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132 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 28." 1 JANUARY 199o Gregor Sebba. The Dream of Descartes. Assembled from Manuscripts and Edited by Richard A. Watson. The Journal of the History of Philosophy Monograph Series. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1987. Pp. xiv + 75. Paper, $1~.95. Cartesian scholars, much indebted to Gregor Sebba for his Bibliographia Cartesiana:A CritzcalGuide to the DescartesLiterature, x8oo-z96o, are further indebted to him and to his editor, Richard Watson, for this short volume published a few years after his death in 1985. Sebba tells us in an autobiographical opening statement about the mid-European upbringing and education that directly prepared him for a career in law and economics in Austria. Fleeing Austria after the Nazi takeover, he came to the United States and served in the military in 1939-1946, and only after the war was he able to begin an academic career, when, at age forty-two, he became a teacher of statistics at the University of Georgia. All the while he was really fascinated by the mystery of intellectual creativity, and his studies of Descartes led, in turn, to the bibliography and to giving a number of lectures on the dream of Descartes. His humanistic reputation prompted his move to Emory University in 1959 where he was able to give seminars as an interdisciplinary professor in the Graduate Institute of Liberal Arts. In November 1619 Descartes was in the military service of Emperor Ferdinand, quartered in the Bavarian town of Ulm. Twenty-three years old, Descartes was searching for the determination of his life's work. Fascinated with mathematics and stimulated by his conversations with Beeckman the year before, Descartes went to bed the night of November lo-11 and dreamt three dreams, which he interpreted as presenting him with a vocation, a message from God, to use his talents and devote his energies to the search after truth. Descartes wrote in Latin an account of these dreams and his interpretation in a petite registre he called Olympica; years later his biographer, Adrien Baillet, came across them among Descartes's papers and incorporated them into the biography of Descartes he published in 1691. This is the basis of Sebba's analysis. This analysis is always penetrating, intriguing, and imaginative even when it is not entirely convincing. To give an example: Towards the end of his first dream Descartes experiences difficulty walking across the courtyard of his old college at La Fl&he. Someone calls to him and tells him he wishes to find a Monsieur N. who has something to give Descartes. Baillet says: "Monsieur Descartes imagined that this [gift] was a melon that had been brought from some foreign land." This famous melon has been the subject of much speculation among interpreters of Descartes's dream. Jacques Maritain, in his Dream of Descartes, remarks on the fun that eighteenth-century interpreters had with it. Sebba proposes to identify the person who greeted Descartes as a M. Chauveau, a former school companion about whom Descartes had inquired in a letter to Mersenne dated 28 January 164 I. Why Chauveau? He came from Melun. As Sebba says: "A memory arose, and was quickly diffused by a verbal pun: Melun becomes melon. Freud would have loved that." Possibly; but who knows? Sebba brings a wealth of knowledge of the Cartesian literature to his study, and he has the confidence of his own judgments. A special contribution to the analysis is his BOOK REVIEWS 133 argument that the third dream contains an anticipation of the "Cogito, ergo sum," in that Descartes, towards the end of the dream, recognizes that he is dreaming. This monograph is rounded out with Sebba's reflections on some of the problems involved in writing the history of philosophy, including the need for the historian to be philosophic in a way which exceeds the need for a historian of science to be an active scientist. Here Sebba expressed his debt to his friend and mentor, the intellectual historian Eric Voegelin. As an indication of his plans (sadly, never to be realized), Watson has also included some notes Sebba put together, in which he reacted especially to Richard Popkin's work on the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 132-133
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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