 1650) with the quiet pleasure I see in a g(r)azing cow, I have been savoring, and saving somewhere, this nagging thought: His philosophy—his “Cartesianism,” his “rationalism,” his “methodological” doubt, his theoretical “self-centeredness,” his historicized him-ness—seems to remain overread and underexplored. I have been sensing that something else is going on, too, in those usual pages, in that familiar picture. and here, I am inviting you, my readers, to read with me this strangely intimate distance that the Cartesian “I” appears to maintain with and from itself: this marginal, magical void within the Cartesian ego filled with phenomenological energies and voices, which I have come to see as not only irreducible but also liberating in some ways. I have begun to realize that I might have been in a string of sporadic side talks or small talks with a cast of minor Cartesian characters and unforeseen associates including, perhaps, myself or someone like myself.

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