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Early Modern PhilosophyMind, Matter, and Metaphysics$
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Christia Mercer and Eileen O'Neill

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780195177602

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2005

DOI: 10.1093/0195177606.001.0001

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Dreamers and Madmen

Dreamers and Madmen

(p.9) Dreamers and Madmen
Early Modern Philosophy

Janet Mercer

Oxford University Press

In the First Meditation, Descartes prefaces the dream argument with a paragraph in which he raises the possibility that he is like a lunatic. The lunacy triggered a disagreement between Foucault and Derrida, and in the 1960s and 1970s this made it famous in some circles; but it has not yet received all the attention it deserves. This chapter takes up a perspective that accepts how remote the fundamental concerns of previous philosophers may be from our own (and how historically conditioned both their concerns and ours may be); that aims nonetheless to articulate how previous philosophers saw their projects; and that hopes this kind of engagement with the past may prove to be useful. Passages are introduced and several interpretative options are considered. It is argued that Descartes did not put lunatics beyond the pale; he intended us to take “lunacy skepticism” seriously, as seriously as we do “dream skepticism”.

Keywords:   Descartes, Focault, lunatic, Derrida, lunacy skepticism, dream skepticism, First Meditation

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