Thinking and Imagining Descartes
Descartes was turned into a cultural icon already in the seventeenth century. In the twentieth century, he is still an icon, an icon of implicit or explicit cultural villainy, who is said to be responsible for, or at least to have provided a major impulse toward, a whole range of modern ills and putative ills: rationalism, subjectivism, egocentrism, dualism, agnosticism, atheism, scientism, reductionism, the mathematization of being and nature. A constellation of intellectual commonplaces and stereotypes has been gathered around him. As with most stereotypes, there are reasons for accepting their plausibility, but on closer examination many prove to be oversimplifications at best and sometimes downright falsifications.
A. IMAGINING DESCARTES
Despite the recurrent tendency to view Descartes as a new beginning ("the father of modern philosophy")—a tendency evident even in his own writings—his thought was deeply enmeshed in what preceded him. By looking to a texture and pattern of Descartes’ philosophical psychology that has not been much attended to, one can also see the relevance of the contexture of the psychological thought of the late Middle Ages and the early modern period.
A conventional reading of Descartes’ psychology in relation to his predecessors would likely see impoverishment. The rich psychophysiology of the senses and internal senses and the understanding of the operations of ratio and intellectus in relation to phantasms he not so much profited from as simplified and oversimplified, to the point where they were replaced by the pineal gland system and the thinking thing—that is, by Cartesian mind-body dualism. This is itself a grand oversimplification, however. Here I shall try to emphasize the need for correcting this oversimplification by sketching a possible way of conceiving Descartes’ path into philosophy, the outlines of a new philosophical biography.
Imagine Descartes as a young man, having finished school and attained a law degree. He is rather perplexed about the state of the knowledge that has been transmitted to him. He can see that although much of what he studied is useful and edifying, his educators have not displayed a unified, much less persuasive, understanding of why and how what they claim to know is truly known—thus almost every such claim is in dispute—nor is their pedagogy informed by a clear notion of what it is for a human being to come to know something, to discover the truth for him- or herself. But he also knows some things, and he knows that he knows them: some in mathematics (though geometers tire the imagination with complicated figures, and algebraists use a cumbersome system of rules and unintelligible symbols), a few moral precepts, and discoveries he has made for himself (either spontaneously or spurred by hints of others). Most of all, he sees that he can recognize when one thing has some relation to another, especially when both can be compared directly with respect to some particular aspect. For example, he can see that his horse is larger than his dog, and he knows that when lost it is better to travel in a single arbitrarily selected direction than to turn at every whim. He begins to realize that his ability to discover things and recognize comparative truths operates in accordance with simply formulable precepts: don't leave anything out of account, proceed in an orderly way, don't depend too much on memory, simplify, look for analogies if you can't find direct solutions. Most of all, take the measure of one thing in comparison to another; look for equalities, inequalities, sequences, proportions.
Still, it takes an encounter with a somewhat more mature contemporary who has already discovered many of these things for himself to stir the young Descartes from a casualness toward knowledge. Isaac Beeckman, who believes that knowledge should be picturable and so is a proponent of diagrammatic and geometric approaches to physical and dynamic problems (physicomathematics), awakens in the young Frenchman a glimpse of what might be accomplished if he put greater effort and order into his studies. Descartes discovers that by isolating the relevant factors in a problem and representing them and their proportional relationships with plane and solid figures, many, many problems become easily solvable. Moreover, the new "algebra" and, most promising of all, new kinds of instruments (like his proportional compass) can be used to solve for proportions of any complexity, and, in particular, arithmetic/algebraic problems can be solved using curves and figures that are produced by means of the rigidly mechanical (and therefore in principle easily imaginable) motions of these proportionalizing instruments. These methods can be applied to any problem involving quantities and proportions of any kind, including physical problems of motion, tendency to motion, and force. But more important, this includes all questions concerning anything that stands in some order or proportion to other things. There is potentially no limit to what this class of questions embraces.
Descartes’ developing insight is that a great and unified method might be developed on these bases. It is an inkling at first, rather than an accomplishment, an inkling supported by his conviction that there is a deep cosmic harmony in accordance with which proportions and analogies unite superficially disparate things. As he works to flesh out the insight, he makes more progress in solving particular mathematical and physical problems than in conceiving a unified method, and the occasional inspirations do not immediately lead to a comprehensive art of discovery.
