Drawing on D. W. Winnicott’s work, this essay recasts our common conception of the Cartesian cogito—the thinking ego—as the secure foundation for human knowledge, seeing in it less the overcoming of dependency on the senses, preconceived opinions, and authority than a retreat from relationality into a solitary rationality designed to protect against emotional trauma. In this light, the ongoing attachment to Cartesian subjectivity appears as a defensive withdrawal into narcissistic self-enclosure. Recast as Cartesian narcissism, Cartesian philosophy challenges us to recognize how such narcissism may still be acted out and reinforced in contemporary Western culture. Building upon Winnicott’s suggestion that the “capacity to be alone” is paradoxically achieved in relation with another, the essay contrasts the idea of relational autonomy to Cartesian withdrawal into the ego as a goal of emotional maturity.


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pp. 239-274
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