The Dream of Descartes

The Dream of Descartes

The Dream of Descartes

The Dream of Descartes


The late Gregor Sebba was fond of describing his monumental Bibliographia Cartesiana: A Critical Guide to the Descartes Literature, 1800- 1960 as a by-product of his research begun in 1949 for an article he had in mind titled The Dream of Descartes.

The bibliography has been indispensable to Descartes scholars since its appearance in 1964. When Sebba died in 1985, his manuscript for The Dream of Descartes was still unfinished. Here, with materials provided by Aníbal A. Bueño, Richard H. Popkin, and Helen Sebba, Richard A. Watson presents the completed work based on a 1973 draft, letters, outlines, and other manuscript material. The result is a fascinating analysis of Descartes' dreams as seminal in the creative process of genius.


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 Aníbal 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-

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