Occupied in travels, Descartes works in fits and starts. Over time he reveals bits and pieces of what he has done, which begins to win him a small following of admirers and great expectations from the learned. To his interests in music, in geometry and a geometric-mechanical algebra, and in mechanics he adds optics, or rather light. If there is a harmony in the cosmos, then it is governed by the principles of harmonic proportion; if we can know these harmonies, it must be because the material substrate of the physical universe allows for the accurate transmission of these harmonies to our sense organs. Light would seem to be the chief physical-mechanical power for revealing to us things and their proportions; if we could develop a simple theory of its operation to account for this revelatory capability, then we would have an important guarantee of the reliability of the human way of knowing the world. This optical work leads Descartes to recognize that his understanding of the senses, imagination, memory, and intellect has to be coordinated with this physical knowledge, and so around the late 1620s he begins to conceive of the anatomical and physiological prerequisites for the link between world and mind. This is likely the period in which the Regulae was composed and then left off as Descartes encountered ever more difficulties of fact and principle blocking his original project.
In this account Descartes is pursuing not the mathematization and physicalization of the universe but rather an explication of the fact that we do know and can learn, an explication consistent with the most accurate investigations and knowledge of his day. This included the philosophicomedical theory of the external and internal senses. He did not reject this psychological theory but tried to accommodate it to the proportionate cosmos that every day proves it can be known by dint of the ordinary processes of physiology and of the physical world, which reveal to us the sights, sounds, aromas, flavors, and feel of things. The traditional psychology in fact taught that sensation was based on proportion, argued that there was some natural means by which the forms in things came to inform the organs of sense, and contended that all knowledge required the presence of phantasms, which were understood as artifacts of a physiological psychology with functions specially located in brain cavities. Thus Descartes hoped that he would be able to make the traditional teaching more rigorous and more rigorously in accord with knowledge about physical nature and the human being. If a sensible species somehow entered the sense organ from an object by means of an intervening physical medium, then the transmission had to obey the principles of that medium and be received in the organ in accordance with its physical and physiological nature. In addition, whereas the psychological tradition claimed, in some of its versions, that a phantasm derived from objects in the real world was illuminated by intellect to produce an intelligible species through which we could understand the real-world object, Descartes became convinced by his "phenomenological" attention to his own awareness and his processes of discovery that we can reckon only with what is already in the possession of the mind. Intelligible species or essences are less useful for problem solving than is comparing things according to order and proportion by virtue of our capacity to identify relevant characteristics of their appearances: aspects, dimensions, natures.
It is not possible here to determine to what degree the sketch can receive additional confirmation or secure dating. But the sketch I have presented begin to suggest something very important about the history of philosophical psychology since Descartes. Descartes’ opening up of the "way of ideas" was the result of his attempt to make the older psychology more rigorous and less cumbersome, yet his understanding of different planes of awareness, his biplanar conception of thinking, remained in essential continuity with the older tradition. It was Cartesianism instead and the emergence of what we identify as the rationalist and empiricist poles of philosophy that turned awareness into consciousness, a theater with a single plane. Rationalism, on the one hand, began to conceive imagination chiefly as a source of error, and empiricism, on the other, brought a flattened and hypermechanical conception of imagination into play by reducing thought to a construction, manipulation, and sequencing of images or imagelike ideas. Descartes was a pioneer of the way of ideas; the irony is that in traversing it later philosophers reduced it to a simulacrum of the original.
A major source of this distortion was that those who came after understood Descartes as offering series of propositions and arguments that could be evaluated contextlessly as clear and distinct ideas. According to Descartes's usage, however, it is not ideas that are clear and distinct but rather our knowledge or awareness of them. It is our way to ideas and the activity of thinking them that must be made clear and distinct; it is the activity of thinking that produces the background against which the truth can appear clearly and distinctly, a context in which the texture of thinking makes its force truly felt. And so, for example, the question of whether the Meditations is really meditational is only the tip of the relevant iceberg. The deeper question is whether we can decide about the truth of Descartes in any sense without encountering for ourselves the articulated objects of his thought within the manifoldly textured activity of thinking.
