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Feuer, L.S. (1963). Anxiety and Philosophy: The Case of Descartes. Am. Imago, 20(4):411-449.

(1963). American Imago, 20(4):411-449

Anxiety and Philosophy: The Case of Descartes

Lewis S. Feuer

The basic problems of modern philosophy were set in the thought of Rene Descartes. Its central themes, motives and arguments were those which likewise became central in the consciousness of modern man. His philosophy sought to resolve anxieties which in large measure were representative of those which perdured in the unconscious of the seventeenth century Scientific Revolutionists. The answers which Descartes gave are a congeries of ideas which seemed to him to arrange themselves in a system. They present a unique problem for our psychoanalytical understanding. As we try to isolate those ideas the analysis of which would take us into the psychological core of Descartes’ philosophy, four principal tenets suggest themselves for study:

(1)  that animals are incapable of thinking,

(2)  that God's goodness is the guarantee that the external world exists,

(3)  that God necessarily exists,

(4)  that because I think, I am certain that I exist.

The philosophical ideas of Descartes, we shall find, issued from a deep struggle in his unconscious with the authority of a father whom he blamed for the death of his mother, and who had abandoned him during his childhood years. From his view that his father was heartless, soulless, sprang his doctrine that animals are soulless.

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