The Conversation Poems

  • Graham Davidson


When Descartes asserted the utter distinction of mind and matter, he determined the mould of philosophical thought upon which the Romantic effort turned; as David Pym has said: ‘In part the Romantic revolt against the 18th Century was against the dualistic outlook induced by the tradition of Descartes which set up an unbridgeable chasm between God and man, mind and matter, subject and object’.1 The division granted, there seem but two possible ways of recovering the union: to show that mind has the properties of matter, or that matter has the properties of mind. And in this way we may largely distinguish the philosophical efforts of Descartes’ successors. For Coleridge, the various modes of these two kinds of thinking were subsumed in the separate philosophies of two men: Benedict Spinoza and Immanuel Kant. In 1810 he wrote in a notebook:

Only two systems of Philosophy — (sibi consistentia) possible 1. Spinoza 2. Kant, i.e. the absolute and the relative, the [according to what really exists] and the [according to man], or 1 the ontosophical, 2 the anthropological. [CN III 3756]2


Distinct Idea Religious Meaning Evening Star Divine Life Philosophical Effort 
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© Graham Davidson 1990

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  • Graham Davidson

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