Solitude of Questionable Freedom in Cartesian Antagonists: Sartre and Camus

  • Edward Engelberg


“Cartesian” is one of those stubborn concepts we have encoded into our critical thinking and have applied, loosely to be sure, to any mind/body dualism, especially as it may occur in philosophy or literature. Two philosophers have recently attempted to clarify and correct what they have called the “Cartesian Legend.” First they summarize that legend’s major points: “It is common knowledge that Descartes was a Cartesian Dualist…. As everyone knows he held that there are two worlds, one of mental objects and one of material things…. The mental objects are ‘states of consciousness’ … the material objects are … bits of ‘clockwork.’” We perceive the “‘inner world’” by means of “introspection”; the “‘outer world’” is apprehended by “the five senses.” Although Body and Mind are “independent,” they are nevertheless held together by “causal interaction.” The authors suggest that such a reading of Descartes, especially among Anglo-Americans, perpetuates the “legend,” and they proceed to demonstrate what, in their view, Descartes really meant—in short to undo the damage of the “legend” and to posit a more accurate account of “Cartesian.”1 The problem, of course, is that the “Cartesian Legend”—assuming the authors are correct—is what, for better or worse, the culture has absorbed, and so one can with some degree of certainty use it when dealing with Sartre and Camus.


Outer World Final Page Funeral Procession Solitary State Conflictual Existence 
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© Edward Engelberg 2001

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  • Edward Engelberg

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