Am I Descartes or are you?
One thing that commentators on Descartes fret about is who the "I" is who narrates the meditations. One natural interpretation is that it is a rhetorical device to draw the reader into the project of doubting everything. When I read the Meditations, I am supposed to recognize that I myself - at that instant - might be dreaming. In reading, the "I" is not Descartes but rather me the reader.
Reading the Meditations again, I began to wonder how different it would be if it had been written as a dialogue instead. The place of the reader would then sometimes be given in the second person:
Surely [says Socrates, Philonous, or whoever is the dialogue's voice of wisdom] you must admit that there is no sign by which you can tell you are not dreaming this whole conversation.
Struth! [replies the dialogue's rube] Indeed it is so. The fact that I am speaking as if in stage play suggests that it may truly be a dream.
I am not sure if any philosophical substance would be lost in this alternate-universe version of the Meditations. The text would be somewhat longer, however, because the dialogue would include pleasantries among its characters at the start of each Meditation:
I have done as you suggested and imagined a demon hell-bent on deceiving me. Quite frankly, it made for rather a grim breakfast. Perhaps today you can convince me of the existence of bacon.
You are too hasty. The probable existence of bacon is still days away.
Mon 17 Jan 2011 03:43 AM