It is no wonder that it was in the seventeenth century that imagination and intellect drifted apart, leading ultimately to their divorce. It is a more than Cartesian irony that Descartes never intended the divorce. At the beginning he even championed the effective primacy of the former, though he ultimately settled for a distinction rather than a divorce: the intellect exceeded the imagination, and the will, the source of imagination, exceeded the intellect. Moreover, he placed imagination at the very heart of the sciences of nature, he made it of their essence. After the divorce, however, someone like Isaac Newton believed that he could make no more savage attack against a natural philosophy like that of Le Monde than to call it a romance of nature, that is, a figment of the imagination, a mere fable. He did not, perhaps no longer could, realize that by extending the mathematization of nature he had expanded the uncanny power of imagination in science without maintaining the determinants and controls of necessity. Mathematics itself came to be seen as rational, indeed paradigmatically rational. Thus after Newton the sciences were no longer impelled by the insight that had been fundamental to Descartes: that mathematics itself is imaginative, that it is the exercise par excellence of imagination.
What difference does it make whether we think of mathematics as imaginative or rational? To answer this we would need a more careful delineation of intrinsic differences between imagination and rationality than we have performed hitherto. In a sense this study of imagination in Descartes has been a prolegomenon to that delineation. Lacking this careful delineation, any answer to the question about mathematics' place in the economy of the mind will be partial and hypothetical. Still, it is worthwhile to indicate from our current perspective the direction in which an answer that follows out Descartes’ insights might tend. The imagination is the formative mental power in which the corporeal world takes on nascent concreteness. By itself it is not able to recognize the boundaries of its validity; seeing beyond the limits of the imagination—both the limits of specific images and the limits of the mental power of forming them—is a chief function of intellect, which by its nature is a transcendental seeing, a seeing beyond the limits of what is present to consciousness. When the intellect does not carefully attend to what imagination has wrought, and if imagination is not guided by intellectual insight into its proper boundaries, we will tend to conceive things other than they are. For a similar reason, when intellect does not carefully attend to sense perception, we take the senses as more veridical than they can possibly be; this, according to Descartes, has been the fate of the majority of human beings, a fate that the Aristotelians enshrined in theory.
From Descartes’ perspective, the person whose imagination is not properly delimited is likely to experience, consciously or not, a hypertrophic growth in imagination's claims to truth. Unlike sense perception, however, imagination is productive, so that even where its claims are excessive, its ability to produce, in view of particular aspects, a simulacrum of what happens and what is, tends to mask what is false. The mathematical physics that arose in the last decades of the seventeenth century, misunderstood as rational rather than imaginative, was therefore a romantic science —understanding romanticism as a cultural phenomenon predicated on the superiority of imagination to rationality.
This suggestion need not be taken as having chiefly negative, much less solely negative, implications, especially when we recall that one of the issues raised here is whether we are under the spell of the modern judgment that imagination is cognitively neutral or even irrelevant. In the late twentieth century, much more generous in its appreciation of imagination's cognitive uses than the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the notion of early modern science as romanticizing can be taken in a more positive sense. In entertaining the notion one might very well want to reopen the question of Descartes’ role in the development of the modern sciences. One should enter into that examination with at least two points in mind: Descartes held distinct what those who came after fused (mathematics and rationality), and if he contributed to the subsequent romanticization, he is nevertheless in decisive respects situated on the remote side of the historical divide.
B. IMAGINING WITH DESCARTES
In this book it has not been my principal goal to answer the question whether Descartes’ theory or, rather, theories of imagination are true. Beginning with a few texts, some scarcely known, others not thoroughly enough explored, I have tried to present Descartes as philosophical psychologist, to place this Descartes in historical context, to show that imagination is the key to his earliest philosophy, and to suggest its continuing central importance for him. Now, in concluding, I want not so much to pronounce judgment—which, to be amply just, would require a wider investigation—as to point to themes and questions present in the imagining Descartes that are still germane to a philosophical investigation of imagination.
The first thing to say is that there are few philosophers who can match Descartes in his grasp and cultivation of imagination. When he told Franz Burman that he was "sufficiently imaginative, and exercised his ingenium in it for a long time" (AT V 163), it was something of an understatement. His experience with imagination qualifies him as an expert. Furthermore, Descartes stands very close to the historical divide separating imagination understood as intrinsically protocognitive or cognitive from an imagination that is fictionally creative but, when not harmful, largely irrelevant for purposes of knowledge. His own conception of imagination underwent an evolution that tended toward the modern dichotomy of intellect and imagination. His testimony can give us insight into why this evolution occurred as a larger cultural phenomenon and whether it was inevitable, and therefore also whether there is any point in trying to think our way back into a more cognitively productive imagination.
