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Descartes' demon: a dialogical analysis of meditations on first philosophy

By Alex Gillespie


Descartes argued that the existence of reflective thought should be the first principle of philosophy because it is indubitable. The present paper draws on Bakhtinian and Meadian theories to analyse the three key paragraphs in the Meditations in which Descartes argues this point. The analysis demonstrates: (1) that Descartes’ text contains the traces of significant others and the discourses of his time; (2) that the sequence of thoughts that leads Descartes to his first principle is fundamentally dialogical; (3) that Descartes’ self-awareness, which he takes as primary, depends upon his reflecting upon himself from the perspective of a more or less generalized other; and finally (4) that Descartes takes the perspective of the other by reversing his own reactions towards others, such that he reacts to himself in the same way that he previously reacted to others. This reanalysis challenges Cartesian solipsism, arguing that the mind, or self-reflection, is fundamentally social

Topics: B Philosophy (General), BF Psychology, H Social Sciences (General)
Publisher: SAGE Publications
Year: 2006
DOI identifier: 10.1177/0959354306070527
OAI identifier:
Provided by: LSE Research Online

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