In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

154Philosophy and Literature The OlympianDreams and YouthfulRebellion ofRenéDescartes, by John R. Cole; xii & 300 pp. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1992, $34.50. Descartes had three bizarre dreams on die night of 10 November 1619, the fateful day when he conceived his plan for reforming the sciences. He recorded and interpreted the dreams in a notebook, now lost, which was the source both of the excerpts copied by Leibniz in 1676 and published as CogLtationes privata, and of Adrien Baillet's account of the dreams in his Vie de MonsieurDes Cartes (1691). As the author points out, commentators on the life and work of Descartes—including Baillet—have rationalized the dreams, explained them away, ignored them, or even denied that they ever occurred. None has attempted seriously to relate them to Descartes's personal life or to his philosophical work. In this fascinating book Professor Cole does just that. Very briefly, Descartes reported the dreams as follows. In die first, he dreamt he was walking down a street in a distressed condition, buffeted by gusts of wind, when he came upon a schoolyard where he sought shelter. There, after passing an acquaintance without greeting him, he met a person who told him that a certain Monsieur N. had something he wanted to give him, which Descartes imagined to be a melon from a foreign land. In the second dream, Descartes dreamt he heard a loud noise which he took to be thunder. And in the third he dreamt he found two books on his table, one a dictionary and the other a collection of poems. On opening the latter he chanced upon a verse beginning "Quod vitae sectabor iter?" But then a man appeared who recommended a verse beginning "Est et Non." Descartes said he knew it, but when he looked in the anthology he could not find it; so he told the man he would show him another poem by the same author (Ausonius), namely the one he had first chanced upon. While looking for it he came across several copperplate portraits, but then the man and books disappeared. Descartes's interpretation of the dreams, as reported by Baillet, is no less bizarre than the dreams themselves. Cole's interpretation connects the contents of the dreams chiefly with Descartes's personal rebellion against his father in not following the legal career which had been planned for him, and with Descartes's strained friendship with the Dutch savant Isaac Beeckman. He establishes these connections through detailed study of the Descartes family legal dynasty and the Beeckman/Descartes correspondence,judicious application of psychoanalytic theory, and insightful detective work. A good example of the latter is Cole's explanation of the melon in Descartes's first dream. He argues that this represents the false friend which Descartes thought Beeckman to have been, basing his interpretation on a proverbial association between choosing a good melon and finding a good friend. This sounds far-fetched, but it is very persuasively argued. Philosophers may wonder about the significance of all diis psychohistory. As Reviews155 Cole points out, it is no accident that Descartes had his bizarre dreams at precisely the time when he conceived his radical plan of seeking the foundations of science by rejecting all previous opinions. This intellectual declaration ofindependence is clearly associated with Descartes' personal rebellion against the established vocational path which his father had expected him to follow. It is not surprising that Descartes had strange dreams reflecting the latter after he spent a day feverishly mulling over the former. Cole connects the dreams with another aspect ofDescartes's philosophy: his identification of the selfas a pure res cogitans. This identification required not just philosophical reflection, but the sort of emotional catharsis that dreams can provide. This book is a model of scholarship, and I recommend it highly. University of CanterburyRobert Stoothoff Narrated Films: Storytelling Situations in Cinema History, by Avrom Fleishman; xv & 243 pp. Baltimore:Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991, $34.95. Proverbial wisdom tells us that "every picture tells a story," narratology, how storytelling carries its impact. Avrom Fleishman's investigative foray into the subdeties of filmic narration confronts the oversimplifications to which theoretical as well as conventional understanding can...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 154-155
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.