This qualification of Descartes as an expert witness to the power of imagination is related to another. Although under very different circumstances, Descartes, like us, was attempting to reconcile what he had experienced of imagination with what he knew from the science of his day; and he placed cognitive imagination under the aegis of mathesis universalis in a way that anticipates, and parallels at least in part, our own cultivation of physicomathematical imagination (mentioned at the end of the preceding section) in the hypotheses and abductions of the modern sciences of nature. Whatever the status of the hypothesis of the romanticization of physical science after Descartes, then, his example might give some clearer grasp of the issues of principle raised by the mathematization of physical science.
The biplanarity of active mind has been a central feature in the interpretation of Descartes I have presented. To some this biplanarity might appear to be just a multiplied form of the homunculus: the homunculus has not a single standpoint but has to bilocate or even trilocate! An awareness that is in and between planes and that can transcend any single plane into another seems fraught with problems. Yet if one is going to have any significant notion of awareness or consciousness, one has to locate it in some way, if not physiologically then at least phenomenologically, and it seems to me phenomenologically right to say that the power to shift attention and its point of focus is not accidental but essential to consciousness. The traditional doctrines of external and internal senses were predicated on the experience of an awareness at the level of the organs and on a unified, hierarchical community of the sensitive and cognitive functions in the living human being. What Descartes ultimately preserved of this doctrine was altered by the notion that the fundamental point of division of self from world resides in the process of sense reception. One could turn this around and say that it was precisely the emphasis on the putative fact of this division that created the disjunct spaces of the external and internal worlds. On the conscious side of the divide we seem to be autonomously in possession of impressions from the world; all further operations of and on them appear to take place within us, either in the body (unless the body itself is taken as part of the external world) or in the mind. This point of demarcation is not arbitrary per se, but it may well be so in its absoluteness, for in a significant sense my consciousness appears to be as much with and in the world as it is in and with my body. And even the mature Descartes concluded through the Meditations that our overwhelming inclination to take the world as real is not entirely wrong.
The mobility of biplanar consciousness that was typical of Descartes’ early philosophy can take us some distance toward understanding how images serve cognitive purposes. The key notions are the systematicity of each plane and the human ability to grasp one thing in terms of another, whether that connection is conventional or natural, arbitrary or based on resemblance. The most constant feature of mind in Descartes’ philosophy, however, is that it can compare things, that is, recognize them as the same or different, as equal, greater, or less. If there is any certainty at all in knowing, it must exist at least at this level, and it must be based on some minimal human ability to grasp resemblance in some respect (grasping non-resemblance itself operates within the supposition of resemblance). For this kind of comparison to be true (i.e., more than just correct ad hoc, for this time and place only) there must be in addition not so much a constancy of objects of attention as a constant network of relationships, a context of systematicity—in other words, a plane. It is, for example, because we have a relatively constant grasp on relationships between hues (e.g., in a way that allows us to array them on a chromaticity diagram), relationships we can evoke at will, and also a relatively constant grasp on the simple mechanics of elastic collisions (e.g., on a billiard table) that it could occur to someone to correlate the qualities of colors with certain mechanical processes (e.g., a theory that has particles of different sizes differentially reflected by matter and setting off different vibrations on the retina—which is a very simplified version of Newton's theory).
Descartes ultimately settled on the spatial geometry produced by phantasia, regulated by intellectually discovered principles, as the fundamental substrate for cognitively relevant imagination. The systematic relationships within it, governed especially by the rules of motion, constituted the ultimate constraints for the cognitive use of images. With all the other internal senses collapsed into imagination, the possibilities for biplanar awareness were considerably reduced (vision, common sense, and memory, for instance, are all functions of just one organ). The space of phantasia, it is true, had become a replica of external space, a model and symbol of the external world; its in principle infinite divisibility and its mobility established the basis for a strict isomorphism between imagination and world, so that it could still serve as an instrument of cognition. But biplanar awareness had shifted more deeply inward, because now there were just two places for consciousness to be: either in phantasia (the pineal gland) or on its own.
