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Descartes’s Dreams

Imagination in the "Meditations</I>


Ann Scholl

Ann Scholl revises the traditional understanding of the role of imagination and sensory perception in Descartes’s Meditations. Traditionally, Cartesian scholars have focused primarily on sensory perception as the more significant of the two «special» modes of thought. In this work, Ann Scholl describes how a better understanding of Descartes’s skepticism and his arguments for dualism are reached when imagination instead is understood as the more primary of the two special modes of thought. The result is a fresh reading and interpretation of Descartes’s most influential work.


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IV. Imagination in Meditations V and VI 71


Chapter IV Imagination in Meditations V and VI As shown in the previous chapter, the narrator’s skeptical worries cause him to speak with hesitation when attributing the faculties of imagination and sensory perception to himself (qua a thinking thing.) His hesitation comes in the form of the narrator attributing only restricted senses of imagination and sensory percep- tion to himself. The senses of imagination and sensory perception he attributes to himself are restricted in that they are only functions of seeming to imagine and seeming to sense-perceive. As I suggested, we ought to interpret the narra- tor’s power of seeming to imagine as nothing more than a power through which the narrator apparently has ideas of corporeal substances. That is, his power of imagination seems a power which allows him to phenomenally represent corpo- real substances. However, his imaginary ideas are so obscure and indistinct that he cannot be sure that they are truly phenomenal representations. I also sug- gested in the previous chapter that we understand the narrator’s power of seem- ing to sense-perceive as being restricted in two ways. First, the narrator only seems to perceive (given the dream problem) in that he cannot determine that he ever really sense-perceives. The narrator cannot determine that his sensory ideas are truly ideas representing actual, external corporeal substances. Since this is so, he can only attribute to himself a sensory power only distinguishable from his imaginary power in that his sensory power seems a different mental power from his imaginary...

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