New Studies in the Philosophy of Descartes: Descartes as Pioneer

By Norman Kemp Smith | Go to book overview

Appendix A
DESCARTES' THREEFOLD DREAM

(Translated from Baillet Vie de Descartes ( 1691), Bk. II, chap. i, pp. 81-6)1

DESCARTES tells us that, on November 10, 1619, having retired to rest full of this enthusiasm and entirely taken up with the thought of having discovered the foundations of a science so marvellous, he had in a single night three consecutive dreams which he imagined could only have come from on high. After he had fallen asleep his imagination was strongly impressed with certain phantoms which appeared before him and terrified him in such wise that, while walking, as he fancied, through the streets, he was obliged to turn himself over to his left side so as to be able to advance to the place where he wished to go, feeling, as he did, a great weakness in his right side which disabled him from leaning on it. Ashamed of walking in that manner he made an effort to straighten himself, but felt an impetuous wind which, catching him up in a kind of whirlwind, made him

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1
Cf. above, p. 15 ff. Descartes, sometime between November 1619 and 1621, wrote out a detailed account of his dream in a manuscript which he entitled Olympica; and Baillet, in composing the following chapter, had it before him. On Descartes' death, the manuscript, since lost, passed into Clerselier's hands; and Leibniz, during his visit to Paris in 1675-6, had the opportunity of transcribing passages from it. These have been preserved in the Hanover Royal Library. They are in the original Latin, and suffice to show that Baillet has been careful and accurate in his translation and use of the lost manuscript (cf. A.T. x, p. 173 ff.). Freud, invited to express his views on Descartes' manner of interpreting the dreams, replied in a letter, given in full in Maxime Leroy Descartes: le philosophe au masque ( i, pp. 89-90). Freud identifies the dreams as being of the 'von oben' type, i.e. as consisting in idea-formations due to what has been happening in the preceding waking-consciousness, and drawing their substance only in certain of their parts from more deeply hidden states of mind. In dreams of this type, the patient can interpret them at once and without difficulty, save in respect of those latter parts. Freud would thus seem to allow that Descartes may well be correct as regards the bearings of the main outstanding features of the dreams, while questioning his explanation of the numerous bizarre, almost absurd, elements which characterise them throughout.

-33-

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New Studies in the Philosophy of Descartes: Descartes as Pioneer
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Bibliography vii
  • Abbreviations ix
  • Contents xi
  • Chapter I 2
  • Appendix A DESCARTES' THREEFOLD DREAM 33
  • Appendix B DESCARTES' ENCOUNTER WITH CHANDOUX, AND SUBSEQUENT INTERVIEW WITH CARDINAL DE BÉRULLE 40
  • Chapter II 48
  • Chapter III 84
  • Chapter IV 102
  • Chapter IV Descartes' Universal Physics as Outlined in His Traité De La Lumière 103
  • Chapter V 124
  • Chapter VI 138
  • Chapter VII 162
  • Chapter VIII 190
  • Chapter IX 220
  • Chapter X 259
  • Chapter XI 294
  • Chapter XII 308
  • Chapter XIII 322
  • INDEX OF PROPER NAMES 365
  • INDEX OF SUBJECTS 367
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