The ability of awareness to shift planes was in the Regulae named vis cognoscens, knowing force. It is this power and its transformations that I have emphasized in this book, more generally under the rubric 'cogitation', the activity of thinking. It is the power of autonomously considering, varying, and forming images and ideas, and of moving between and seeing beyond them. In the very late Descartes (of the Principles and the Passions), the thinking part was divided conceptually (but not in reality) into the nobler, active side, will, and the indispensable but passive side called perception. Perception is, as it were, the last remnant of ancient theoria, or contemplation, in Descartes. The restlessness of human attention made it impossible to remain within contemplation for more than a brief time, even when the object of it was God (as at the end of the Third Meditation). That had been a problem even in Aristotle and in Christian contemplation: human beings are inevitably drawn back from theoria by the demands of the body and community life. But Descartes derived from this restlessness of attention the evidence of the self, which is visible as such only in the activity of thinking, and also evidence of the finitude of the self, a finitude that in turn pointed to the positive infinity of God. These are issues of more than imagination, of course, but they still show traces of Descartes’ early psychology.
Our imaginations function within this framework in a twofold way. Imagination allows us, when guided by intellect, to replicate the structure and activity of extension. But it does this in only an approximate way. Our minds are incapable of filling out the infinitely divisible detail that is conceivable in the actual behavior of extension. God can (and does) know this detail, whereas human beings can know what happens only in principle. We can improve the specificity and exactness of our understanding of extension (thus of nature) in many cases and therefore also increase our possibilities for control, but we can never master it fully.
This leads to the second function of imagination. It helps guide and direct us in the enjoyment of our powers as a human being, that is, as a unified body and soul. The passions, which are due to this union, are themselves imaginations or imaginings, passive ones induced by physiological causes beyond our control. The imaginations that we will, however, are under our control, and although we cannot directly will changes in our physiology and the associated passions, we can will images that can produce physiological effects capable of changing the passions. Active imaginations thus help us to gain a certain mastery over ourselves. Since these two categories comprise the vast majority of human psychic activity, the character, sweetness, and purpose of human life depend more on this constellation of imaginative passions and powers than on anything else. Even if as thinking beings we perceive ourselves precisely as thinking and not extended, in our daily life we deal with the body and the soul together. This means that our fate is to be neither metaphysicians nor physicists but people concerned chiefly with the ordinary affairs of life. If Descartes aims at the mastery of nature, it is primarily the mastery of our own, ordinary nature, and only derivatively that of the external world. And, ultimately, the passional life (in the Passions of the Soul) culminates not in self-satisfaction but in generosity, a spilling over of the passion of admiration that exceeds the self and makes one well disposed toward others.
C. MEMORY, THINKING WITH DESCARTES
One psychological power that the early imaginative approach to knowing was supposed to eliminate made an enigmatic return in the late philosophy. That power is memory. The Regulae had tried to overcome it by the instantaneous grasp of intuitus and the progressive reduction of deductio to an intuituslike status. All knowledge was therefore on essentially the same basis, and anything truly known was known as well as anything else that was known. In the later philosophy Descartes introduced a hierarchy of certainties. God, whom we do not comprehend, is nevertheless more certain than our selves. What is perceived by the senses is least certain of all, especially since sense was instituted for preservation of the mind-body union rather than for truth.
There is something paradoxical about the Meditations' reevocation of memory, the specific location of which is the Fifth Meditation. It provides us, after the fact of experiencing fundamental truths, with the warrant of that experience. By recalling, for example, that we have clearly and distinctly conceived God (and therefore his existence and his goodness), we can be sure that other things we have clearly and distinctly known have been truly known and can in their turn be recalled and used in confidence. We do not have to recall the proof of the Pythagorean theorem to use it, only that we have proved it previously. This power of memory yields the equivalent of a (modern) proposition with a propositional attitude attached. But the substrate of this intellectual memory is that we know that we have actively thought the truth of the proposition in its texture and contexture: thus we remember not just the fact of truth, we remember that we have experienced it as true against a background that permitted it to emerge. Presumably this means that having an approximate idea of God roughly based on a rather vague memory that we once proved his infinity, existence, and goodness would not be enough. The idea would need to be focused, and we would need some memory of the background of active thought that evidenced God as God and not just as a word or conceptual possibility. By contrast, the Regulae would have us as much as possible rehearse once again the full experience of truth in all its evidence, without recourse to memory. All that memory would do for the life of the mind is provide it with the stock of all the natures that ingenium has experienced; combined with the habit of thinking those natures according to order and proportion, it would provide to active, imaginative mind everything relevant to perfect knowledge.
The late philosophy, following the traces of imagination, returned to memory. Descartes did not think through the questions of memory—if he did, the evidence is not preserved for us—and therefore he cannot be a guide here in as positive a way as in the case of imagination. He distinguishes intellectual from corporeal memory and also aligns intellectual memory with ideas in their potentiality. In the Regulae, imagination is meant to overcome memory; in the Meditations, imagination and thought are supported by remembering the knowledge we have had. At the level of the body, the physiological traces of memory in the brain are produced by the actual experiences we have had, and they largely govern our particular associations of images, so that the memory of corporeal images is a key to the reliable functioning of the unified mind and body.
But the fact is that Descartes wrote very little about memory, and that little is more enigmatic than clarifying. Descartes thus leaves us in more than one sense on the threshold of memory. That threshold is the place where we are most fallible and most human, where we can least think of ourselves as autonomous, self-perceiving, serf-certifying beings because we are bound by a past history. From the little we have seen, however, it seems likely that he thought imagination away from memory, until, as he worked out the consequences of transcending the limits of imagination, he was compelled to readmit the fact of remembering, at least in the form of a memory of intellectual events. Memory is important because it weaves the fabric of our everyday, contingent lives, but also because it reinforces our experience and understanding of essential truths. One might then expect further thought and investigation to reveal some parallels between the status of imagination and the status of memory in Descartes. If we are attentive, we might find traces of memory all along the path of imagination, throughout Descartes’ psychological philosophy.
Modernity as a concept is predicated on a contrast with the old, in particular on comparing the present with what is past. In the early modern age the standard for comparison was the ancient Greeks and Romans (and those reputed wise from every remote time and place, whether they were named Moses or Hermes Trismegistus), who inspired admiration but also ambition. The young Descartes thought that the ancients (most of all the ancient mathematicians) surpassed the moderns in knowing because they possessed the secret of how to acquire knowledge, a secret they had concealed. It was being rediscovered in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, however; and all that it required was attention to the possibilities inborn in each human being, possibilities that if developed would yield wisdom. He believed that imagination was the key to acquiring this wisdom, in both theory and practice. The later philosophy did not reject the goal, it only modified the conception of how to get there.
If in the course of the seventeenth century, if in the writings of Descartes himself, imagination underwent an eclipse, this does not mean that it became irrelevant or that the project Descartes had initially envisioned lapsed. The impulse of that project carried over through the later writings and ultimately passed, in unanalyzed form, to the Cartesians and post-Cartesians. The scientific and truth-discovering powers of imagination that Descartes had conceived did not vanish; they were simply reassigned in the psychophysiology and the thinking activity of human beings. We cannot say that this reassignment occurred in a perspicuous way, however, and not even that it was done for good reasons. The past three hundred years have given us many theories of imagination but no consensus, nor have they given us much agreement about what the basic facts of imagination are. We have difficulty articulating a coherent understanding of imagination yet make frequent appeals to it. Is this a sign that we are so deeply entwined in it that we can experience it no more clearly than we do our ears or eyes?
Descartes recommenced thought about the relevance of imagination, recommenced it after the long continuation of Aristotle had blossomed in Avicenna, was raised to a higher pitch in the Renaissance, and ultimately succumbed to erosion by formulaic repetition. Both this ancient tradition and Descartes’ thought of imagination have been for the most part hidden from us. For centuries neither has been a part of our experience; much less have they been the object of thought. The task of reacquiring the experience and thinking it through stands before us. If this task is carried out genuinely in thought, it will be not simply a surrender to the past but a reevocation of a heritage.
Whether we are moderns or postmoderns, it is unlikely that we can get a proper estimation of imagination and its value without Descartes. Perhaps we have no choice but to think with Descartes, and to imagine with him, until we reach the point of thinking and imagining for ourselves. The paradox is that most people learn how to really think from the example of others, but it is only when we have begun thinking ourselves that we can truly think with another. Perhaps the same is true of imagining, especially if it is thoughtful and not just willful. If that is so, and if following in Descartes’ traces helps us to act accordingly, then there is truly some hope that this work will have served a larger purpose than merely imagining Descartes.